Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


History Is About To Repeat

Posted by tomwiles at 12:18 AM on July 15, 2010

I remember it well. Back around October of 2004, I first heard the word “podcast” used on The David Lawrence Show via my XM Satellite Radio. It sounded interesting, and I wrote it down on my driver logbook cover with the idea of looking it up later. I heard David mention it again once or twice over the next few weeks. Finally, in early December of 2004 I finally got around to looking it up. I found Adam Curry’s podcast, realized what it was, and knew that I felt compelled to not only listen to podcasts but get involved as a podcaster myself. This was exactly what I’d been looking for for many years – a wide variety of content that I could choose, download, and control the playback/consumption of on MY terms.

Podcasting took previously-existing elements and applied them with a new twist. MP3 files had already existed for a number of years. Virtually every computer already came with a sound card and had the basic ability to both play back and record audio. Portable MP3 players had been around for a while. Apart from Adam Curry’s and Dave Winer’s contribution of the podcasting concept and making it work, the one key element that suddenly made podcasting viable and actually inevitable was the fact that Internet bandwidth got good enough to make it practical.

Practical is an important key.

We have now passed another important milestone in terms of mobile bandwidth. Mobile bandwidth, while not yet perfect, has improved dramatically in both terms of data delivery and coverage. About three or more years ago I had experimented with streaming audio via my smartphone while driving my truck, and quickly determined that it wasn’t viable. I couldn’t listen long at all before I would lose the stream. No problem, I had plenty of podcasts to listen to.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Pandora.Com lately, so last week I finally tried the Pandora Android app out on my new Sprint HTC Evo. To my surprise, it worked amazingly well – even in Arizona and the western third of New Mexico along Interstate 40 where Sprint still has 1XRT service. The streaming music sounded great, and the few times it did briefly drop out in a couple of mountainous areas, it automatically reconnected and reestablished the playback stream.

(By the way, a side note – I was surprised to learn that Verizon has NO data card coverage around the Kingman, Arizona area – my Verizon aircard would NOT connect in the Kingman area.)

Streaming radio via the Internet in a moving vehicle is now practical. Smartphones have also reached critical mass to the point where they are really beginning to move into the mainstream. Even though streaming Internet audio has been around for quite a few years at this point, I believe the automotive market for streaming audio is about to open up in a massive way.

Up until this point most people have felt that streaming Internet radio had plateaued or was only going to grow slowly. I believe that improved cell networks along with smartphone proliferation will create a new market for streaming audio services. The automobile has been the traditional stronghold of terrestrial and now satellite radio services. An old kid that’s been around a while suddenly has a big and growing shot at a new lease-on life.

I believe opportunities exist for streaming Internet radio stations that deliver highly specialized content. For us geeks, imagine a 24/7 tech-centric streaming station. The sky really is the limit. The cost of running a streaming station can be very low, so therefore it becomes possible and practical to narrowcast to relatively small audiences.

New Media v. Old Media

Posted by Andrew at 6:30 AM on July 14, 2010

How social media points the way forward for journalism. It’s a real example of how traditional media are becoming social media-aware and are using Facebook, Twitter and their ilk to get the news stories out faster and with more information.

However, what really registered with me is at the very end of the article.

There is a word of caution that goes with trusting what we read on this great “word of mouth” network.  Recent rumour mill stories on Facebook on the private lives of footballers ended up in the press and were proven to be totally wrong. So while this new technology can speed up the newsgathering process, journalists will need to make sure they do what they have always done – double check the facts.

I have real concerns about the loss of the old news media.  Obviously there’s no single cause but the rise of new media, the Internet “no cost” expectation and the “now” culture are all taking the toll.    But what will be the cost to our society when we no longer have professional journalists?

What will happen to investigative journalism?  What will happen when hysterical but unfounded rumours sweep across the social networks?  How will politicians be held to account when there is no-one to report on their mistakes?  How much more easy will it be to cover stuff up?

