Mac Slocum

Mac Slocum is director of online content at O'Reilly. He's been writing, editing and producing web content in various forms since the mid '90s. He also dabbles in video interviews from time to time.

Signals from Strata + Hadoop World New York 2014

From unique data applications to factories of the future, here are key insights from Strata + Hadoop World New York 2014.

Experts from across the data world came together in New York City for Strata + Hadoop World New York 2014. Below we’ve assembled notable keynotes, interviews, and insights from the event.

Unusual data applications and the correct way to say “Hadoop”

Hadoop creator and Cloudera chief architect Doug Cutting discusses surprising data applications — from dating sites to premature babies — and he reveals the proper (but in no way required) pronunciation of “Hadoop.”

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Signals from Velocity New York 2014

From the lure of work that matters to building your own device lab, here are key talks from Velocity New York 2014.

Practitioners and experts from the web operations and performance worlds came together in New York City this week for Velocity New York 2014. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.


Mikey Dickerson: From Google to HealthCare.gov to the U.S. Digital Service

“These problems are fixable, these problems are important, but they require you to choose to work on them” — Mikey Dickerson looks back on what it took to fix HealthCare.gov and he reveals his reasons for joining the U.S. Digital Service.

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Signals from OSCON 2014

From tiny satellites to young programmers to reasoned paranoia, here are key talks from OSCON 2014.

Experts and advocates from across the open source world assembled in Portland, Ore. this week for OSCON 2014. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.

How tiny satellites and fresh imagery can help humanity

Will Marshall of Planet Labs outlines a vision for using small satellites to provide daily images of the Earth.

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Signals from Foo Camp 2014

O’Reilly editors explore the ideas and influences that are poised to break through.

Foo Camp logoFoo Camp, our annual gathering in Sebastopol, Calif., brings together people we know and admire, and those we’d like to know better. It’s also a way for us to discover the ideas emerging at the edges of technology, business, art, science, and society.

The latest Foo Camp wrapped up recently, so we pooled our notes and collected the major trends we spotted across sessions and conversations. Consider the following an early look at big things to come. Read more…

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Radar gets a refresh

Radar is rolling out a new editorial approach and a responsive design.

Today we’re excited to roll out a number of important updates that refine Radar’s content and freshen up the site’s design.

A new approach

The most notable change is also the least obvious.

In the months ahead, Radar’s editorial mission will evolve through our exploration of new topics and new techniques. Of particular note is our theme structure, which helps us interpret important ideas and developments and, in turn, share how we believe they’ll affect you and your world. You’ll soon see insightful posts from all of our content leads that put our best thinking into these essential areas.

There’s also things you won’t find here at Radar. Generic tech news and flavor-of-the-moment coverage don’t have a place, nor are we interested in bombast or drive-by attention.

What we’re really looking to do is create and nurture a dialogue; a true give-and-take that challenges our assumptions and shapes our perspectives. To pull that off we need your help. So consider this an open invitation to take us to task and point us in new directions. Read more…

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Aereo’s copyright solution: intentional inefficiency

Aereo's backward architecture could be the thing that keeps it in business.

Aereo, an online service that sends free over-the-air television broadcasts to subscribers, scored a big win in court this week.

At first glance, it would seem the service has to violate copyright. Aereo is grabbing TV content without paying for it and then passing it along to Aereo’s paying subscribers.

So how is Aereo pulling it off? Over at Ars Technica, Timothy B. Lee deconstructs the service’s blend of tech and legal precedent:

Aereo’s technology was designed from the ground up to take advantage of a landmark 2008 ruling holding that a “remote” DVR product offered by Cablevision was consistent with copyright law. Key to that ruling was Cablevision’s decision to create a separate copy of recorded TV programs for each user. While creating thousands of redundant copies makes little sense from a technical perspective, it turned out to be crucial from a legal point of view …

… When a user wants to view or record a television program, Aereo assigns him an antenna exclusively for his own use. And like Cablevision, when 1,000 users record the same program, Aereo creates 1,000 redundant copies. [Links included in original text; emphasis added.]

