The Hipster Domain Holding Page

Judging by the We’re Not Really Squatting Facebook group and my informal polling, many of us buy up domains with the best intentions but leave them fallow for extended periods of time. We’ve all ran across plenty of intellect-offending domainer squatting pages like this one:

Domain Squat Page at "WhatHaveYou.com"

And oh so many who offer in text at the top of the page suggesting they have “(domain name here) – What You Need, When You Need It” only to be followed by a bunch of sponsored links that may or may not have anything to do with anything…like our friend Gongle.com over here:

The Classic Domain Squat

It’s almost a mass art art form of its own.

I had to use guesswork to find that one. Google doesn’t return any of them when you search for that phrase, so I’m guessing they’re on to that particular script and filter it out.

I’m sitting on several domains myself and have them parked without even a “coming soon” page up. Between the enthusastic and sometimes spontaneous domain name purchase and the eventual build-out of the crazy idea it was inspired by, they sit on the registry shelf collecting dust. If I stop to wait to think of something thoughtful to put on every one of these, it never gets prioritized and I never get to it. It’s not like they are in-demand names or would likely get any traffic, but still, it seems like an awful waste. Why not make the visits of those ten random people that much more enjoyable?

So the thought is — why not create a re-usable page of useful and/or entertaining things to sit on all of my owned domains? Since I’m not a domainer, just a guy who buys domains from time to time, I don’t really need the links to make any money although if there was a way to do that that was truly “what you need when you need it” or of appreciable use to visitors, that might be a nice mutually-beneficial consideration.

Any ideas, sketches, or creative suggestions for what should go there or how the page should be structured? I’d like to make something generalizable that any old domain hipster could grab and use. It would be neat if it pulled in some dynamic information of some kind, but even just a thoughtful message or set of information would be welcome.

[props to Ken for the initial observation about “what you need, when you need it,” and collaboration on the whole idea]

Dissecting Scoble’s Recent Outlook On Blogging

Robert Scoble wrote yesterday about how he seems to be yawny about blogs lately. I couldn’t let this slip by without taking a closer look at his observations. Here’s the line-by-line:

  • He says: “Blogs have lost their humanity. Their weirdness. Instead we’ve become vehicles to announce new products and initatives on.”

    For one thing, I question who the subject of that last statement is. If he’s referring to himself and his circle, that might be worth noting. I don’t share the same sentiment, and I think even for someone who keeps tabs on 900+ feeds every day as he does, it’s still tough to make that claim as anything other than what you’re observing in your chosen reading patterns. You’re a victim of your appetites. I understand he might be suffering from format fatigue having been involved in this game for so long, and that in the interim an entire sub-industry has developed around using blogs as a better news-breaking format. But there’s lots more going on in the world of words. In the comments, I offered the challenge that he ought to trade OPML with a different person for a week, abandoning his current feeds temporarily, and see if he still feels the same. One might also ask whether he’s getting burned out on his own pursuit of news about new products and initiatives. He could give that a rest for a while.

  • He says: “We’ve gotten too caught up in the TechMeme games.”

    Not all of us, probably not even most of us. I rely on TechMeme as a reader, but my interest in getting on TechMeme doesn’t affect what I choose to write about. I know there are a ton of people who are dying to be “discovered” by the known industry bloggers, but there are also a whole lot of people who are not in it for that at all. I liked Robert’s videos on gaming TechMeme, but would have equally liked something less breathless and more structured and thought out. He seems to be calling out a pursuit that he’s been directly perpetuating, which is a bit weird.

    Further, there are lots of people using blogs to connect with a specific readership, with their own local area, or to speak to a specific set of people. None of these groups are likely to be caught up in the TechMeme games. Most of them probably completely ignore it.

  • He says: “We’re bored. The interesting stuff is happening off blogs.”

    I agree that lots of interesting interactions happen in physical space, when people get together in person. As Don Draper commented, “You’ve just now figured this out?” I think the “we” here should be an “I.” If *you’re* bored, Robert, I completely understand. How could you not be burned out every now and then?

  • He says: “Creative stuff and ideas and questions are getting spread out all over the place.”

    Agreed. On blogs, in person, in videos, in links, scrawled on napkins, on the phone, on TV.

