SiliconFilter

The 10 Most Popular Stories on SiliconFilter this Year

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The first year for SiliconFilter is quickly coming to an end and I would like to say thanks to all of you who stuck with me throughout the last twelve months since I left ReadWriteWeb and decided to go solo.

As with any startup, there have been ups and downs, but to end the year on a high note, I thought I would compile a list of the most read stories on the site since the beginning of the year (and, if warranted, the stories behind them).

The list is ordered according to the number of pageviews each of these stories received.

10.) Kevin Rose at LeWeb: “I Made a Lot of Mistakes at Digg”

Talking to TWiT‘s Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane at LeWeb, Digg‘s founder Kevin Rose noted that he made lots of mistakes while he was still in charge of the popular social bookmarking site. According to Rose, “the first three years were insane.” Rose, however, acknowledged, that he learned a lot on the job by making plenty of mistakes, most importantly with regard to hiring and feature development.

(Background: This was my third year at LeWeb in Paris and this was the most popular story I wrote during the three-day conference.)

9.) Google’s JPEG Alternative WebP Gets Smarter, Takes on PNG

Last year, Google introduced a new image format for the web called WebP. WebP is meant to be a modern alternative to the popular but patent-encumbered JPEG standard. It produces significantly smaller files without sacrificing image quality. Today, Google announced some new features for WebP that may help bring wider adoption to the format, which is currently only natively supported by Opera and Google’s own Chrome browser. With today’s updates, WebP now offers a lossless mode as as well as support for transparency. Both of these features are currently the domain of the lossless PNG format which is currently the JPEG alternative of choice for designers who need either transparency or lossless encoding on their sites.

(Background: I was surprised how well this story did. It’s a relatively technical topic, but people are clearly interested in finding better image formats…)

8.) Think Quarterly: Google Launches Its Own Online Magazine (Updated)

We hear a lot about Google’s relationship with publishers, but this week the search giant also quietly launched its own online publication based in the UK. Think Quarterly, which calls itself a “a breathing space in a busy world” is, as the name implies, a quarterly online magazine. The design feels somewhat reminiscent of Wired, with a strong focus on infographics and large photos (but without ads). The articles come both from writers inside of Google and freelancers and the publication is designed and edited by creative agency The Church of London.

7.) The Internet Explorer IQ Hoax and the State of Tech Blogging

Last Friday, the tech blogosphere was enamored by a study that claimed that Internet Explorer users had a lower IQ than users of other browsers. The study by AptiQuant found that the average IE6 user only scored just over 80 on its IQ test – a test score that is, in terms of real-life accomplishments, generally associated with elementary school dropouts and unskilled workers. The study was a hoax.

(Background: I wrote quite a few posts about how many tech blogs were running stories about statistics that were clearly wrong this year. This one was the most popular, likely because the original hoax also played really well in the mainstream press. It probably also helped that the post provides a bit of background about how the tech blogosphere works.)

6.) Bing: What’s More Evil Than Satan Himself? 10^100

Not too long ago, hiybbprqag wasn’t much of a word, but as Google employee Andy Arnt noticed today, if you search Bing for it these days, you will find that it is an “orcish” word meaning “whiner.” Unless you’ve been closely following the search engine competition between Microsoft and Google, this probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but this little Easter egg is actually quite funny.

(Background: this was just a funny little story I wrote on a Friday afternoon after I read about these search results on Google+. People obviously love the Google/Microsoft rivalry in search. It did really well on Hacker News.)

5.) Why Twitter Should be Very Worried About Google+

When Google unexpectedly launched its new social network Google+ earlier this week, many pundits were skeptical about the company’s latest attempt to enter the social arena. Given Google’s dismal track record when it comes to these kinds of products, that kind of skepticism made sense, but after using it extensively for the last few days, I can’t help but think that it is the single biggest threat Twitter has had to face yet.

(Background: this was my original analysis of how the arrival Google+ would change the social networking  space. I think I still agree with most of what I wrote here, though it’s still a bit early in the game. By next year, we will likely have a better idea, but I think the recent changes to Twitter show that the company is taking this threat seriously.)

4.) Germany vs. Facebook: Like Button Declared Illegal, Sites Threatened With Fine

German websites based in the state of Schleswig-Holstein have until the end of September to remove Facebook‘s ‘like’ button or face a fine of up to 50,000 Euro.