Creating lots of copies of the exact same content is inefficient. No one can argue that point. But if you can get past the absurdity, you have to admit Aereo’s architecture is quite clever. Take thousands of tiny antennas, combine them with abundant storage, and now you’ve got a disruptive service that might survive the onslaught of litigation.

Note: Aereo’s recent win only applies to a request for a preliminary injunction. Further court proceedings are likely, and you can bet there will be a long and winding appeals process.

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If you’ve ever wondered where those O’Reilly animal covers come from …

Edie Freedman reveals how the animal covers came to be and how you can help those same animals stick around.

Exploring ExpectThe exchange often goes like this:

Stranger: “Where do you work?”

Me: “O’Reilly Media.”

Stranger: “O’Reilly …”

[Long pause while he or she works through the various "O'Reilly" outlets — the TV guy, the auto parts company.]

Me: “You know the books with the animals on the covers?”

Stranger: “Oh yeah!”

And off we go. Those covers are tremendous ice breakers.

The story behind those covers is also notable. Our colleague Edie Freedman, O’Reilly’s creative director and the person who first made the connection between animal engravings and programming languages, has written a short piece about the genesis of the O’Reilly animals. If you’ve ever wondered where those animals came from, her post is worth a read.

(Something I learned from Edie’s post: the covers that get the best response feature 1. animals with recognizable faces and 2. animals that are looking directly at the reader.)

Edie’s “Short history of the O’Reilly Animals” is part of a larger effort to raise awareness for the plight of the O’Reilly animals, many of which are critically endangered. You can learn more about the O’Reilly Animals project here.

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The media-marketing merge

Can good content come from pay-to-play relationships?

I ran across a program Forbes is running called BrandVoice that gives marketers a place on Forbes’ digital platform. During a brief audio interview with TheMediaBriefing, Forbes European managing director Charles Yardley explained how BrandVoice works:

“It’s quite simply a tenancy fee. A licensing fee that the marketer pays every single month. It’s based on a minimum of a six-month commitment. There’s two different tiers, a $50,000-per-month level and a $75,000-per-month level.” [Discussed at the 4:12 mark.]

Take a look at some of the views BrandVoice companies are getting. You can see why marketers would be interested. Read more…

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Why I’m changing my tune on paywalls

A Pew report says paywalls could yield content that justifies a price tag.

The Pew Research Center is out with its annual “State of the News Media” report. Much of it is what you’d expect: newspapers and local television are struggling, mobile is rising, digital revenue hasn’t — and can’t — replace traditional print revenue, and on and on.

But read carefully, and you’ll find hope.

For example, Pew says the embrace of paywalls might improve the quality of the content:

“The rise of digital paid content could also have a positive impact on the quality of journalism as news organizations strive to produce unique and high-quality content that the public believes is worth paying for.”

I used to criticize paywalls. I thought they could only work for specialized content or material that’s attached to a desired outcome (i.e. subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, use the insights to make money).

My concern was that publishers would slam walls around their existing content and ask people to pay for an experience that had once been free. That made no sense. Who wants to pay for slideshows and link bait and general news?

But content that’s “worth paying for” is a different thing altogether. Publishers who go this route are acknowledging that a price tag requires justification.

Will it work? Maybe. What I might pay is different than what you might pay. There’s that pesky return-on-investment thing to consider as well.

However, my bigger takeaway — and this is why I’m changing my tune on paywalls — is that value is now part of the paywall equation. That’s a good start.

Comments: 14

What tools do you use for information gathering and publishing?

O'Reilly staffers reveal some of their go-to curation tools. We want to know yours, too.

Many apps claim to be the pinnacle of content consumption and distribution. Most are a tangle of silly names and bad interfaces, but some of these tools are useful. A few are downright empowering.

Finding those good ones is the tricky part. I queried O’Reilly colleagues to find out what they use and why, and that process offered a decent starting point. We put all our notes together into this public Hackpad — feel free to add to it. I also went through and plucked out some of the top choices. Those are posted below.

But I know I’m missing some good ones and that’s why I’m throwing this open for public discussion. Read more…

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