First look: Qik video streaming from cell phones

I just met up with Bhanu Sharma, director of product management at DVC Labs. He used to work at Macromedia where he was product manager for Breeze, webconferencing service, and entrepreneur in residence working on VoIP. We’re at the Burlingame Apple Store where Patrick is getting a new iPhone cause of his dead battery. That’s very cool for Apple! Good service that exceeds what I expected to have happen.

Anyway, Bhanu recognized me and introduced himself. He’s building software for mobile phones but we can’t talk about that yet cause he’s in stealth mode.

So, he was showing me his E61i Nokia phone and said “check this out.” Clicked on an icon titled “Qik.” Then said “I’m streaming live from my cell phone.” Here’s the video we just did. OK, OK, this freaking rocks. I signed up for the closed preview.

He showed me my video playing on a nearby Mac. LIVE. Then when he turned off the app it kept a recording.

I asked him if TechCrunch or anyone else has written about it yet (it’s run by friends of his). He said he didn’t think so (a quick Google search couldn’t find anything). Said “I think they wanted to keep it quiet.”

Oh well, that’s what happens when you hang out in Apple stores on Saturday night. Hope their servers stay up. Here’s a picture of the three of us talking, as taken by Dave Winer.

I’m definitely going to use this. Thanks Bhanu for telling me about it!

UPDATE: NewTeeVee actually had this last week but didn’t see it live in action like I did tonight.

Dave Winer's thoughts on the meaning of Amazon's infrastructure

Dave Winer: Amazon removes the database scaling wall.

I’m calling this “open infrastructure.” It’s totally shocking to me that Google and Microsoft are just letting Amazon take developers over this way. I would NEVER have predicted that a “retailer’s” infrastructure would be used by so many startups. Totally amazing. This is going to develop as one of the biggest disruptions of our time. Where is Ray Ozzie? Oh, Steve Gillmor seems to know what Ray is up to but it’s amazing to me that Ray is letting Amazon take over the infrastructure platform world and all sorts of developers with it. Watch what happens next year as Amazon moves this infrastructure into enterprises. Of course I’m sure that all the Enterprise Irregulars will say I’m smoking something illegal, but let’s meet up again in a year and see what happened.

Workaround for Google Reader's suckage

Whew, I have more than 100 new Google Reader friends in the past few hours. So, I unhid everyone and wanted to see if I could work around the problems of duplicates. I found away, but it increases my reading workload a bit.

Along the left side of Google Reader there’s now a new entry “Friends’ shared items.” What I do is read this folder first, then click over to All items which then won’t have any duplicates in it.

Some things I’m learning: more than half of my Friends’ shared items are things I would have found anyway. But my friends are darn good at picking great items. So, if I only have five minutes to read feeds I’ll read this folder only. That way at least I’ll catch the coolest stuff without having to slog through a bunch of noise. My friends are pre-filtering my feeds!

Second, the items that they bring me that I wouldn’t know about are magical. It’s like I have hundreds of people scouring the Internet looking for great blogs that I should know about. This is already better than Digg or Stumbleupon, but it’s only from my friends (who are defacto early adopters), so it’s very focused stuff with very little noise so far. It’ll be interesting to see if that scales up. I loved Digg at first but then it became noisier and noisier, to the point that I don’t read Digg much anymore.

Anyway, all this means is that even better stuff is coming to you via my link blog, er my Google Reader’s shared items blog.

I still wish the Google Reader team would do a better job of getting rid of duplicates. Also, I’m seeing items multiple times even in the Your shared items feed. Those need to be joined together in one item.

My feedback for Microsoft's mapping team

The Virtual Earth team wants our feedback.

Wonderful. Kudos to any company that wants its customers’ feedback and offers a participatory approach. So, here’s my feedback…

Microsoft added a LOT of whizbang features to its maps.live.com maps (3D, lots of photos, and such) but they didn’t focus on the basics.

First off, you need a redesign. Google is kicking your ass on simplicity. Microsoft’s UIs always seem to get more clutter. Your team should hire Ev Williams to come and give his talk that he just gave at LeWeb3. Get rid of stuff, don’t add it.

2. Mobile. Make it killer and do whatever it takes to get it on the iPhone.

3. Show examples of how to do great searches. Google does, you don’t (at least not before you get into a search box). Google is easier to use because of it.