I can’t think of a single other instance where it’s become acceptable for amateurs to take over the role of professionals.  Would you want an amateur doctor to treat you?  An amateur engineer to design a bridge?  An amateur firefighter to attend an emergency?  No, I want these people to study for years to become competent at what they do.  Why should journalism be any different?  Just because you can string a sentence together, doesn’t make you a journalist.

Now, you may think that it’s a bit rich coming from a blogger for a major new media site but to tie this back to the original news story, I think it genuinely points the way ahead.  We have to get away from old media v. new media, it has to be co-opetition not competition, symbiotic not parasitic, and we have to find a way to reward news organisations and professional journalists to keep doing what they’re doing.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know is that it will be social disaster if we lose professional journalists because we were too cheap to buy a newspaper.

What Makes A Tech Success?

Posted by tomwiles at 1:23 AM on July 12, 2010

It seems in the world of computers and the Internet there is always a steady stream of new things on the horizon, as well as a steady stream of new products and services. It’s been this way for many years at this point.

There are always winners and losers. Winners can win big, and losers at worst fail to make any marketplace splash or even a ripple and end up in the tech dustbin of obscurity with few people ever knowing that the product or service ever existed.

What is it that makes for a successful product? Why is it that some products and services that seem very similar to other products and services end up becoming household names, while others end up being cancelled domain name landing pages?

It’s obvious there are a variety of factors that come into play. If it were easy to predict these things, we would have a lot fewer losers. Why did Twitter become a household name, whereas similar services such as Plurk and Jaiku languish in the shadows? What enabled Facebook to steal most of the MySpace thunder?

New products and services that end up being successful frequently incorporate elements and principles of previously-existing successes, but package them in more compact and useful forms.

Initially when Twitter came along a couple of years ago, I heard people talking about it, but I was a bit resistant to sign up. I felt like I had plenty of ways to communicate with people, so why did I need to add yet another account to a service that would steal away time I already had filled, only to ultimately let yet another account go dormant? I finally signed up for Twitter, and after I began using it I began to understand the value of it. With a service like Twitter, the more people that are using it, the more valuable it becomes.

About the same time I signed up for a Twitter account, I also signed up for a Plurk account. After a few visits to the Plurk website over a period of a month or two, I haven’t been back to the site since.

I believe what is valuable about Twitter is that 140 character limit per Tweet, forcing people to be succinct with their wording. Twitter and Tweet are cute names. The site design is simple, the blue bird logo pleasing to the eye, and the developers kept the API and name open to other developers, allowing an entire ecosystem of ancillary products and services to develop around it at the same time it was rapidly increasing in popularity. Twitter is very much like chat, which was already well established, but it had the added value that it either could be in real time, or not, able to be accessed from a vast array of devices beyond the Twitter website. Twitter also allows you to subscribe to just the people you want, and ignore or even completely block the rest. Twitter also allows you to reach out and touch people, and it allows you to monitor what others are up to whose lives are at once very similar to your own, yet often radically different. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish interacting with the service. Another thing that turned out to be incredibly useful with twitter is the vast 24/7 real-time data stream that it generates. Real-time Twitter data mining has proved to be quite valuable to many people.

To be honest I have always thought that many MySpace pages were often monstrous, unbelievably cluttered messes that often took a long time to load. Nonetheless, MySpace became popular because it obviously served a need with a younger demographic.

I’ve always thought Facebook’s interface is somewhat confusing, though allowing for far less cluttered and confusing-looking profile pages. I still don’t quite understand what got Facebook to the level of critical popularity – perhaps the less-cluttered, faster-loading profile pages gave it the critical edge over MySpace.

It should also be noted that Facebook allowed for an open API, allowing a myriad of interesting and often useful applications to be plugged in to its interface.

