baltimoresun.com

February 13, 2012

Moving Day for BaltTech

moving-day-image.jpg


We have come to the end of the road for this blog template. No longer will I be using Movable Type to craft my pearls of journalism for the blog-reading masses.

Starting early tomorrow, we're switching BaltTech over to the Sun's proprietary content management system, and my blog will look different to you -- and I'll have to learn a whole new way of creating BaltTech content. You won't have to do anything different -- the web address will remain www.baltimoresun.com/balttech.

But! For diligent Baltimore tech scene followers, a word of advice: I'll be I am updating this post with a link to this old blog format, which will be turning into an archive of sorts. This content will continue to stay live on the Internet, but when you search for "BaltTech" on Google and type in BaltimoreSun.com/BaltTech, you'll get the new blog layout -- not this one. For the historians among us, if you want to find stuff I wrote about the Baltimore tech scene over the past three years, you'll need to search on this site here, because the new site will not have these posts in its archive.

But, the good news: I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be covering tech, entrepreneurs, innovation and whatever else interests me (or my editors).

And follow me on Twitter here!

And friend-up BaltTech on Facebook here!

Seeya' around.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

February 7, 2012

Facebook deletes photo of artful nude pregnant woman on Disney-owned parent-blogging site's FB page

Avert your eyes! Avert your eyes!

This photo was apparently deemed offensive by Facebook, and unilaterally taken down from a page operated by Babble, a popular online site for parents that's owned by Disney, according to Babble.

In a blog post, Babble explains:

Facebook’s community standards specifically state, “We have a strict “no nudity or pornography” policy. Any content that is inappropriately sexual will be removed. Before posting questionable content, be mindful of the consequences for you and your environment.” And today they proved that their definition of nudity is even stricter than ever thought. Earlier this afternoon, a photo of a beautifully adorned pregnant belly was removed from the site because – evidently – it involved unacceptable nudity in the form of a painted breast.

Babble’s social media manager, Andrea Zimmerman, posted the photo in question (above) to our Facebook page a few hours ago, and it received several hundred views before it was deleted by Facebook without warning. This has happened once or twice before to photos on Babble’s account, and Facebook has responded by sending a message warning that if their guidelines are violated too many times, the account will be deleted.

I have asked Facebook to comment. Waiting to hear back.

Update, 5:30 pm: A Facebook spokesperson sends along the following comment:

While we can’t comment on individual cases, Facebook has a strict policy around the prohibition of nudity on the site. This mirrors the policy that governs broadcast television, and which places limitations on nudity due to the presence of minors on Facebook.

In the meantime, is this photo -- a giraffe drawn on a woman's pregnant body -- offensive to you? Are there, perchance, other things you see on Facebook that are more offensive, yet never censored?

Just trying to spark a conversation.....


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:24 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

NFL's online copyright monitor vendor threw flag too soon on Chrysler ad

Yesterday, you may have followed the online back-and-forth here on the much-talked-about Chrysler ad, " Halftime in America," featuring Clint Eastwood. It was knocked off YouTube for several hours yesterday, with only a short notice from YouTube on the site saying they had received a copyright complaint from NFL Properties.

But the NFL said they quickly told YouTube the Chrysler ad was OK.

The NFL said they did not complain about the video. YouTube said they only take down videos when they receive a complaint. Chrysler was just wondering what happened to this video that they had spent a ton of money on, and why it was no longer on YouTube.

So here's the update. An NFL spokesman tells me today that a third-party vendor the NFL uses for "content identification services" had "mistakenly sent a take-down notice." (They declined to name the vendor.)

Says NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy: "We asked Google to reinstate it immediately, which it did. Our office did not object to the ad or its placement online. (It was on NFL.com yesterday after the game – and continues to be – as part of content along with all the ads that appeared in the game)."

So here's the key part: "The vendor thought the ad was part of the halftime programming, which is protected, and not a commercial."

So the vendor thought Chrysler had taken a portion of the NFL's halftime programming and put it on its own Youtube page. Ooops. Inadvertent flag on the play. Play on.

In a way, Chrysler's ad people should be commended for making such a slick ad that it got confused for NFL programming. NFL programming is very well done.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

"App Economy" created nearly 500,000 jobs: study

A new study from TechNet, a bipartisan advocacy group in Washington for technology companies, says that the growth of "apps" -- from Facebook games to iPhone apps -- has generated nearly 500,000 jobs in the United States since 2007.

This study from TechNet is among the first to grapple with job creation tied to apps that include both mobile and Facebook platforms. Last fall, the University of Maryland released a study that estimated that the Facebook App Economy alone generated 183,000 new jobs.

The TechNet study breaks down the U.S. by state and region, in terms of app job density -- apps created about 466,000 jobs in the country.

(Baltimore accounts for nearly 1 percent of App Economy jobs, per the study. You'll find that number in the full report, attached below.)