4. Make it work for what people use maps for. Today I picked up Patrick at his school. I forgot how to get there. Patrick said “just search Google Maps for Petaluma Jr. High.” When I saw this note I tried the same on Microsoft’s system. Hint: Google worked, Microsoft didn’t.

5. Speed. Google is always faster everytime I try it. That doesn’t give me confidence that Microsoft is working on the right things.

6. When I search for “Mavericks, Half Moon Bay, CA” Google finds me a result, Microsoft doesn’t.

7. Split all the different views into different URLs. Have a page where I can select between them. If I wasn’t a former MSFTie I’d have no clue what the difference between “Aerial” and “Bird’s Eye View” is.

8. I still have no clue what “collections” are. “Saved Locations” explains what they are much better.

9. Don’t be pedantic. When I asked it to give me directions to PodTech’s offices it tried to correct my zip code from 94304 to 94304-1216. Google wasn’t annoying like that.

10. Microsoft’s maps look cooler (they show mountain terrain, etc) but are harder to read, particularly on laptop screens in bright sunlight. I find I actually switch to Google for this reason. Most of the time I really don’t need terrain, or pretty pictures, but just want a simplistic, easy to see in bright sunlight, map.

11. DO continue to kick Microsoft’s behind with Traffic data (I’m sure there’s other data you could overlay on the map the way you do with accident data, right?)

12. Redesign your directions results. Google got nine items in the same space that you only got six. I often look up maps on my laptop and that DOES make a difference!

13. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. That’s the best feature on ANY software I’ve used this year. I was showing it to Patrick today and it made him go “wow.” Not available on iPhone, but only on Google’s Mobile Maps version. This was a MAGICAL feature over in Europe!

14. You don’t understand the magic of the word “link.” I can always figure out Google Maps and how to embed it into my blog. It’s tough for me to figure out how to link to a Microsoft Map. Yeah, I’m an idiot so you might write that off as idiotic behavior but, remember, I worked the Microsoft customer support lines so I know there are other idiots out there like me. Some of them even blog. Every blog brings you traffic, even if the only reader that blog has is mom and dad. Call it a f***ing permalink and call it a day, will you please?

15. I’m surprised no one has used their photo trucks to put little pictures next to driving directions. Instead on both maps I get “turn right onto SR-92.” Why don’t you put a little picture of what the sign looks like? I’d love it if you said “you’ll see a sign that looks like this right before you need to turn right.”

16. Amazing that NEITHER Google or Microsoft have a link that says “using GPS.” I’d love to have a page that explains all about how GPS works, which models are the coolest to use with these mapping systems, and what I need to get and how I need to hook it up. This could even be a profit center. If Microsoft linked over to Amazon’s store they’d get a kickback for each GPS sold.

17. Google Maps remember my default location. Microsoft Maps don’t seem to remember anything.

18. Google has more viewing area horizontally. For some reason my eye likes that.

Well, that’s enough. I’m not sure why I like Google Maps more, but they keep being my default and nothing I saw on this little jaunt tonight made me question that decision. I have never needed 3D imagery to get around, preferring the simple approach (although those features are impressive).

What do you think? What would you work on if you were on the Microsoft Mapping team? I haven’t even attempted to look up anything international, either. But Google was very accurate in Paris and London and told me instantly where I was thanks to its My Location feature. That really is the killer feature for me and it’s one that now gets me to use my Nokia N95 to look at maps instead of my iPhone (the iPhone is better for viewing and navigating around maps, though, but that one feature has proven much more important to me than anything else in the mapping experience).

Anyway, good luck!

Oh, and has anyone built a map mashup yet for Facebook? I’d love to see where all my friends are located around the world.

Surviving the 2008 recession

Recession is in the air. It isn’t here for sure, but, damn, when you pay $50 for two coffees and a tart in Paris you know your economy isn’t healthy. Add in the latest energy prices and you see we’re almost definitely going to have a problem over the next year with inflation (compounded since many of our goods come from overseas and our dollar is buying less and less — dramatically less we found on our latest trip to Europe).

If recession and/or inflation is coming, now is the time to prepare. How?

1. Get some income from overseas. The dollar is weak, but that means that non-US people are going to want to pay for your work rather than hiring their countrymen for a higher rate. So, take advantage of it. Don’t think this is true? Visit a national park this summer in the US and notice that there’s a lot more Europeans visiting than last year. Why? Their Euros buy a lot more of our stuff than they buy back home. Tons of geeks on our trip told us they are begging their bosses to go to US so they can come shopping.