However it did it, Facebook managed to get to a critical mass of users where it became THE thing to sign up for and THE place to be to stay connected with family, friends and business associates. Something interesting has happened with Facebook that has never happened before – everyday, non-geek people who had never built website profiles in all the years they had been doing email and web browsing were suddenly signing up for Facebook in unbelievable numbers. Mothers, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, etc. were suddenly showing up on the same service with their kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids. Once the ball rolled, Facebook became an incredible success.

I started noticing a while back that many people were starting to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other in lieu of email. At this point I find myself getting pulled into that trend myself. These services don’t offer the relative privacy of direct email, but they allow for easy, frequent public conversations and easy sharing of personal media such as photos between friends and family on a global scale.

What I take away from the success stories versus the less-successful competitors is that oftentimes the differences in design and implementation can be slight, but those slight differences can offer real, tangible advantages to the end user. If those often-slight advantages can somehow help get the product or service to a critical mass threshold, they can find themselves catapulted to the point of planetary awareness.

The Impact of Twitter

Posted by Alan at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2010

I was pretty early in signing up for Twitter.  I don’t remember exactly when, but early.  I followed a few people, mostly ones in the tech world such as Leo Laporte, etc.  I didn’t check my account all that often and, when I did, there were too many posts to read back through.

After a while, I discovered Twitter desktop apps and things improved.  I think it was twhirl, but I couldn’t swear to it.  My use of Twitter went up with this new advance.  Now I could keep the app open on my desktop, in the background.  I started to follow a little more, post a little more, and was better able to keep up with the posts of those I was following.

Then I got an app for my phone.  After a while I changed to another and then yet another.  Currently I use TouchTwit.  This, the phone app, was the biggest revelation for me.  Now Twitter is always with me no matter where I am.  Now I no longer miss any posts from any of the people I follow.  And I post much more than ever.

This phone revelation, which began for me a couple of years ago, prompted more changes than those I just mentioned though.  It prompted me to really think about who I followed.  I made changes.  I added and I removed.  I discovered there were two distinctively different types of people (or in some cases entities) I was following.  There were those I followed for fun – some are my friends, some are pro athletes, some are tech journalists.  And then there were those I followed for news and information – for instance a local news radio station and local newspaper keep me up-to-date on local news, Breaking News keeps me informed of national and world news, ProCyclingLive keeps me up to the minute about what is going on during a bike race, AmazonMP3 and AmazonVideo give me deals on purchases and rentals (complete with the occasional coupon code for a discount), and this list goes on.

There is humor to be found – take a tweet I remember from a year or so ago from Lance Armstrong (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Dear ATT, it’s been two weeks since you said you’d fix my home phone.  Maybe tomorrow?”  Followed a few hours later by another tweet along the lines of “just returned from a training ride and there’s an ATT truck in front of my house.”  Not only was it amusing, but it also demonstrated the power that having a LOT of followers can have, even over a major corporation.

There’s the real human impact that came home to us last year when we all sat spellbound as the only news that we, or even the major outlets like CNN, could get about the Iranian Election protests came to us via the citizens of Iran as they posted to Twitter what was happening, complete with pictures and videos, in their country.  Their internet shut off by a dictatorial regime, they got word out to the world using Twitter apps and cellular connections.  They nearly brought down a tyrannical government using modern technology that these old-style regimes weren’t prepared to deal with.

I sat dumbfounded over my breakfast one morning as tweet after tweet rolled past revealing the horror of the Chilean earthquake and subsequent tsunami warnings.  The information leapfrogged the best news outlets we have because it came, first-person, from those who were there on the ground, in the middle of the devastation.

And, I will close with a gem (for me at least).  Recently my daughter celebrated a birthday.  She is also a huge football fan of, thankfully, the same team that I am a fan of.  I took a chance and tweeted to one of her favorite players that she was a fan and it was her birthday.  Within 20 minutes I received a reply from him wishing her, by name, a happy birthday.  She now has a printout of that tweet hanging on her wall.  I certainly can’t say that all such people in his position would have done this.  But it’s great that we have this way of communicating with even the famous and, if they want, they can communicate back with their fans.  (Note: I am not naming him because I wouldn’t want him to be swamped with requests.)

