If you want to see how bottom-up media is being spread, check out the new Freevlog. Michael and Ryanne are doing a (ahem) “kick-ass” job of spreading the word.

Joi Ito’s Web: Japan’s

Joi Ito’s Web: Japan’s “Free Press”: “I heard an interesting theory that I’d love for any Japan experts to confirm or debunk. Apparently, during the drafting of the Japanese constitution, the phrase “freedom of the press” was proposed by the US team. This was a big problem for Japan which had never really allowed any free speech. Instead of translating it as “freedom of the press” in terms of free speech they changed the meaning to freedom of “printing press” sort of press.”

Who’d a thunk it? Google getting into design and usability

Google has always been good at minimalism, but as they expand into more complex apps (UI-wise), there seems to be a move towards getting “designers” involved. Google calendar got help from Douglas Bowman, Google got Jeffrey Veen to join them with their purchase of measuremap from Adaptive Path.

The challenge will be to: a) create a somewhat consistent feel in all their new ajax apps (which is somewhat happening), and b) instill a culture among engineers that values “design” enough for their products to be usable.

They seem to be well on their way. The word on the street about Google is that they’re actually getting very advanced at doing usability testing and measuring results. I have the feeling they’ll be like Amazon: no apparent focus on design and such, but a very deep, measuring, “engineer”-like way of doing usability and design. So far, some of their apps have been horrendous to use (RSS reader), others I quite like (the new calendar).

loadedpun: Veoh (a VC-funded video company) is pulling in videos, re-encoding them and hosting them on their blog with no link back. This kind of “re-hosting” (I just made that up!) should be done through an opt-in mechanism, Veoh doesn’t use opt-in. It is probably quite illegal, and the videoblogging community is up in arms. We’ll see how it goes. In a world of fuzzy content rights, this should prove to be an interesting case.

YouTube Raises $8 Million from Sequoia Capital

YouTube is in trouble. Apart from the obvious problems with copyrighted material, their businessplan (which I know nothing about) seems flawed: It
plans to start doing contextual advertising by the middle of the year.

That is a problem. If contextual ads is the best idea they can come up with (come on guys!), their brand will suffer heavily. And I don’t think their brand is that strong right now, although they are very, very popular. The problem lies also in their cost structure: YouTube must be quite expensive to run. So just placing ads on there? Contextual ads?

The thinking behind contextual ads is that the user is interested in them because they are “relevant” to them. Think about this in the context of YouTube (not a Google search). I’m not gonna give away what I think they should be doing, but it’s definitely not contextual advertising.

Amazon plogs

Amazon’s new “plog” feature (who the hell came up with that name?) is fascinating. It is basically a feedreader, personalized for you, with blog items by the authors of books you’ve bought. The authors write blogentries specifically for Amazon. And you can leave comments.

In other words, it’s a direct connection between you and the authors of the books you buy. It’s quite brilliant. If they can get the implementation right (and get rid of that silly name).

It’d make even more sense if Amazon were to aggregate the actual blogs of writers who have a blog already (many do), instead of making the authors write specifically for Amazon. Now, you get messages like this: “Speaking of which, I tend to blog pretty actively over there, so I probably won’t spam your Amazon pages with too much material.” That’s not good.

I’m trying out the newest Drupal, it is MUCH more usable and has most of the configurable options you’d want. Really, MUCH more user friendly. Congrats team!

Powazek: Just a Thought: Death to User-Generated Content

Powazek: Just a Thought: Death to User-Generated Content: Derek Powazek: “So let’s not give in to the buzzphrase du jour. Let’s use the real words. Those people posting to Amazon pages? They’re writing reviews. Those folks on Flickr? They’re making photographs. And if we must have an umbrella term to describe the whole shebang, I have a suggestion. Try this on for size: Authentic Media.”

I like.