Germany has a long tradition of using laws to protect its citizen’s privacy. Home owners, for example, can ask Google to pixelate their houses in Street View (maybe so that their garden gnomes can stay incognito?). Facebook’s facial recognition feature has also come under fire in recent weeks. The latest target of Germany’s privacy advocates is Facebook’s ‘like’ button („Gefällt mir,“ in German). Thilo Weichert, the head of the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, argues that Internet sites based in his state that use the ‘like’ button are illegally sending this data to Facebook, which in turn uses it to illegally create a profile of its users web habits.

3.) How a Fake MLK Jr. Quote Took the Internet by Storm

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” Chances are, you’ve seen this quote, attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., at least once on Twitter or Facebook. Perfectly capturing the feelings of many who felt somewhat conflicted about the images of Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, this quote sadly doesn’t appear anywhere in the works of Martin Luther King Jr. – it did, however, quickly make the rounds on virtually every social media service, starting, it seems, on Facebook and quickly spreading to Twitter, Tumblr and other sites.

(Background: this story went viral on Facebook. Sadly, the social buttons on the site don’t reflect this, as I had to change my domain name early in the year and those counts simply don’t transfer. I don’t generally do a lot of “explainer”-style posts, but there is clearly some value in these.)

2.) Hacker Shows It Doesn’t Take $8 Million to Clone Qwiki – Just 321 Lines of HTML Will do the Trick

Qwiki is an app that creates pretty slideshows based on Wikipedia entries. The service won the top award at the last Techcrunch Disrupt conference and just received $8 million in new funding from a group led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Personally, I never understood why putting together a text-to-speech engine with a Ken Burns effect was disruptive. The VCs on the Disrupt jury thought different, though, and chose this pretty but ultimately utterly useless service over really disruptive ones like CloudFlare. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Now, just to show how Qwiki didn’t merit the large new round of funding and how it doesn’t deserve the constant hype on tech blogs like Techcrunch, an intrepid hacker who goes by the name of “Banksy the Lucky Stiff” put together Fqwiki, a workable Qwiki clone in just 321 Lines of HTML.

(Background: When I first saw this project, I just knew I had to write about it. I never got the point of Qwiki and this clearly showed I wasn’t the only one.)

1.) Google Engineer: “Google+ is a Prime Example of Our Complete Failure to Understand Platforms”

Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly posted a long rant about working at Amazon and Google’s own issues with creating platforms on Google+. Apparently, he only wanted to share it internally with everybody at Google, but mistaken shared it publicly. For the most part, Yegge’s post focusses on the horrors of working at Amazon, a company that is notorious for its political infighting. The most interesting part to me, though, is Yegge’s blunt assessment of what he perceives to be Google’s inability to understand platforms and how this could endanger the company in the long run.

(Background: this was, by far, the most read post on this site in the last 12 months. I read it in the middle of the night, sometime around 3am, because I had just come back from Japan and was severely jetlagged. I think others probably also read Yegge’s post, but never got to the point where he talks about Google+ (it really just looks like a post about Amazon at the start). I was so bored and wide awake that I read all the way through it and immediately got up and wrote this story in 30 minutes after I got to the Google+ part.)

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5:32 pm


The Golden Age of Tech Blogging Is Just Getting Started

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Given that the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is usually very slow in the tech blogging world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeremiah Owyang’s linkbait post about the end of the “Golden Age of Tech Blogging” is getting its fair share of attention today. My old boss Marshall Kirkpatrick and former TechCrunch writer Sarah Lacy already wrote some pretty good rebuttals of Owyang’s ideas, but I want to add a few thoughts to this discussion as well.

Owyang argues that there are four trends that show the end of this era (though he never fully defines what that “Golden Age” actually looked like). Let’s take a closer look at these, as I don’t think they work as signs for the end of this first era of tech blogging.

1) Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation

Owyang argues that as TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb have now been bought, the age of innovation in tech blogging is over. Nothing could be further from the truth, I would argue. The fact that these sites were acquired simply shows that some smart investors think there is money to be made in this market.

And what was the last big innovation to come out of TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb anyway?

2) Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover

I’m not going into the details why ReadWriteWeb, for example, lost plenty of its writers in 2010 (including myself), but it’s obvious that lots of writers moved around last year. Again – I’m not sure how that’s a sign of how the “Golden Age of tech blogging” has passed. It simply means that writers moved to places where they could earn more money, get more benefits and better support from editors. If anything, that means the Golden Age of tech blogging for the writers themselves is still going strong, as there is clearly a market for them.

3) The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social

That’s not a new trend. What’s worth noting, though, is that the attention, if it really has shifted, has shifted more towards the aggregators like Techmeme. Owyang also uses Mashable as an example of a blog that has shifted its strategies in the face of these trends. I would argue that Mashable long ceased to be a tech blog.

4) As space matures, business models solidify –giving room for new disruptors

This is, of course, true in every business. Given that the cost of entry into the tech blogging world is close to zero (or $20/month for a hosting account), there has always been space for disruptors. Tech blogging isn’t an easy business, though (or an easy beat, for that matter), so we have seen relatively few people try to disrupt the business from the outside.

Oddly enough, Owyang also argues that “long gone is the scrappy new media entrepreneurs like Arrington who built a decent sized empire, cashed out, and moved on to to a traditional industry like venture capital.” This, of course, makes little sense, given that Arrington only cashed out a year ago, those at ReadWriteWeb who had equity only cashed out two or three weeks ago and that there are plenty of sites that could still cash out nicely in the future.

We’re just Getting Started

Basically then, I don’t agree that any of Owyang’s points demonstrate that the “Golden Age” of tech blogging is over. I do agree that we are at a turning point, though, but for very different reasons. I think the slow decline of ReadWriteWeb over the last year and a half, the high turnover at TechCrunch and a general sense of instability in the tech blogging world and the rising importance of the aggregators is opening up the door for disruptors large and small.



10:31 pm


All Good Things Have to Come to an End: I'm Leaving ReadWriteWeb

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Two and a half years and 1,500 post ago, I started as a news writer for ReadWriteWeb. Since then, I had the opportunity to see little startups grow into large businesses, witness the launch of hundreds of cool new products and met and interviewed many of the tech luminaries that I had previously only read about. All good things have to come to an end, though, and last week I emailed the executive team at ReadWriteWeb and let them know that I had made the decision to leave the company.

In case you are wondering, there is no scandal behind this decision – the team at ReadWriteWeb team has been nothing but a pleasure to work with and I’ve learned a lot from every single person there. The team has expanded rapidly over the last year and I wish them nothing but the best in their endeavors. I already miss the camaraderie in the company Skype chat room and getting advice from the rest of the team (“can somebody help me with this darned headline?”), but in the end I felt that now – at the start of a new year – was a good a time to start something new.

What’s next?

I will be blogging right here. It’s a nice change of pace to write on my own blog and in my own voice after writing in RWW-style for so long. While I love chasing the news, writing here also gives me the ability to write longer, more analytical pieces and reviews if I feel compelled to do so.

Writing here will also allow me to try a few new things – both in terms of writing style and design. While functional, this site is definitely still a bit of a work in progress and will more than likely change drastically over the next few weeks and months.

I will continue to write about the same topics I have always been interested in (startups with new web apps, mobile apps etc.), but I also hope to broaden my horizon by writing about more hardware and desktop software as well.

New Email Address

[list type=”arrow”]

[li]If you want to get a hold of me, feel free to email me at [email protected].[/li]

[li]If you are in the PR industry, I would great appreciate it if you could add [email protected] to your distribution list (all embargoes are honored by default).[/li]

[/list]

Find me on Twitter

Of course, you can also follow my personal Twitter account here and an account for this site is available here.




3:21 pm


What Should the Next Generation of Tech Blogs Look (and Feel) Like?

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As I’m thinking about the sale of TechCrunch to AOL and Jason Calacanis’s ideas for how to take tech reporting to the next level (in the form of an email newsletter), I can’t help but think about what the next generation of tech blogs will look like. Since the early days of tech blogging, the field has become more professionalized and the major blogs now have plenty of full- and half-time staffers who ensure that no nuance of the tech world goes uncovered. While Twitter and Facebook have changed the way these publications find readers for their stories (in the early days, RSS feeds used to be a huge source of traffic), the blogs themselves all still look pretty much the same (one exception – at least with regards to their homepage – is the rapidly expanding The Next Web).  (more…)



6:26 pm