Top U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Percentage of App Economy Jobs

New York-Northern N.J.-Long Island………………….. 9.2%

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont………………………. 8.5%

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara……………………… 6.3%

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue……………………………….. 5.7%

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana………………….. 5.1%

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria………………………. 4.8%

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet……………………………….. 3.5%

Boston-Cambridge-Quincy……………………………… 3.5%

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta………………………… 3.3%

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington……………………………… 2.6%

Top Ten States for App Economy Jobs (Percentage)

California…………………………………………………… 23.8%

New York…………………………………………………… 6.9%

Washington………………………………………………… 6.4%

Texas……………………………………………………….. 5.4%

New Jersey………………………………………………… 4.2%

Illinois……………………………………………………….. 4.0%

Massachusetts…………………………………………….. 3.9%

Georgia……………………………………………………… 3.7%

Virginia……………………………………………………… 3.5%

Florida………………………………………………………. 3.1%

Below is the TechNet study:

TechNet App Economy Jobs Study


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

February 6, 2012

NFL asks Google to reinstate Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ad

Just got word from an NFL spokesman that the NFL did not ask Google/Youtube to take down Chrysler's popular "Halftime in America" commercial, featuring Clint Eastwood.

From NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy moments ago, via email to me: "The NFL did not file a copyright complaint about this ad with Google. We have asked Google to reinstate the ad immediately. Google is looking into why the ad was removed."

I reported early this morning that the video was blocked on Chrysler's Youtube page, with a notification to viewers that the NFL had filed a copyright claim.

Indeed, the video is now live on Chrysler's Youtube page. See below:

So what happened? Chatter around the web suggests that Youtube may have a very finicky automatic copyright detection filter that went a little over-aggressive today. But I'm waiting to see the official explanation from Google/Youtube.

Update, 4:30 pm:A YouTube spokesperson emailed me to say the following:

YouTube expeditiously removes content when it receives a copyright notification from copyright owners, or from third party agencies operating on their behalf. We reinstate content when we receive a retraction from the party who originally submitted the notification. The video has been reinstated.

I replied to the spokesperson:

The NFL says they never filed a complaint about the video -- even though the video screen said there was a complaint from NFL Properties LLC. Was it taken down due to some type of auto filtering technology that YouTube uses?

Your statement doesn't really say what happened in this case. Thanks.

The YouTube spokesperson's response:

No, a video comes down when we receive a copyright complaint about a specific video from the copyright holder, or from the third party agency that they designate to make such complaints on their behalf.

Then I ask back:

So did the NFL's third party agency make the complaint? Because the NFL itself is telling me they didn't complain.

Are you confused yet? Cuz I am. How did YouTube knock off this Chrysler video for several hours today?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Youtube blocks Chrysler's "Halftime in America" commercial for NFL copyright claim

I missed the Clint Eastwood/Chrysler ad spot last night during the Super Bowl halftime, but many raved about it. So I just tried to pull it up on Youtube and was blocked. Apparently, the NFL has made a copyright claim against Chrysler and the commercial, per the message that popped up.

Update, 11:15 am: The NFL just told me they did NOT file a copyright claim. It asked Google to repost the Chrysler ad. Something happened on Google's end to take this video down.
youtube-chrysler-nfl.png I watched the commercial, which is still on Youtube on another official Chrysler account, and my layman eyes and ears had trouble picking out the alleged copyright violation(s). Is it because there was a reference to a football game, during the actual Super Bowl? I don't know.

Any copyright lawyers out there want to share some insight? I have a request for comment in to the NFL for some clarification on what's happening here.

P.S. The "Halftime in America" video doesn't even play on Chrysler's own website, because Chrysler linked to the Youtube video, which no longer plays.

This is unfortunate for Chrysler because it is paying for paid ad links on Google, which is how I found the video on Chrysler's site. Clearly, Chrysler had high, viral video hopes for this Eastwood ad. The ad copy on the site says: Just One Person can start a chain reaction that reaches thousands. Share this video and watch as it spreads across the country.

Update: 8:20 am: I've been in touch with both NFL and Chrysler spokespeople and they're both researching what's happening, before making any public statements. 

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 6:49 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

February 2, 2012

What the Facebook IPO filing misses: age demographics

I keep hearing in my travels that the young folk (teens and tweens) are using Tumblr alot. Tumblr, indeed, is on a roll.

In the context of Facebook's IPO filing, I went looking for age demographics in its S-1 filing with the SEC.

Guess what? It wasn't there.

With 800+ million worldwide users, Facebook is gargantuan. But the social networking giant hardly gave insight into the demographic undercurrents driving the website's growth, in terms of age.

We've seen some of these graphics and stats elsewhere on the Web before. Like here, for 2010 estimates. And here, for 2011 estimates.

If I were investing in Facebook, I'd like to see more reporting on their age demographic trends. How fast are their various age segments growing? What is user activity among 18-25 year-olds like? What is your most engaged age demographic from a daily-average/monthly-average user perspective?

The only on-point statement I found the filing that addresses the younger demographic is the following: "We also believe that younger users have higher levels of engagement with the web and mobile devices in general and with Facebook specifically. We anticipate that demographic trends over the long term may contribute to growth in engagement as a greater number of users will come from demographic groups that have grown up with the web and mobile devices and who spend more time online every day." (page 46)

To me, one of the biggest competitive threats to Facebook is what online tools a 13 year old is using today to share their lives with friends.

Back in 2008, this chart I found on Myspace and other networks showed that 0-17 year olds were its largest demographic. Next largest? 45-54. And women dominated the site more than men.

AOL was once pretty omnipotent. But guess what? A new generation adopted new tools and new sites. Sure, people are still using AOL (dialup, no less), but AOL is a shadow of its former self.