In a short time Twitter has gone from posts about what you had for breakfast to changing the world.  They may have fewer users than Facebook, but there’s a very real reason why many say Facebook has Twitter-envy.  They may have the power and the technology to change the world in very palpable ways, especially in places where governments have a vested interest in the suppression of information.

Living With The Sprint HTC Evo

Posted by tomwiles at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2010

I’ve been living with my HTC Evo now for a few weeks, long enough where I can make a few informed observations about the device.

The Evo’s 4.3 inch multi-touch screen is superb. I’ve been surprised by the brightness and readability of the Evo’s screen even in a vehicle or outdoors in sunlight. The screen is big enough to be useful, yet the device still fits into a regular shirt pocket.

The Evo is fast and responsive. It seems that no matter what programs are open, the Evo remains just as responsive — there’s no wait for programs or configuration screens to pop open. The other smart phones I’ve owned in the past are dog-slow and sluggish by comparison.

The HTC’s “Sense” user interface that sits on top of Android is a winner. Popular social networking sites are slickly integrated right into every aspect of the phone’s functionality, making it possible to share most everything you can think of with a couple of taps.

The WiFi hotspot feature is also a tremendous convenience. It does have its quirks though. I’ve found that if I have opened up a bunch of different applications in the course of using the phone, if I then open up the WiFi hotspot feature, something will go wrong after a few hours and turn off the battery’s charging circuit. Something I have installed and am running may be causing this to happen. If I reboot the phone and then run the WiFi hotspot feature, this problem doesn’t occur and the battery keeps charging when it’s plugged in to AC power.

The integrated GPS is able to quickly find a signal. There are two GPS navigation choices that are included – Google Navigation and Sprint Navigation. Both work exactly as expected. I find myself making the most use of Google Navigation and Google Maps. The ability to search for businesses in a local area based on the phone’s own GPS location is extremely useful and I typically find I use that feature several times a day.

4G is currently not a good reason to buy an Evo because 4G coverage is currently extremely limited. This situation is in the process of changing. In the meantime, I’m happy with Sprint’s 3G coverage. I knew about this 4G limitation going in to getting this phone, so it’s not a problem for me. In reality, it’s likely going to take two or three years before 4G is widely deployed. I’ve been a Sprint data customer for more than 5 years, so I’ve witnessed (and lived with) the process firsthand of them going from 1XRT service that was limited to the eastern half of the country to widely-deployed EVDO Rev “A” 3G service.

Android is light years better than Windows Mobile 5, 6 or 6.5. When Android needs to pull data from the Internet it quickly pulls it without fuss or muss. All the versions of Windows Mobile I’ve dealt with have a “Dial-up Networking” routine they have to go through just as if it was a desktop computer connecting via a modem, which is slow and sometimes prone to fail. Windows Mobile data connections must be manually closed when not in use or they can drain the battery. Android just does what you expect it to without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

The Evo’s main 8 megapixel camera is very good, and the interface allows instant uploading of photos to services such as Flickr and Facebook. The front-facing camera will work with a free program called “Fring” that will allow two-way video conferencing, but I’ve found Fring’s interface confused and somewhat unreliable.

Sprint appears to be blocking the uploading of videos recorded on the phone even through the phone’s integrated browser when signed in to YouTube. However, I was able to email a video as an attachment to my YouTube account.

The Evo’s “HD video” recording capability is not anywhere close to HD standards. Furthermore, the sound quality of recorded video and audio is quite poor. The Evo is not a replacement for a real video camera. It is only fair to note here that all iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads have superior audio recording capabilities. Also the iPhone 4’s HD video recording capabilities are obviously quite superior to the Evo’s.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the HTC Evo. That being said, keep in mind that it requires expensive voice/data plans if you wish to take advantage of all its capabilities. Furthermore as a two and one half year plus Sprint customer I’m satisfied with the quality and speed of the Sprint network.