2. Cut expenses.

3. Lock down clients into longer-term contracts. Even give them some concessions to get them to renew their contracts, or extend them.

4. Ensure you’re seen as valuable at work. Do an honest assessment. Are you really in the top 10% of all workers at your company? That’s where you want to be to avoid the layoffs.

5. Network more than usual. You might get laid off and you’ll want to network as much as possible so that you’ll have a friendly network to help you find new work.

6. Watch the job listings. They are leading indicators of the health of the economy, plus you might see a job that will help you survive (I got my job at NEC during the depth of the last downturn by watching Craig’s List).

7. Dust off your blog. Especially if you get laid off. Try to own a niche. You might get noticed and you might get a new job because people are seeing you excited about something.

8. Start a company. During the last downturn I saw quite a few people start companies and they got richer as the economy got better. Same thing happened in the early 1990s when Fawcette Technical Publications got started.

9. Move to a bigger company (or if you are there already, think twice about leaving). Big companies can survive the downturns. IBM ain’t going anywhere. Either is Microsoft, Google, Apple. Even Yahoo, which has seen its troubles lately, isn’t going away, although it might shed lots of employees (if you’re going to work at a big company make sure you read #4 again — really valuable employees rarely get cut and if they do their reputations help them bounce back on their feet).

10. If you are in a big company, join a group that isn’t going to get cut. Scott Guthrie’s group inside Microsoft, for instance, is a lot safer than lots of other groups.

11. If you’re in a small company, get real friendly with two groups of people: First, the salespeople. If they start leaving you know the business isn’t seeing good revenues. Second, the CFO or financial people. Better yet, try to get your fingers on the books and understand them. At Userland, during the last downturn, I practiced this and ran the books and paid the bills. We still ran out of cash, but I knew about it three months ahead of time so I was able to mentally prepare for the day I’d have to lay myself off.

12. Look at your stock portfolio and make smart moves. I know lots of you don’t look too closely at what you’re invested in. Lots of people really got hurt last time there was a downturn in the stock market. Are you diversified? Do you have more than a small percent of your portfolio in any one company? Have you sat down with a financial planner lately and talked through your portfolio?

13. Try to get into hot new markets. Russia, for instance, is flush with cash because of the high oil prices. Are you expanding operations there? Can you?

14. ComputerWeekly is recommending CIOs get two budgets together and look for redundancies that companies can cut.

15. Work the basics: build a cash reserve; manage inventory; renegotiate your llease; reward loyal customers; build value — these are all suggestions by Scott Barancik that I found on a Google Search for preparing for recession.

16. See where you stand in the story line. That advice comes as part of a “Prepare for Recession: Just in Case” post by Bill Conerly who does the Businomics Blog. He has lots of other good advice over on a post about what families can do to prepare.

17. Write a blog about how to brilliantly sail through a recession. That way when people start to feel its effects they’ll find your post and your increased traffic will potentially make you some advertising money or at least some new friends who valued your advice. Heheh.

18. Clean up your balance sheet. That’s what the Wastrel Show recommends.

19. Keep your ear to the ground, Money Central recommends.

How about you? Do you have any good suggestions? Are you preparing for economic troubles ahead? Why/why not?

Oh, and please remember those who are hurt by this economic downturn. The stories that are starting to come out are not pretty. If nothing else, join Jeremy Toeman in volunteering to help those who are less fortunate. I will be.

A check into the campaign…

I still remember Dan Balz’ words to me as I flew on John Edwards’ plane sitting next to him last December. He’s a long-time journalist who covers politics for the Washington Post. I asked him if he had a theory of who would win the campaign. He warned me off of such delusions, and told me that campaigns always surprise him. I’ve watched recently as Hillary Clinton has struggled in the polls and politico Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have some interesting conversation about why. That got me to think about Dan and wonder what he’d be telling me if I sat next to him now.

We’re about to go into the really interesting months: a bunch of primaries come up in January and February. Watching Memeorandum (TechMeme’s sister site that focuses on politics and regular news) is going to get much more interesing than it is today.

I thought Hillary had it all but locked up, but now I’m not so sure. What do you think?

In other political news, did you know that Iranian President has a blog? That’s funny cause he censors blogs of his own citizens.