Another random thought: Facebook has grown, in large part, thanks to women users. Look at the user stats from the above link (yes, this one). There are more women using Facebook than men in every age category.

That's pretty impressive. Women control many household purse strings. They are financial decision makers. I'm not saying this with any gender bias. But women increasingly really are decision makers, and advertisers recognize that. This is a feather in Facebook's cap.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media
        

February 1, 2012

Facebook files for IPO, seeks to raise $5 billion

At 4:47 p.m. today, Facebook Inc. filed its S-1 registration statement as it seeks to go public and raise $5 billion.

Some key facts: from the filing:

* The Web 2.0 company has 845 million monthly active users. It had revenues last year of $3.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2010.

* It had a profit last year of $1 billion last year, compared to $606 million in 2010.

* Facebook has $3.9 billion in cash in the bank.

* Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls 36 percent of Class A shares. Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, a mutual funds investor, holds 5.2 percent of shares.

* Here's a monster number: 483 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million DAUs in December 2010.

* Zyngaville! Facebook says its relationship with Zynga accounted for 12 percent of its revenues. A healthy amount, but not surprising.

* The filing says Facebook plans to list its stock either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (You mean they haven't decided yet?)

* VERY interesting: Because Zuckerberg controls so many shares, the company is "not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function."

* Total cost and expenses for running Facebook quadrupled to nearly $2 billion in 2011, from $515 million in 2009.

* Here's a chart of Facebook's history, from the filing:


facebook-history-chart.PNG


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast
        

January 31, 2012

Look at how easy it is to organize a tech event in Baltimore

There's been a flowering in Baltimore in the area of event planning and organizing, among the tech/entrepreneurial crowd. Social media has really connected people like never before. One of the more dynamic groups at the moment is the Baltimore Tech Facebook group, which is an organic mass of 600+ members. (Are you a member yet? And while you're at it, follow BaltTech on Facebook too, for news updates from me.)

One of the points I make in today's article is that some of the traditional groups normally behind Baltimore tech events -- TEDCO, Emerging Technology Center, and the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for instance -- find themselves attending as many, or more, independent community events as they now organize for the community. Such as yesterday's Practice Your Pitch event, organized on the Facebook group and held at Naden/Lean in Cockeysville.

Monica Beeman tweeted about Practice Your Pitch here. And I expect local video tech guru Eli Etherton to post a video soon of all the pitches and feedback. I'll post it here when he does.



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech

January 30, 2012

Baltimore's Lookingglass raises $5 million round of financing

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions, a Baltimore firm which makes some cool cyber security software that gives organizations global insight into cyber threats, said Monday morning that it raised $5 million in a series A round of financing.

Lookingglass, which got its start as an incubated company at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton, lined up West Coast and East Coast investors for the raise, which it will use for marketing, sales and deployment to enterprise customers, it said in a news release

Lookingglass's core product is called ScoutVision, which companies use to "continuously monitor their own networks, the networks of their partners and cloud-computing resources," Lookingglass says.

Lookingglass continues the trend of some local companies straddling both coasts to raise venture financing. Some have told me privately that there just isn't enough local interest in startup tech to put together a round that solely originates in Maryland or the Mid-Atlantic. An interesting post in TechCocktail, featuring Josh Konowe's experience raising money for Uppidy, is one of the latest anecdotes.

I haven't yet interviewed the Lookingglass folks, so I don't know about their personal experience.

The main investor is Alsop Louis Partners, an early stage investment firm in San Francisco. Vital Financial, a private equity and capital investment firm in Bethesda, MD, participated in the round.

Lookingglass disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission in August that it was attempting to raise capital, in a Form D filing. At the time, it said it was trying to raise $500,000.

The company listed its revenues as between $1 million and $5 million.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

January 27, 2012

SpotAgent: Baltimore speed cams account for 27 percent of ticket revenue

spotagent-ticket-data.PNG


Hey, remember when I wrote about these two rascals last year who were using Baltimore city data to help you avoid getting a parking ticket?

Shea Frederick and James Schaffer are still at it with their app idea, SpotAgent.com. And, they're taking they're budding expertise in crunching parking and speed camera ticket data to drop some knowledge about Baltimore's revenues from these tickets.

It's a big money-maker to say the least. Here are some numbers they put together:

* Revenue from speed camera tickets: $9.9 million, accounting for 27 percent of the total $43 million in ticket revenue. (Another $4.9 million, or 13 percent, came from mobile speed cams.)

* Parking meter violations: $3 million, or 10 percent of total ticket revenue.

* Total number of speed camera and meter violation citations issued: 913,000

For the full report, go here to SpotAgent's site.

I'd love to hear from someone in Baltimore City government for some color commentary about these numbers. I'm emailing someone in City Hall this blog post after I post it.

And below are Shea and James from a photo in the Baltimore Sun last year.


spotagent-dudes.jpg


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

January 24, 2012

O'Malley's digital download tax on ringtones, music, ebooks and more

Maybe you haven't heard: One of Gov. O'Malley's tax proposals this year is to extend the sales tax to digital products. That means digital media you download: ebooks, apps, music, newspapers, videos, ringtones, audio greeting cards and more could become subject to the state's sales tax of 6 percent. So that 99 cents iTunes song you buy would cost around $1.05.