The Tech of Social Networking

Posted by tomwiles at 8:41 PM on June 26, 2010

The Tech of Social NetworkingModern Internet-based social networking seems like a relatively recent phenomena. Yet, its roots can be traced back to basic human behavior.

Early humans organized themselves into social tribes. As technical knowledge and know-how got better, and written communication emerged, human social interaction also became more sophisticated. The printing press and postal systems supplemented the local tavern and other forms of in-person socialization.  This was the beginning of a more sophisticated type of companionship. These early technologies marked the beginning stages of releasing the bonds of people only being able to interact, conduct business, and socialize with those they could be physically present with.

The telegraph machine could be looked upon as an early form of text messaging. People could conduct business at a distance, as well as send short personal notes to friends or family across great distances.

Then Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Early telephones were not that easy to use compared to what they evolved into, but they did mark a turning point that would profoundly change human interaction and ultimately cause the acquisition of knowledge to accelerate. The wired telephone enabled new, more efficient forms of social networking and interaction. It was a business device, yet it was also a pleasure device, that enabled people to socialize in much more sophisticated ways.

In the later decades of the 20th century, phone lines began to be used for more than simply voice communications. “POTS” or “plain old telephone lines” initially enabled the early stages of Internet growth. Looking back, those early websites had a social networking component built in all along. Business and pleasure were the driving forces.

The Internet quickly became much more sophisticated. High-speed Internet access and ever-cheaper data storage converged, leading to yet another turning point, enabling technologies such as podcasting, the reliable delivery of audio and video, etc. Social interaction among people was profoundly affected yet again.

The proliferation of the modern cell phone was another turning point that developed in parallel with the proliferation of the Internet. Being able to carry around a phone in one’s pocket was a terrific convenience, and has enabled profound efficiencies in the ways people interact. Since most of us alive today lived through that profound change, we cannot fully see what a significant turning point it is, or fully know how the efficiency will impact future generations.

Today we are living through yet another profound change – a type of convergence. The cell phone is morphing into the super smart phone that puts the Internet right in our pockets. Business and pleasure are still right there, driving the need for interaction.

In a way it’s fitting that these nifty, Internet-enabled, touch screen pocket computers many of us now carry around with us everywhere we go also happen to function as telephones.

Venturing Into Unknown Territory

Posted by tomwiles at 11:42 PM on June 20, 2010

Orion Nebula Hubble SmallIf you are looking for an interesting listen, check out the Steve Jobs interview at the 2010 D8 Conference. If you would rather watch the video, here’s that version.

One of the interesting things Mr. Jobs said is that this phenomena of mobile apps that has really exploded in the past three years is something new, something we haven’t seen before. I must say, I agree with him. To be honest, there were a few albeit limited mobile apps before the iPhone and the iPod Touch, but they were few and far between. The iPhone and iPod touch really gave this market a truly usable platform for the first time, and that’s what caused it to ignite. Truly usable pocket/portable Internet-enabled devices have facilitated brand new types of activities.

In the realm of desktop computers, there are probably hundreds of thousands or millions of applications available. However, we cannot carry a running desktop or laptop computer around in our pockets. Full-blown computer applications are designed for a different platform with different purposes in mind. For years there have been people that have carried laptops around in their cars and briefcases with them, but full-blown computers don’t lend themselves to the types of consumer behaviors we see emerging from the use of capable smart phones.

On a desktop computer, if we want to look something up such as a restaurant or a sports score we typically go to Google or Bing, and such a search will likely point us to web pages to get the information we seek. However, as Mr. Jobs pointed out, the statistics indicate that the majority of people doing a search on smart phones tend to use specialized apps to perform these searches. Specialized smart phone apps do tend to provide much more specific, concentrated, GPS-enabled search results. Also, the GPS-enabled smart phone takes social networking itself to new heights.