There are new conversational formats emerging and growing, to be sure. Video is neat, and especially with technologies like Seesmic, there’s the potential for more dialogue in new ways. And conversation via information streams on Facebook et al has been steadily increasing. But blogs are still as weird as you please, speaking in terms of the whole of what’s out there.

What you might find weird or interesting has always depended on what you’re in to, but here are a bunch from my daily reads, that don’t talk at all about new product or company news:

Update: Steve Rubel wrote on a related topic today, about curbing his enthusiasm for new companies and technologies. Instead of saying blogs in general are now boring and “we” are bored of them, he puts the emphasis on his own irrational exhuberance for all things new, in his own beat. I think it makes a bit more sense and is easier to swallow in that context.

Brief Notes

  • Check out how the Robotobots used colored post-it notes to sequence their futuristic hip-hop concept album. If you haven’t been following their progress all along, you might not know about their WiiMix Nintendo Wii soundtrack remixes. I’m still holding out hope for a remix of the Count Bleck theme from Super Paper Mario.
  • Earlier this week Mike Arrington and others called out MySpace’s greeter and founder “Tom” profile for fudging Tom Anderson’s age. What’s been more problematic and credibility-straining all along is that Tom’s profile doesn’t display any links to his digital life outside of MySpace.
  • Special Extraface thanks to Flickr user Mathgeektodd for granting me permission to use his Cedric Benson photo for my side project. The hunt is still on — if you’ve taken any photos of famous/infamous/funny/odd/famous-to-you athletes, drop me a line.
  • Do you like pencils? Do you really really like pencils? Take a look at the Brand Name Pencils blog for a pretty comprehensive archive of the pencils of the world.
  • Zombies In Plain English. Well done again, Common Craft. “Legs: limpy.”
  • Watch Scoble distractedly and feverishly pontificate on how TechMeme works, and opportunities to game it to get your stuff to appear on it. There’s great information in here, but the Blair Witch stylings make it a little tough to follow in parts. Scoble deprecatingly sets them up as “long, boring, videos no one will watch.”
  • Merlin hatches “Flickr Pokr,” where if you find two similar photos by different contact, that’s a hand: “…contiguous Contacts’ photo content scores you 2- and 3-of-a-kind (pets, conferences, etc.).”

Raiders Lose, I Lose, Slideshow To Come

Those of you who are connected with me on Facebook know that this past weekend I layed down a gentleman’s wager with a gentleman named Gregg. It went as follows:

Raiders vs. Chargers, 10/14/2007

Gregg takes: Chargers by 10 or more
Dave takes: Raiders, or Chargers by 9 or less

The loser has to create a SlideShare presentation illustrating why their team lost, including the terms “go-forward basis” and “from a we suck perspective”. At least 10 slides, with at least one Tufte-offending chart.

The presentation must be online by midnight the following Sunday.

The Chargers won the game 28-14, so I’ve been on the clock all week for the presentation. Watch for the bet’s payoff some time between now and Sunday at midnight. Suggestions and submissions for the slide deck are welcome.

Vocalo And Hype Machine Are My Copilots Today

I have two new favorite things to listen to while working, Vocalo and the just-relaunched Hype Machine. Both are keeping me entertained today.

It pays to follow Marshall Kirkpatrick’s Twitter stream. In addition to getting a peek into his daily routine, you get glimpses of what he’s soon to cover on Read/Write Web, and you get to hear his reactions as he tries out new things. His first tweet about Hype Machine a couple of nights ago is what tipped me off. At the time, it was in closed beta and was just a big splash screen that said once 10,000 people were all looking at the page, it would launch. Marshall was in already and poking around with the beta. I’ll admit, his hype made me jealous of the fun he seemed to be having.

The ten thousand viewers appeared, the wraps have been taken off, and it’s now open to the public. It’s an aggregator/tracker for conversations about music all over the web, especially those that include mp3s. It’s a great place to discover new tracks, new artists, and new covers. The relaunch apparently added lots of new features and removed the flash popup player, but since I was new to the site, it’s all new to me. As soon as I pulled up the main page, I found something I wanted to listen to — The Arcade Fire covering Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son by Serge Gainsbourg. I highly recommended it, and you can listen to it right there. It also has a nice alerts system that works through Twitter. Marshall’s coverage can be found here.