That app you buy would go up a bunch of cents.

:: Here's the Senate bill, put in at the request of the O'Malley administration. The part about digital products starts at page 33.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is skeptical of this tax idea by O'Malley. Their vice president of governmental affairs, in a blog post today, said the organization will work to ensure this digital download tax doesn't become a repeat -- a Tech Tax 2 -- of the failed proposed tax on tech services in 2007.

For years, there's been a steady debate in Maryland about how to address the "sales tax loophole" on the Internet. Consumers who buy goods -- digital and physical -- from online sites that don't have any physical location in Maryland aren't charged the sales tax by the online retailer. Bricks-and-mortar retailers complain about unfair competition. (Note: See my second update below: there is a provision for this type of tax collection in the proposal.)

What other states are taxing digital downloads? I scoured the web for some info on this and I found a Wikipedia list; a proposed bill last year in Congress tried to solve the "who can tax what" conundrum when it comes to digital goods; and Amazon recently striking a deal with Indiana to collect sales tax a few years from now.

On the one hand, states such as Maryland are hurting for tax revenue to close budget holes. Maryland collects taxes on the sale of music CDs, for instance. But when that same music is digital and electronically transmitted, it does not, thus missing out on revenue.

On the other, there may be small businesses out there engaged in the digital download business who worry about new taxes.

Where do you stand?

If you're a ringtone addict, do you think you should now pay a tax? Or, if you're an iPhone app developer for instance, what does it mean to have to collect sales tax on your app sale in Maryland or elsewhere? How would this complicate your business? Or is it not that big a deal?

 

UPDATE at 3:25 pm: I've gone over the bill a little more closely and, of course, I have more questions. For one, how would the state go about taxing "chat room discussions" and "weblogs" (page 34)? Would this be where a user pays a fee to read or participate in these types of online media, and thus a tax is assessed and collected? (i.e. Online news paywalls?) And what about digital streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime and other services on Apple TV and Roku, for instance? The bill talks about taxing downloads, but is vague on the act of "streaming."

Update #2, at 3:50 pm: Ok, folks, some more closer reading of the bill indicates that there is indeed a so-called "Amazon tax provision" -- see page 42, 11-701(b)1 -- "engage in the business of an out-of-state vendor." O'Malley, like many other governors, does appear to want to collect sales tax from Amazon affiliates, to use the Amazon example, based on my read of the bill.  A business that's sold more than $10,000 worth of goods in Maryland over the previous four quarters, starting July 1, would be subject to collecting sales tax from customers. This type of bill provision has failed in the past, I'm told. 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Abell Foundation: Waiting for a sustainable online journalism site to fund?

Robert_c._embry%2C_jr.jpgWhen you run in fast local media-gossip circles like I do (ha!), you can't resist the opportunity to ask a local power player whether his foundation is still interested in buying The Baltimore Sun.

Yesterday, I interviewed Robert C. Embry Jr. (left), president of the Abell Foundation, about the philanthropic institution's increasing emphasis on funding local technology startups. Abell has just committed $75,000 to a new group called the Innovation Alliance, which will use the funds to conduct a big survey of what the tech community wants and needs.

Toward the end of my interview with Mr. Embry, I asked if Abell still has any interest in buying the Baltimore Sun. (Abell was reportedly part of a team of local investors, led by Ted Venetoulis, who had floated the idea of buying the Sun about five/six years ago.)

Embry told me that the Tribune bankruptcy (Chicago-based Tribune Co. owns the Baltimore Sun, as well as the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and other papers) muddled the prospects for an acquisition several years ago. Indeed, bankruptcy is a sort of limbo for companies in most cases.

If and when Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, Embry said, "then we would re-open the question."

I also asked Embry if Abell, which has funded high-tech energy and biotech companies lately, has any interest in funding new online journalism startups?

Said Embry: "We've spent a lot of time considering that. A lot of people have approached us with ideas, but we haven't been presented with any that are self-sustaining."

I don't know what Maryland-based online news sites have presented themselves to the Abell Foundation for funding, but I can rattle off a bunch off the top of my head that are a steady part of my local media diet.

There's Baltimore Brew (which did a fantastic job raising $24,624 on Kickstarter -- well over their $15,000 goal.)

There's CityBizList, for Baltimore area business.

And MarylandReporter.com, for state house politics news.

Are these sites "sustainable"? I don't know. At this point, they seem to have had some longevity. They are veterans, in terms of online years. That counts for something.

In fact, in addition to the Sun, which still dominates, there's still a healthy selection of print and online sources of good journalism and opinion-ating around Baltimore, and a little beyond. There's CityPaper, the Daily Record, Caroll County Times, Urbanite, the Patuxent publications, the Gazette, the Washington Post, and Center Maryland. (Update: Yes, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention the Patch sites.)

The not-so-hidden players in the local media scene anymore are Twitter and Facebook. The public has more power than ever before to push stories to the top of a traditional reporter's agenda. And the public can respond to a story -- and the newsmakers behind it -- with online persistence and inquisitiveness.

In the old days, journalists would work hard to find new angles and keep a good story alive every day. (We still do.) Today, the public does the same thing on Facebook and Twitter, if the story means enough to them (us).