Steve Jobs and Apple deserve credit for facilitating this new emerging portable device app market. The iPhone, the world’s first truly highly-desirable smart phone platform, was the right move at the right time. In the absence of the iPhone, given the emergence of high-speed wireless Internet, it’s likely that an app market of some sort would have emerged anyway. What Mr. Jobs and Apple really did was give the smart phone market a kick in the pants, spurring a quantum leap forward in what is essentially wireless broadband pocket computing that also happens to have a phone function.

Now that Android phones are on the scene offering the first serious competition with the Apple iPhone, the smart phone and app market is truly becoming interesting.

Better Apps and Better Data Needed

Posted by tomwiles at 7:20 PM on June 19, 2010

Better Apps and Better Data NeededWhen it comes to certain types of software or social networking sites, I have tended to hold back and let others to be the first to jump on the bandwagon. For example, Twitter was around a year or two before I decided to sign up and see what all the fuss was about. I did the same thing with Facebook. After all, it seems in the initial stages there are dozens and dozens of similar types of sites that are trying to compete for the big prize, and I refuse to sign up for any or all of them until it becomes clear that they are doing something to set themselves apart to garner real interest. In the past I’ve signed up for plenty of sites and it seems like I’m the only one present. The formula is easy – the more people that sign up and actually use a site, the more useful it becomes.

In the smart phone realm I’ve been hearing people talk a lot about Foursquare. I kept hearing it mentioned, but really had little clue what functionality it offered. I kept hearing about Starbucks discounts and Mayors in conjunction with Foursquare and wondered what on earth that was about and what that had to do with a smart phone app.

Since I’m the proud owner of the Sprint Evo 4G smart phone, I’ve been checking out all sorts of interesting Android apps. The Foursquare name kept periodically coming up, so I decided I would check it out.

Once I loaded Foursquare on my Evo and opened the app up for the first time I was presented with a Foursquare login screen and realized I had to go to their site in a browser to create an account, which I did. As part of the Foursquare account generation process, they present you with options of connecting your new account to Facebook and Twitter – very smart on their part, because it helps to connect with friends that are already Foursquare members.

After I logged in on my phone, it was cool to be able to see where those friends had been when they “checked in” from various restaurants and businesses around the country and the world. That’s cool. However, the “Location” tab makes the app EXTREMELY useful for me. I’m an over-the-road truck driver, constantly driving up and down freeways across the country. I happened to be at Gas City, Indiana when I installed Foursquare, so I was a bit surprised to see listed all the restaurants and convenience stores at the exit I was at along I-69, and the distance in meters they were away from where my truck was parked. It uses the phone’s built-in GPS chip so that it knows exactly where it’s at and what businesses are around – within “four square miles” perhaps?

All of these GPS-enabled smart phone apps are great, but they don’t solve all of my problems. I’m constantly looking for truck washes (refrigerated trailers constantly need washed out before reloading) as well as truck stops and truck parking. Even Google’s database has been gamed – try typing “truck stop” or “truck wash” along with the city name of your choice into Google and see if the search results aren’t misleading. “Truck wash” and a city name will often result in car wash business listings, useless for my purposes.

The bottom line is there’s still plenty of room for future smart phone app development. More specialized apps and better databases are two elements that can result in more useful apps.

The Death of Feed Readers

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:29 AM on May 27, 2010

I recently realized that I haven’t looked at my feed reader of choice in weeks, except occasionally on my Iphone. I was a big feed reader user. I tried several over the years, including Google Reader, Feedly and Netnews Wire among others whose names I can’t re-call. Each of these programs have their own plus and minus, but the one thing that all of them lack is real time notification. Increasingly, I want information coming to me in as real time as possible. Feed readers are just not made to be truly real time.

