In Memory of Carl Sagan

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of my hero Carl Sagan (thanks to Bad Astronomy for the reminder).  Personally, it has been an emotionally trying year with the birth of our first child and soon thereafter the death of my childhood best friend and cousin (more like brother) in Afghanistan. I find wisdom in Dr. Sagan’s words about life, the cosmos and humanity today.

Echoing my post from a year ago, here’s the passage from Cosmos which I’ve read at the end of every class I’ve ever taught… whether science or religion bound:

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest conemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet ourspecies is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millenia we hav emad the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

Those explorations required skepticism and imagination both. Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never where. But without it, we go nowhere. Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. The Cosmos is rich beyond measure – in elegant facts, in exquisite interrelationships, in the subtle machinery of awe.

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.”

And here’s the video version:

This being my first year with a child, I can only hope that I pass on to her the wisdom, confidence and humbleness to always look up at the night sky. 

Thank you, Carl Sagan.

Google Checkout Widget Coming?


Problogger has a post on an interesting new AdSense format being tested with pictures. This definitely puts the widget marketing world in a precarious situation if a Checkout widget does roll out…

There’s been lots of testing of new ad formats going on at AdSense recently – but this one is really interesting – it’s a much more interactive looking AdSense unit that looks and functions a lot like Chitika’s eMiniMalls and WidgetBucks units.It seems to be called the ‘Google Checkout Gadget’.

New Interactive AdSense Unit with Pictures Spotted Gets Funding, Distribution and Celebrities


Video blogging site has announced a round of funding, added distribution and it looks as if they are adding more celebrities to compliment the popular 50 Cent channel.

Soon-to-announce-a-career-move Robert Scoble is a huge fan of (and one has to wonder if this will lure him over to the video blog startup or if he’ll go with the rumor and sign FastCompany. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, he’ll be announcing around the 15th of January). He broke the news on his blog:

Kyte just announced a B-round of funding from Telefonica, Nokia, DoCoMo, Swisscom, Holtzbrinck and DFJ of $15 million, adding on to an earlier round of $2.25 million. Whew, the video space is really heating up.

But more significant than the money is the distribution. Telefonica has 230 million users. DoCoMo has 52 million. Nokia has 39% of the cell phone market share. If the Kyte player is embedded on these three it brings a HUGE audience to Kyte.

Also, they showed me a channel that rapper 50 Cent is doing. It has, within a few weeks, passed my channel to gain the spot on Kyte. More celebrity deals are in the offing, CEO Daniel Graf told me. They also shipped a new iPhone version and demonstrated an even more feature rich version coming in January.

Kyte is interesting in that it functions as a place to live blog, interact with commentors and aggregate content. Perhaps the most compelling feature is the emphasis on mobile blogging via video (which I still think is going to be a breakaway hit in 2008).

So, we’ll see if this news (especially the celebrity additions) add to’s share in the growing micro-blogging/video/mobile space that is seeing a convergence revolution.

Squidoo Takes on Knol

Squidoo strikes back against Google with an interesting front end for a Squidoo lens creator called SquidKnol:

We built a new front door that makes it easy for you to build a scholarly page, filled with details, facts and more on Squidoo. And of course it will be indexed all over the web…

Pretty smart (and funny at the same time) from Seth Godin and the Squidoo team if you ask me.  Should be fun to watch how much attention this brings back to Squidoo since the topic of Knols is hot conversation in the online tech and marketing world at the moment.

Seth’s Blog: For scholars who just can’t wait

What is an API?

Matt Dickman has an excellent (and concise) post/video on MarketingProfs explaining what an API is and what it does.

Whether you’re a marketing geek or just someone interested in improving your web marketing, you need to at least have a conversational understanding of API’s in this web2.0 mashup world. Matt provides a good place to start.

Matt is doing a series of these posts on important terms or concepts that marketers need to understand or grasp in order to exist and survive in the current and emerging tech landscape, so keep an eye on the RSS feed there.

Learning, Teaching and the New Web

Last week, my grad school alma mater Yale opened its doors to the web and followed the path of Stanford and M.I.T. by putting popular courses up for anyone to enjoy and learn from.

Here’s a great story from the NY Times about an amazing Physics teacher at M.I.T. who is using this newfound access to people outside the ivory towers to share his love for physics:

Professor Lewin’s videotaped physics lectures, free online on the OpenCourseWare of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have won him devotees across the country and beyond who stuff his e-mail in-box with praise.

“Through your inspiring video lectures i have managed to see just how BEAUTIFUL Physics is, both astounding and simple,” a 17-year-old from India e-mailed recently.

NY Times: At 71, Physics Professor is a Web Star

TweeterBoard is Bad and Stunts Growth of Conversations (as Do All “Lists”)

My pal Marshall Kirkpatrick made a post on Read/WriteWeb concerning the fascinating new TweeterBoard site:

On Tweeterboard you’ll find not only a list of the top 100 most influential users on Twitter – you can also look up any of almost 2000 users and see who they are conversing with and get some idea how much influence they carry in the Twitter ecosystem. Only a small portion of Twitter users are being tracked so far – but if indexing can be automated (!) then this could become a very important service.

Tweetboard is fascinating but it’s inherently bad for the type of organic and fluid conversation that happens on Twitter everyday.

If Twitter is going to make it to the mainstream and really start pushing the envelope of personal content production by non-tech gods and goddesses, we’ve got to get over the silly notion of “rank” and “importance” that these types of things measure.


Because sites like Technorati and Techmeme (though utilitarian for some) have stunted (or at least perverted) the blogosphere by introducing concepts of ranking and opened the floodgates to spammer-and-gamer SEO’s and affiliates (those are adjectives for some, not for all) and created a class system of blogging that is not easily overcomed.

Let’s level the playing field with Twitter and not repeat the same mistakes that caused for the creation of A Lists, B Lists and Z Lists. Otherwise, Twitter and micro-blogging in general will suffer.

[Update] After I posted this, fellow Twitter user Mike Krigsman (someone I follow) and ZD Net blogger posted this:

@samharrelson Absolutely agree core value of Twitter is leveling the field. Diminishment of that attribute will limit it’s value. Think Digg

Exactly. or

Interesting post (and discussion in the comments) from ComparisonEngine on Pepperjam’s site:

In a search for Ugg boots, I found the following ad:

I thought I was clicking on a ad. Instead, I arrived at, which is owned by the Pepperjam Network.

Kris Jones has also posted about Brian’s ComparisonEngine post on the PepperJam blog . Should be fun to see how the comments and conversation play out and what people think of the PPC marketing strategy behind this (and to see how many affiliates or agencies are doing similar things).

Google Goes Useful: Easily Check Flight Status


While seemingly mundane, this is killer for those of us with an already large part of our digital life wrapped up in the Google cloud.  Sure there are sites that already do this, but Google has earned my trust for essential info like a flight status:

For the latest information on a flight’s status, simply search for an airline and flight number, and the first result will tell you whether your flight is on time or delayed as well as the estimated departure and arrival times.

Better Flight Stats Results from Google