Just yesterday, I watched as a story I wrote about the Abell Foundation and the Innovation Alliance immediately got some push-back in the comments section of the Baltimore Tech Facebook group.

Within a couple hours of posting the story, Newt Fowler, head of the Innovation Alliance, was immediately responding to questions from the tech community.

This is truly a revolution in news, information-sharing and accountability.

Sure, we lost the Examiner a few years back, but we've actually seen the remaining publications -- and new ones, including us at The Baltimore Sun -- start to adjust to the online world.

Anybody can make and break news, and anybody can immediately question the newsmakers -- and the news writers. This rocks.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media, Social Media, Startups
        

January 23, 2012

RIM gets rid of its Noah's Ark problem

noahs-ark.jpg Finally, RIM's two co-CEOs are stepping down. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have been running the company for years, and while at the helm they've enjoyed many, many successes. But the two have also failed to position the company to respond to the dual threats of Apple and Android, in the smartphone and tablet wars.

RIM, who practically gave birth to the modern smartphone with the BlackBerry, has had its lunch eaten by its competitors over the last four years. Actually, make that two lunches: Lazaridis's and Balsillie's.

The company has caught a fair amount of flack for having two CEOs. I've always thought it was so odd that, in a hyper-competitive field, this one big company chose to muddle the chain of command by having two top dogs in these key positions. But wait, turns out they also had two chief operating officers, too! Noah, have you gotten all your animals aboard the Ark yet? How many RIM executives does it take to do one job?

For comparison's sake, here's Apple's executive leadership team. Notice Tim Cook is the CEO and his (apparently) direct reports are all senior vice presidents, with one also being the lone "chief" -- the chief financial officer.

At Google, the search giant recently clarified its upper echelon by making Eric Schmidt executive chairman, Larry Page as CEO, and Sergey Brin as "co-founder." Where Schmidt was once supposedly the adult in the room, while listening to Page and Brin, Page is now in charge.

Here is a previous executive team (an old web page I found via the Wayback Machine.) At one point, RIM had two CEOs, two chief operating officers, and a chief *operations* officer.

And here is RIM's new executive team web page. A bit leaner. They went from eight top execs, to five.

Having these "co-" positions at the highest levels could indicate some problems in management performance and board leadership. Sometimes, people get promoted to a "co" position as a reward for them staying with the company -- and the company doesn't have the fortitude to push someone else out. It's called executive bloat.

Sometimes, it signals the need for what is perceived as a lot of "strategic" thinking and direction, and the thought is that two people are better than one. But the lines of responsibility and accountability get muddled. And there's a danger that the co-executives sometimes end up listening more to each other than the little people down below -- their people on the front lines.

I'm not saying that happened at RIM.

I'm just saying these are the dangers of diffusing leadership responsibility. In RIM's case, they've had four people doing two key roles, and the company has been dogging it the last few years. Let's hope the new guy at RIM -- Thorstein Heins -- takes the reins of leadership firmly.

Image via The Sun/UK.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

January 18, 2012

Updated: Seven of Maryland's 10 Congresspeople have not taken a stand on SOPA/PIPA

{Note: This post was updated below to indicate that Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who had been listed on ProPublica's website as not having a view on SOPA, does not in fact support SOPA in its current form.}

 

Everyone is talking today about SOPA, the controversial House bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) and what effect it may have on the Internet, freedom of speech, and e-commerce if it becomes U.S. law.

For a good overview of the bill (and it's sister bill in the Senate called PIPA), check out the Wikipedia entry for it. Wikipedia is one of thousands of websites that have gone on a voluntary blackout today to protest SOPA/PIPA. It's a fascinating day for Internet citizens. They are making their voices heard.

The Obama White House last week came out against the bills as they've been written. Here in Maryland, our state's citizens who are tuned into the debate are eagerly waiting to see what their representatives to Congress think of the pair of bills.

Sen. Cardin supports the bill in broad terms as a co-sponsor, but stated this month that he wouldn't back it in its current form. “I would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written, on the Senate floor," he said in a press release quoted in Talking Points Memo.

According to ProPublica, Maryland's other senator -- Barbara Mikulski -- and eight seven representatives in the House have been silent on the bills.

UPDATED at 3:20pm: However, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, has come out against SOPA in its current form, in recent weeks. He has communicated his position with his constituents (you can see the email in the reader comments below), and an aide to the Congressman alerted me to a blog post today where he re-emphasized his position against SOPA.

UPDATED at 3:45pm: Rep. John Sarbanes put out a statement today saying he was against SOPA in its current form. I predict that we'll suddenly see a few more folks come out against SOPA now that it seems like it's becoming radioactive in Washington.

What do our other reps really think about SOPA and PIPA? Well, we don't know. Yet.

Another site, called SopaTrack, shows how much money each of Maryland's representatives have attracted from pro- and anti-SOPA/PIPA donors. Each representative has received more funding from supporters of SOPA/PIPA -- in some cases, a lot more -- than from the bills' critics.

At this point, SOPA and PIPA seem like a pair of dirty words in Washington. Does anyone really think these bills are going anywhere and won't be dead in the water in a few weeks' time?