So If I don’t use a feed reader how do I keep up with the news. I use a combination of Socialite and recently Seesmic Desktop 2 Preview. Socialite lets me follow both Twitter and Facebook, while I use Seesmic to follow Google Buzz, which was recently added with the release of the API. I have divided my Twitter following into lists based on my various interest, including technology, ecology, local news and cooking. I add people and companies based on their knowledge to the appropriate list. The reason i don’t use Seesmic to follow everything is I prefer the way Socialite is set up. Socialite places the lists on the left hand screen and the messages flow down the center. There is a indicator next to each list with the number of unread messages. I can go thru each list individually, when I am ready. If there is a link that I am interested in I can either click on it to open it immediately or I can send it to Instapaper to read later.

I have been using this method for about a month now and I really like it. I doubt I will go back to a feed reader full time anytime soon. Do you use social media applications to keep up with the news, If so what do you use and how do you use it.

NING Cuts Staff, Turns Off Free Model

Posted by J Powers at 1:24 PM on April 15, 2010

Last month, Ning CEO Gina Bianchini was replaced by Jason Rosenthal – which made me wonder if some big changes were afoot. I guess I was right as it turns out Ning is changing their business model. Let’s look at what happened and what that means to you.

This letter was posted over on TechCrunch:

Team,

When I became CEO 30 days ago, I told you I would take a hard look at our business. This process has brought real clarity to what’s working, what’s not, and what we need to do now to make Ning a big success.

My main conclusion is that we need to double down on our premium services business. Our Premium Ning Networks like Friends or Enemies, Linkin Park, Shred or Die, Pickens Plan, and tens of thousands of others both drive 75% of our monthly US traffic, and those Network Creators need and will pay for many more services and features from us.

So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

As a consequence of this change, I have also made the very tough decision to reduce the size of our team from 167 people to 98 people. As hard as this is to do, I am confident that this is the right decision for our company, our business, and our customers. Marc and I will work diligently with everyone affected by this to help them find great opportunities at other companies.

I’ve never seen a more talented and devoted team, and it has been my privilege to get to know and work with each and every one of you over the last 18 months.

We’ll use today to say goodbye to our friends and teammates who will be leaving the company. Tomorrow, I will take you through, in detail, our plans for the next three months and our new focus.

Thanks,
Jason Rosenthal

Workforce Cuts:

In a nutshell, Jason came in and took 30 days to evaluate the company, now he is cutting the fat. 70 people – 40% of the staff has been laid off. That is a big number when you have a company that houses over 1 million total networks. So now 98 employees will have to continue on.

No More Free Ride:

When I first was introduced to Ning, I had to wonder if this free model was going to work. Now I know the answer – no, it didn’t. They are cutting their free service to focus on the paid services. And looking at the A-la cart prices on Ning, I would guess that is all going to change in the next couple weeks.

For example, extra storage to your account costs $9.95 / month. Add your own domain, Support, Run your ads and your bill is $45 / Month. Pretty pricey there.

I am not sure what is going to happen to popular social networks already on there. David Hasselhoff site is hosted there. Chris Pirillo has Geeks.pirillo.com on there. I would guess they are already paying the premium prices due to higher bandwidth.

But what about the sites I use that are not that high profile? Several Geek and computer pages I visit, a local non-profit hosts their site on Ning, too. I would guess that they have to pay or go seperate ways.

What We Learned from this:

Free is nice, but not trustworthy. I know that whatever I have out there on a free model might be gone tomorrow. Bandwidth and other overhead are big factors in giving something away. Sometimes it works, other times; Well, you make a lot of people unhappy.

I am not sure how many sites will decide to move over, but I would guess the 1 million mark might have to be reached again. On the other hand, Ning has really built up an easy to use interface for anyone that wants to build a social site without having to do much coding. It’s really about the cost of ownership.

Do you have a Ning website? Are you going to stay on Ning, or move to another hosting provider?