Trendrr: fun with numbers

Trendrr_logo Here's one for the "Who Knew?" files: the news media's attention to the sub-prime fiasco rises and falls in step with its fascination with Britney Spears. Coincidence? I think not! I would not have noticed this linkage had it not been for Trendrr, a fascinating site that recently went live. An offshoot of Wiredset, a New York agency that specializes in promoting media through the Web, social networks and mobile carriers, Trendrr lets users assemble and compare data from a dozen sources (more to come soon), including Google News, Bit Torrent, eBay and YouTube. It also invites users to request new sources or submit their own. For example, you might want to gauge interest in a particular band by seeing how often people were posting videos of that act on YouTube. Or, if you were a studio, you could graf how often the trailer for your summer blockbuster was being played on vs. YouTube vs. DailyMotion. My examples don't do Trendrr justice, so click here to check out the site's most popular trend-mapping exercises. Then try creating some of your own. Depending on how embarrassing the results are, I may update this post later this week with the results of something I'm tracking on Trendrr: the number of times my newspaper, the NY Times and the Washington Post are cited on blogs, as measured by Google Blog Search. 

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Gizmodo on journalism

In the aftermath of last week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the trade group mounting that epic gadget-fest has banned a reporter from the Gizmodo website. The reporter -- one Richard Blakeley -- used a gadget modeled after the TV-B-Gone to turn off an assortment of display screens at the show, including ones used during a presentation by Motorola. He recorded the pranks and posted a short video on Gizmodo, with an intro by the site's editor, Brian Lam. ("It was too much fun, but watching this video, we realize it probably made some people's jobs harder, and I don't agree with that (Especially Motorola).")

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CES: Connecting the home with HD, Part 2

One of the trends on view at this week's Consumer Electronics Show was slimmer and slimmer flat-panel TVs. Pioneer showed a prototype that was a mere 9 mm (a little more than 1/3") thick, while several other manufacturers offered technology demos and production models in the 1"-2" range. The closer sets get to the wall, though, the more consumers will want to dispense with the tangle of wires typically needed to connect a set to peripheral devices, such as disc players and amplifiers. One approach is to hide those wires behind walls and under floors, but that typically requires a professional installer. Another idea, from Irvine-based OWLink Technology, is to make the wire all but invisible.

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CES: Connecting the home with HD, Part 1

Wirelesshd_2The consumer electronics industry may know where it's headed, but it doesn't seem to know how to get there. That was my takeaway from this week's International Consumer Electronics Show, where once again there was more talk than action around the topic of the connected home. Clearly, manufacturers are focused on creating devices that link seamlessly to each other to share audio, video and images. And they had plenty of prototypes and demos showing how two or three items could feed the same screen and respond to the same remote control. But if you were hoping for a standard way to bring together every piece of your personal entertainment gear, from TV and stereo to camcorder and cell phone, regardless of the brand, you were out of luck. It's not for lack of trying. There are several inter-industry groups working on various aspects of the problem. It's just that seemingly every year a new set of pieces get thrown into the puzzle.

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CES: Schilling makes his pitch to the video game industry

Schilling_pic_2 As a World Series champion pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, Curt Schilling has long used computer analysis as part of his rigorous pregame preparation.

Now he hopes his stellar baseball career has prepared him for a life with computers. Schilling, who is 41 and says the coming season (for the Red Sox) will be his last in baseball, has founded and self-funded a computer game company that has been hiring industry veterans as well as some notable outsiders.

Though the first big game from 38 Studios won't come out until late 2010, the Maynard, Mass., start-up already has 35 employees and is looking for outside investors.

During a small dinner for the media at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Schilling said he had long been an active player of such major multi-user games as "World of Warcraft" and "Everquest."

As a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s "The Lord of the Rings" and other detailed fantasy realms, Schilling hired bestselling novelist R.A. Salvatore to create the world and Todd McFarlane, who won an Emmy for the HBO series "Spawn," as creative art director.

Schilling said his only post-baseball occupation will be serving the company, which he likewise hopes will be the last job for other workers.

The Beantown icon said he was motivated in part by the possibility of changing his employees' lives for the better, especially after learning how debilitating the gaming industry can be for software developers.

"My only two rules are: Show up on time and kick ass," Schilling said, attributing that mantra -- and the rest of his managerial strategy -- to Red Sox Manager Terry Francona.

But he conceded that there were times when his All-Star history made it hard to empathize completely with the staff. Schilling, who is famous for pitching with a bloody sock as a result of having his injured ankle tendon sutured in place, recalled one weekly meeting where an employee complained about being tired.

"Let me tell you how this works: I stitched up my ankle to pitch in the World Series," Schilling remembered telling the man. "Let’s GO!"

-- Joseph Menn

Photo by the Associated Press


CES: Best of the Web

Here's some of the most interesting CES coverage from around the Web on this Tuesday morning.

-- finds a technology that lets you hear air guitar. "We took the air guitar phenomenon and put it into an amp," says creator Nitrous Roxide, who demonstrates it. Rock on.

-- Prada got a cellphone through LG last year. Now reports that Armani has teamed with Samsung for a handset of its own. It features a Web browser, 3-megapixel camera, digital music and video player and stereo Bluetooth.

-- Engadget finds lots of color at CES: Sony Vaio laptops in new hues and CAT5 cables in pink whose purchase supports the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

-- Gizmodo stumbles across geek legend Dean Kaman, inventor of the Segway. The site also finds some of the craziest ways to trick out your car with LCD screens and other high-tech gear.

-- Crunchgear finds one of the weirder lamps you'll ever see. Just in case the need to check your stock quotes grabs you while you're turning on the light.

-- Chris Gaither, LAT tech editor


CES: Something missing from Microsoft's keynote?

Microsoft Corp. is pleased to announce a bold new partnership with ... never mind.

At companies as large as Microsoft, few events elicit as much careful preparation as a keynote speech by the top executives. Sunday night, that was Bill Gates at CES.

The speechwriting and much-rehearsed demonstrations are just the visible part of what approximates a State of the Union address. Underlying those are the efforts by: strategists to establish broad themes, executives to hash through which projects most deserve (or most badly need) championing, and deal makers to lobby for public salutes to allies at other corporations.

Given all that labor and the need for a seamless multimedia performance, last-minute changes are strongly discouraged.

So it came as a surprise when one of the keynote deals Microsoft explained in advance to the press Friday -- an agreement by Sony Corp. to manufacture television sets capable of displaying a Windows-powered computer’s content without extra gear -- was excised from Sunday's speech. Similar TV deals were announced with only Hewlett-Packard Co. and Samsung Corp.

Let's see, did anything else happen Friday? Oh yes, Blu-ray, which is the next-generation DVD format backed furiously by Sony, converted Warner Bros. to its cause and won what several analysts predicted would be the decisive blow against the HD DVD format championed by Microsoft.

Microsoft said the change in Gates' speech was a coincidence, one that it declined to explain further.

A Sony spokesman also discouraged any link to the format war, saying that negotiations over the new TVs probably hadn't gotten close enough to completion for an announcement -- apparently someone jumped the gun.

Sony and Microsoft compete on several fronts but cooperate on others. In fact, some of the demonstrations during Gates’ keynotes were on Sony Vaio laptops running Windows Vista. That long-term partnership is too valuable for both sides to be abandoned over one or two fits of pique, be they real or imagined.

-- Joseph Menn


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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