Oh, and if you're looking for what some local (Baltimore) musicians think of SOPA, check out the latest from our entertainment blogger Erik Maza.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

January 12, 2012

NFL using court orders to shut down Chinese knockoff-selling sites

In my story today, I looked at how the NFL and its teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, are now closely monitoring the proliferation of China-based websites that are selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting (and, of course, suspecting) U.S. consumers.

The NFL has filed a pair of lawsuits over the past year in New York that have served to take down around 800 websites that they alleged were selling counterfeit jerseys and other unlicensed NFL products, league officials told me.

The NFL, which supports the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is going after these website operators in what has turned into an online game of cat and mouse. It follows in the footsteps of other big brands, such as Polo Ralph Lauren and North Face, in terms of using civil actions to shut down these sites through injunctions and so-called "ex parte" orders.

The most recent NFL case, NFL vs. Momo Lee, et al. was unsealed last month in federal court in New York.

The NFL and the Ravens told me that their efforts are really new within the past year, in terms of tracking these counterfeit sites and trying to shut them down.

Some consumers are savvy and know that they're not buying "the real thing" on some of these sites -- they're just hoping for a cheap facsimile in hopes of saving money and just having something to wear on game day.

But some consumers, like Barbra Skarzynski, were genuinely duped by a website claiming to be official. She ended up with a discolored Lardarius Webb jersey, with his name spelled "EWBB." That's a picture of it below taken by Baltimore Sun photographer Kim Hairston:


ewbb-jersey.jpg


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

January 6, 2012

Fun facts from Millennial Media's IPO filing

Did you hear? Baltimore's Millennial Media filed to go public yesterday, letting everyone know they hope to raise $75 million from Wall Street to fuel their mobile ad business's growth (and make its founders and early investors rich.)

palmieri-and-brandenburg.JPG

Up above, those are co-founders Chris Brandenburg (left), chief technology officer, and Paul Palmier, chief executive officer.

Below are some fun facts from Millennial Media's S-1 registration statement with the SEC for its initial public offering:

* Quite literally, the money paragraph (note the improvement in gross margin) and the rapid closing of the gap from a $7 million loss in 2010 to a $417,000 loss in the first nine months of last year: "From 2009 to 2010, our revenue increased from $16.2 million to $47.8 million, or 195%, our gross margin improved from 29% to 34%, our net loss improved from $7.6 million to $7.1 million and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $7.0 million to a loss of $6.4 million. For the nine months ended September 30, 2011 as compared to the same period of 2010, our revenue increased from $29.1 million to $69.1 million, or 138%, our gross margin improved from 33% to 39%, our net loss improved from $5.4 million to $417,000 and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $4.9 million to earnings of $650,000."

* Employee growth: "We grew from 54 employees at December 31, 2008 to 190 employees at September 30, 2011." And more up to date: "As of December 31, 2011, we had 222 employees, of which 72 were primarily engaged in product and technology and 69 were engaged in sales and marketing."

* Fascinating chart of the ramp-up in spending among the top 100 advertisers with Millennial over the last three years:


millennial-media-advertisers-spending.PNG

* The top four executives at Millennial are all over 30 -- and the CEO Paul Palmieri and COO Stephen Root are over 40. (Sorry for pointing this out, Paul and Stephen. But I think it should be made clear Millennial's success as a startup so far is because of some relatively veteran executives, not fresh-faced kids out of college.)

* Those four executives earned this much money in 2011:


millennial-media-compensation.PNG

* Co-founders Paul Palmieri and Chris Brandenburg own 11.3 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively of outstanding shares in Millennial. Investment firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital are tied for the top shareholder spot, at 20.6 percent each.

* Millennial's five-year lease at the American Can Co. complex in Canton is up in July 2013. It's paying between $21 and $22 per square foot for 16,000+ square feet of space. It's annual lease has gone up from $201,000 in the first year, to $361,000 in its final year of the lease.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech

January 4, 2012

BaltTech in 2012

balttech-explodes.png

This is the year of BaltTech.

No, not necessarily my blog. But Baltimore Tech.

I'm going into my fourth (calendar) year of blogging about Baltimore's tech scene, and my oh my, how time flies.There's a lot percolating these days, but more on that in a moment.

I started blogging about Baltimore tech in June 2009.

According to my blog dashboard, I've written 757 posts (and each one was a journalistic jewel, of course) and received 2,499 comments -- of which, probably a third were complete and utter spam. (Boo. )Along the way, I've seen my own approach to how I "do" journalism evolve. I think I'm fairly open about the stories I work on, and often solicit feedback, leads and story ideas on Twitter and Facebook. (The community-powered Baltimore Tech Facebook group rocks it, btw. My Facebook page is here -- like it up for BaltTech updates.)

Most of the time, I'm flat-out overwhelmed by the responses, comments and pitches I get. It's hard to keep up. But without question, the "crowd" has a huge impact on my work, my reporting and the stories that I ultimately end up producing. It's pretty darn cool.

Looking ahead, I have some thoughts about where I want to take my coverage of the tech community this year. (And, of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.)