My other new copilot, Vocalo, broadcasts both over the internet and over a terrestrial radio station in the Chicagoland area, and draws its programming from its online community. From their about page: “We broadcast your stuff on the webstream and on 89.5 FM in Northwest Indiana and Chicago. Whether you make Vocalo.org your home blog (we’re all set up for that) or want to bring your content from other sites, we hope you’ll share your stories, photos, video and audio right here.” It’s been really fun to listen to. I haven’t experimented yet with contributing content, but I will report back when I do. I found it in someone’s del.icio.uses, but I forgot to note who. Thanks, whoever you were.

Don’t Be An Albert — A Junior Consumer Tip For Blog Action Day

My friend Creevus reminded me of this great old PSA from the New England TV market in the 80’s, which was one of my first brushes with messages about conservationism. I must have seen this hundreds of times in between cartoons. I can practically recite it by heart:


I’m offering it in observance of Blog Action Day, wherein “On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.”

Discovery Acquiring HowStuffWorks

As a former employee, I’ve been asked a few times this morning for my thoughts on Discovery acquiring HowStuffWorks. I’m proud to see the company on a path towards gaining more of a real presence in the industry, and hope that my friends who are still there do well as a result. I do think their focus has become quite blurred over the past few years, that it strayed from the core of what makes HSW interesting, and that they’re late at best in understanding the extent to which a professional content creation company needs to be a part of the larger world of conversation going on through online content. Hopefully, Discovery can help put them back on track and embiggen all that. I shared the below in the TechCrunch comments:

“A good day for Atlanta and for current HSW folks. I wish both parties well, and glad to see a company I used to work for get a payday. The writers and editorial staff past and present should be particularly proud.

But the video angle is puzzling. A little bit of history: Before The Convex Group started to turn it into a megamart of loosely related page inventory (Mobil Travel Guide, Consumer Guide, evergreen tips and galleries), this site used to be known for its core mission: satisfying text-and-pictures explanations to interesting questions. Clear, simple explanation as entertainment. Then it became sort of a clearinghouse for all sorts of informational content with video as one of those sorts. They also ramped up a pretty interesting home-grown video initiative back then, but they haven’t done much to build a community around that or really push it as a standalone alternative to their tried-and-true core article format. No embedding afaik, no concerted effort to build community to current social media standards. They are just now starting to accept video submissions, but the process seems to be geared towards institutions really, not individuals, and it will be moderated with no explanation of exactly what the standards are beyond “safe” and “not advertising”. It’s not a platform that exists yet for comparison to the leaders. On the other hand, I imagine a big content brand like Discovery really liked how “safe” it will be.

I don’ t know if the numbers are accurate on traffic but it’s perhaps ironic that Alexa says it peaked in 2005, in that that’s when the push to integrate lots more peripheral but not really HowStuffWorksy content began and the focus started to blur.

My hope is that Discovery turns the mission back towards what HSW was known for in its heyday, trims out the peripheral stuff and streamlines the site, and takes users seriously in terms of community development.”

Here’s the full conversation on TechMeme.

TDavid at Things That Make You Go Hmm offers some related thoughts on how Discovery should grow their video strategy:

“I think the relationship will work better using HowStuffWorks content on the TV shows than trying to focus on video content from the TV show. Here’s an even better idea: take user submitted how stuff works like content and put it on TV — now that would be good for both. At the least Discovery needs to make it easy to embed in websites a la YouTube rather than forcing people to view only at HowStuffWorks.”

Run A Better Product Blog

Below are the slides from the presentation I did yesterday. There’s not a ton of text on them, but if you have any questions about any of the topics I’d be glad to explain roughly what I was talking about.

As far as setup, the idea here is that product blogs are a specific subgenre of “company blogging” in general. I’m using product blog here to mean a blog run by a product team, used as the primary means of communication between them and the outside world. They sometimes get short shrift to the flashier CEO/Executive blogs and regular employee blogs, but really product blogs do a lot of the heavy lifting in connecting users to the company that makes the stuff they use. Smart hiring managers should be looking to hire at least one member of a product team who can think like a communicator/content creator, though it really doesn’t matter who on the team that is.

And here are some of the participants we had:Product Blog Crowd
Photo by Rusty Tanton, some rights reserved

David Cohen is the guy on the far left in the photo and he published his notes over here.