Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Infomercials

I suffer from frequent insomnia. Sometimes I just don't sleep at all—sometimes I spring awake at 4:00am and can't get back to sleep. Times like these I flick on the TV and scan the channels; on two or three channels there are a constant stream of infomercials. They're usually for food processors or workout equipment, and they're usually pretty poor. You've seen one—you've seen them all.

But, say what you like about them, they must be effective. Otherwise they wouldn't be such a fixture. And this got me to thinking.

What if there were a regular Apple infomercial? But being Apple it wouldn't follow the normal format. What if it was full of really useful information for existing Apple users:

  • This week we're going to talk about using iPhoto in conjunction with online services
  • This week we're going to explore the power of Smart Folders
  • This week we're going to look at keyboard shortcuts as well as Automator...

Naturally these shows (which you'd Tivo or tape) would have regular callouts where they'd say: "If you don't already have a Mac then call XYZ or visit apple.com"

Non-Mac users might be intrigued enough to say: "No way can my machine do that," or, "Mmm. I could always get the mini and give it a try..."

With re-packaging, some of these segments could be supplied on a DVD with every new Mac. If they were really classy then Mac owners would loan them to their non-Mac friends.

There's more to marketing than buzz generation and glimpses; detailed stuff does sink in. Everyone, when pressed, will admit to knowing about the Miracle Knife set, or Gunner Whatsisname's exercise ball.

Why not apply the infomercial to an operating system?

NASA TV - Live 24/7 broadcast of the NASA Select TV Channel

Monday, July 25, 2005

Talk is Not So Cheap

According to the latest buzz: about 50 percent of net users in the US and the UK are using broadband. That's great. I wish I were one of them.

As one of the remaining dialup users I've noticed a new trend that's probably related to the broadband thing that's happening. That is:
A fatter pipe leads to fatter files.

I'm a little guilty of contributing to this trend; in days past I'd make a concerted effort to keep any image files on a webpage below 20 kbs to aid the speed of loading—these days I've relaxed that to 50kbs for the sake of quality over ultimate speed.

Now, like most folks, I've lately been looking at podcasts. I right-click and download them manually rather than using any of the subscribe and forget solutions out there. As you can imagine, I can't tie up the phone line for hours on end.

Most podcasts I've grabbed range from 30 to 45 minutes in length, and they have all been MP3s so far. When MP3s are created they can be set to different compression levels depending on whether they are high quality stereo music—or simple spoken word.

Now we're getting to my gripe.

People are recording blah blah blah guy talking into a cheap mike for a half hour podcasts and encoding them at quality levels way higher than they need to be. I have started to download, then abandoned files that were up to 40 megs for 40 minutes of simple talk.

40 megs!

I've found that my tolerance inflection point for podcasts is 14 megs—beyond that I don't care how compelling the content may be—I won't be listening to it...

So please check the compression levels before encoding these files. Believe me: If it's just you blabbing, the higher compression Spoken Word settings sound just great.