* Biotech: I feel like I am not writing enough about Baltimore's biotech industry. I'd like to do more and I'm open to ideas and pitches. I've done a bunch of "big picture" stories in my time on the beat, and I think in many instances, I need to be looking for broader trend stories. There's very little in terms of "hard news," because big breakthroughs, discoveries and projects often take years to put together. But, I think there's a mix of powerful motivations in biotech. You have researchers who want to cure major diseases, and companies that want to do the same -- plus make a ton of money. And our universities sit in the middle of the mix. Then you have economic development officials and political leaders here in Maryland really taking big, long-term bets on biotech as a major industry in the state. There's a ton more to write, and I've barely scratched the surface. How are those state biotech tax credits really working out, btw?

* InvestMaryland: It's the state program championed by Gov. O'Malley last year that's supposed to pump around $70 million in Maryland startups in the next few years. It's a complicated beast. How will it play out this year? What companies will get funded? Will it really make a difference in the startup ecosystem in Maryland? I expect to follow it closely. The first deadline is Feb. 1st -- that's when insurance companies are supposed to express their interest in participating in the state-run auction to sell off tax credits, to raise money for investing in startups. (Here are links to all I've written about the program.)

* Baltimore's tech scene: I feel like there's an interesting story to tell about Baltimore's tech scene right now, when one looks at it in terms of the universe of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and the Emerging Technology Center. There's been a lot going on, from leadership changes to the launch of a new accelerator by the ETC. (And at least one more that's apart from the ETC effort, by entrepreneurs Greg Cangialosi and Sean Lane.) There's a lot of debate within the community about whether efforts are being spread to thin. And then of course, you have the big news of Millennial Media, which brings me to my next point......

* Millennial Media: Even before its IPO announcement last week, I had been watching Millennial pretty closely because I knew they were poised for IPO or acquisition. The good news for Baltimore is that Palmieri & Brandenburg and crew are sticking to their guns and going for IPO. This is big news for their business, and the mobile ad sector, of course, but it also has the potential to be extremely influential in Baltimore's tech-and-startup ecosystem. Founder success usually begets new founder success. Mid-level execs who are currently working at Millennial may one day have their own idea for a startup, and with their connections and talent, spin off and do their own thing. In many ways, Millennial has the elements of a deliberate and classic startup story. How Millennial handles its IPO and growth will be an ongoing story that we'll all be watching.

 Adding to the mix, I pay attention to cybersecurity, social media and work/life trends at the intersection of technology. I'm following various companies and startup ventures to see how they progress. I also do regular Q&As with Baltimore biz folks, including techies. What am I missing? What would you like to see me cover more of?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

December 28, 2011

New York Times accidentally pleads with 8 million people not to cancel subscription

Well, this is a headache for the most esteemed newspaper in the land....

Today, at 1:25 pm, I got an email from the New York Times pleading me to rethink my subscription cancellation and re-up for an exclusive rate of 50 percent off for 16 weeks.

There's only one problem: I wasn't a print subscriber. In fact, about 8 million people got that email, too, and they weren't supposed to get it. Instead, it was only intended for about 300 people.

I've been following Amy Chozick's tweets about it -- she's the Time's corporate media reporter.

But hey -- now, I presume, every NYT subscriber knows that if they just cancel, they can get a 50 percent break on a print subscription.

Did I mention what a headache this must be for those poor folks over at the Grey Lady?

Update: Here's the official story from the NYT's Amy Chozick.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Maryland maker of Kindle cases sues Amazon

It wasn't too long ago -- in May, actually -- when I was getting pitched by a PR representative hired by M-Edge Accessories to write about its growing business and how it was working with Amazon to sell its range of Kindle/tablet cases.

But somewhere along the way, apparently, the relationship soured.

The Odenton-based company last month filed a federal lawsuit in Maryland that accuses Amazon of unfair business practices. (The WSJ reported it this morning, saying that it was filed last week. In fact, last week, M-Edge simply amended its original complaint, which was filed Nov. 18. Anyway....)

In the complaint, M-Edge blasts the massive web with multiple accusations, including "patent infringement, unfair competition, intentional interference with contracts and economic relations, and false advertising."

Indeed, the first sentence of the meat of the lawsuit characterizes Amazon's alleged behavior toward M-Edge as "a classic example of unlawful corporate bullying."

M-Edge has 50 employees. Amazon is much, much bigger. The company makes a wide range of Kindle and tablet cases, and says in its complaint that it's products used to be top sellers. But M-Edge claims that Amazon "de-listed" them from their website. At the heart of the complaint, M-Edge says it had a contract with Amazon to pay it 15 percent commission for M-Edge accessory sales -- but in January last year, Amazon allegedly wanted to up the rate to 32 percent.

Since Amazon sales accounted for 90 percent of its business, M-Edge eventually signed a new contract in July last year, the company claims.

The allegations are interesting, and gives a one-sided view of an interesting relationship between a tiny company (M-Edge) and a goliath (Amazon) as the goliath launched the Kindle and watched it grow into a big business. I'm waiting to see how Amazon responds to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for comment from M-Edge.

Here is the lawsuit, which really is more interesting than anything I could write about it:

M-Edge Sues Amazon


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:08 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets
        

December 20, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire's impressions growing 19 percent a day on Millennial Media's network

Millennial Media, a top mobile advertising firm based in Baltimore, put out its latest monthly "Mobile Mix" report that updates trends in the industry based on what the company is seeing in its network. The early results are in: users of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet are actually using the device! (Okay, we're not that shocked.)

Millennial reports impressions from the Kindle Fire grew at an average daily rate of 19% since its launch in mid-November. And, the Fire has slightly outpaced the impression numbers from the launch of the original iPad in early 2010, according to Millennial.

These are interesting times for the Kindle Fire. Clearly, there are people out there who really want the device. Yet it got knocked down a peg recently in a New York Times article for a number of hardware and software issues.

No doubt, though, Amazon and Jeff Bezos aren't going to be deterred. They're in it for the long haul.

Millennial put together this snappy graphic that shows the evolution of the Kindle line (see below). Sexy. Ahem. Kidding. Has anyone really thought of the Kindle as "sexy", the way Apple devices are often considered?

AmazonKindleEvolution.png


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Smartphones
        

December 15, 2011

The Baltimore news ecosystem: report

I stumbled across this interesting article that looked at digital/mobile efforts in Baltimore news operations, including The Baltimore Sun and the local television stations' presence and efforts.

The article, from NetNewsCheck, gives some good context as to the local players, as we gallop into the digital frontier of the mobile web.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

The year in search, according to Google

I don't know if I should be mortified or amused.

Google today released its 11th annual Zeitgeist report, which looked at global and regional search trends.

Apparently the No. 1 fastest rising search query was Internet celeb Rebecca Black, who had that song "Friday", which, believe it or not, I have never actually heard. But here's the Youtube video (11+ million views!)

Google built a dedicated website for its Zeitgeist report. Here it is.

Turns out, Apple dominated the list, with the iPhone 5 (which didn't actually appear), Steve Jobs and the iPad 2, claiming three of 10 spots.

Poke around on the site, and let me know if your faith in humanity has been affirmed, or shot to heck. ;-)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas
        

December 14, 2011

Things are a-brewing in Baltimore's tech scene

I know there's been a lot of introspection in Baltimore's tech circles regarding where the community is heading, especially the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, but leave it to a couple local entrepreneurs to cut through the uncertainty with action, not just words.

In what was possibly the Baltimore's tech scene's worst kept secret over the last month or so, Greg Cangialosi, of former Blue Sky Factory fame, and Sean Lane, of current BTS Corp. fame, are teaming up to launch what they call a "hybrid accelerator" in Locust Point.

Here's my story today online. It's also in the print edition.

What this dynamic duo is trying to create involves a virtuous cycle of idea generation, capital allocation, market growth, and wealth accumulation for the startups they hope to nurture. And with wealth in a functional startup ecosystem comes a helping of responsibility: will you re-invest some of your money back in the community that supported you? It is this ethos that permeates other startup communities that are far ahead of Baltimore, such as Silicon Valley.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Cangialosi/Lane are investing their own money in the concept and seeking other investors to fuel their investment fund. By next year, we could be looking at half dozen or more new startups in Baltimore under the wings of Cangialosi/Lane.

I'm also aware of a few more similar projects under way, one of which I mentioned in my story, that's being explored by StartupBaltimore's Mike Brenner. And there's yet another project/idea that's percolating, that I'm hoping I can report on soon.

So, with all these ideas, is the community at a "crossroads", per se, as some believe. Or is it going through an uncomfortable growth and realignment phase? Clearly, there are a bunch of people in this town who believe there can be more value-added services and even physical locations that are offered to startups, beyond the Emerging Technology Center's orbit.

I see people moving forward to build out a more supportive ecosystem. The reality is that for many startups, they really don't need or want a big lease and fancy office space. They can be lean and bootstrap their operation from a coworking space, a coffee shop, their home, or a mix of all such options. I see Baltimore's tech community moving forward to support such alternatives to startup building. And that's a good thing.



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

December 13, 2011

BaltTech's top five list of gadgets for the holidays

I was on WYPR's Maryland Morning yesterday to talk about tech, and I covered what I think are some cool gadgets to give as gifts this holiday season.

Without further ado, here's my top five list of gadgets:

1. The Lytro -- starts at $399. http://www.lytro.com/ What's special about it: It uses new technology to capture the entire field of light in a photo, allowing for incredible manipulation of the digital image after it's taken. You'll never have out of focus images again.

2. Twine -- starts at $99. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/supermechanical/twine-listen-to-your-world-talk-to-the-internet What's special about it: This little gadget allows you to hook up things -- not just computers and phones -- to the Internet. For instance, you can set it up with a sensor to Tweet you if your basement floods.

3. Amazon Kindle Fire -- sweet starting price at $199. http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Fire-Amazon-Tablet/dp/B0051VVOB2 The Kindle Fire lets you shop the entire Amazon catalog of stuff, from books to songs to videos. This could be a hot seller for people who just want a decent tablet, and aren't willing to pay the Apple iPad premium of $500 or more.

4. iPhone/iPad/smartphone Accessories -- accessories are now a huge business. people love to adorn their phones and tablets with cool cases. I'm interested in the ZaggFolio, an iPad case that turns the device into a laptop-like experience, with a full keyboard. $99: http://www.zagg.com/accessories/zaggfolio-ipad-2-keyboard-case

5. The Withings Wi-Fi body scale: $160. http://www.withings.com/ This scale connects to your Wi-Fi network in your home. You step on it and it takes your weight and other body measurements and beams the numbers to a Web application and an iPhone application. You can track your weight effortlessly and overtime, and the charts are automatically updated. Very cool.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets
        
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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