Terrific UX rundown of the Google Map UI by 41latitude:
Why Do Google Maps’s City Labels Seem Much More “Readable” Than Those of Its Competitors?
For months, I’ve been trying to figure out why Google Maps’s city labels seem so much more readable than the labels on other mapping sites.
To me, Google’s labels seem to “pop” much more than the other sites’ labels. Major cities also seem to stand out much more.  And whenever you’re quickly scanning the maps, the label you’re searching for seems to stand out just a little sooner on Google’s maps.
"What users may not realize is how much data they’re already sharing. This new style of Facebook Connect actually mirrors the behavior of Facebook itself. When you visit a Facebook application for the first time, it automatically knows who you are and can access your public data. When you then click “Allow” to authorize the app, you give it access to all of your private data. Currently, an external web site knows nothing about you until you click “Connect.” If you do click, it has the same access to your private data as an authorized application. Now, Facebook is letting sites initially act like new applications by giving them access to your public data prior to full authorization.
“For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.”—YouTube Blog: Broadcast Yourself
Unfortunately for Chen, during the paperwork processing following that ‘second’ accident, the body shop informed Chen’s insurance company that it had been holding on to the mangled GT-R since March. Investigators then searched YouTube for any evidence of the incident, and apparently they believe that they’ve found it – the insurer alleges that the footage shown after the jump incident shows damage consistent with that of Chen’s GT-R after a mountain run with a Mitsubishi Evolution IX MR goes awry. The actual crash doesn’t look all that bad, but the apparent $76,000 repair bill shows that near-supercars can cost a boatload of money to fix. Regardless of the severity of the accident, as a result of the investigation, Chen has officially been charged with six felony counts of insurance fraud, and his sister has been charged with one count.
“One of the strangest challenges porn faces is competition from online games like World of Warcraft, though the connection may at first seem random. “It is all entertainment that you are getting involved in the same way as porn is entertainment,” said Aiden. “The games are competition for porn. Fans jerk off to porn and are done, but you can keep playing a game.””—Top 5 Reasons Porn-for-Profit Is Dying - The Daily Beast
Last month we pointed out what a bad idea it was for book publishers to go against the market’s wishes and to delay the release of certain ebooks, hoping to drive more people to the (higher margin) hardcover versions of the book. This is incredibly anti-consumer thinking and assumes, incorrectly, that people will happily accept the format the publisher gives them. Not surprisingly, consumers are starting to rebel. Apparently some of the books are getting hit with one-star reviews on Amazon as punishment. For example, HarperCollins — one of the leading supporters of these silly “windowed” releases — is discovering that its well-hyped book Game Change is filling up with one-star reviews. Going against what your consumers want is almost never a good idea.
Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches — from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons — churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you’re done. On the web, no-one knows you’re a content-grinder.
This will be the year when it becomes apparent that the future of news and media is entrepreneurial, not institutional. The year will see the rise of the new overtake the fall of the old. Even so, while we suffer moguls’ death rattles, we will hear continued debate over government intervention to protect them through proposed changes in copyright, tax favours and direct subsidy. If the government steps in, it will be to bail them out as it did for bad banks and General Motors. And we know how well that worked. A concurrent debate in Washington will reach its climax this year over net neutrality and the means to bring broadband ubiquity to the nation. That is the intervention the entrepreneurs seek.
If, instead of the same tired debates over old media, you seek something new, go mobile. In 2010, we will see Google battle Apple for the right to connect us, not just with each other but with information about any place, any thing and anyone. As we also say in America, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Today marks the five year anniversary of the great Asian Tsunami of December 26th, 2004. This was a turning point for online video as it was the first time people from all around the world went online to watch. For all who now take online video for granted, this was even before Google Video. Here is a story I wrote about my own experience which happened just two months after I had launched Rocketboom:
“On a Sunday when I was writing the script and looking for news stories for the following Monday, I witnessed the tsunami go down online via the main stream media like cnn.com particular. So I knew the issue was so intense that there would be nothing else to say on Monday and so I spent all day looking for images and video and personal accounts - anything that I could find to “show”. This was something I had never done to this degree because I had never really had an impetus. But looking around for footage and pictures was what I would do for any event, big or small on a daily basis for Rocketboom so it started as just another day.
Anyway, I couldn’t find any videos on the day of, but I found two sites in Singapore that had about three people total who had posted a whole load of photos. So I believe I created perhaps the first tsunami video online that was a montage of the images with intense background music. While we did not have as much of a reach with our content at the time, we gained very high search return results for “tsunami video” apparently.
There was another major factor that led to the endurance of tsunami traffic: When Waxy and others like myself had accumulated the videos the next day, the same that also became really popular, I decided to turn them all into quicktime videos because there were none. As a result I was the only one serving the Quicktime files for several days and so probably all of those original batch videos that are out there that are quicktime, are generations from me (not to say that makes me special or anything, just pointing it out because i think its interesting), coincidentally. A few sites took these files and re-seeded them in bittorrent sites and then they quickly surpassed our search authority as it stacked against the time, I reckon. I assume Robin Good has an interesting tale to tell because we received a huge amount of traffic from his massive roundup as just one example.
[**aside: Of course I could not pay for the bandwidth and had the videos on the Parsons.edu server space. I brought the graduate multimedia sever down to a grinding halt (the same server that everyone uses to experiment with all kinds of wacky and powerful stuff). We couldn’t even get the server to deliver a 5k gif file until I renamed the videos and brought them back on slowly over days.
[**to the other aside: I watched as iFilm, the massively obnoxious and ad invasive leech site, learned a thing or two during this time as well about search return results. Of course with their link authority, they became the mainstream site to watch the tsunami videos as the only known option to a lot of people to start with. I remember later, on the day before the Superbowl this year, iFilm had posted all of the superbowl commercials, including all of the text and even video and image placeholders for ALL of the commercials in order to get them up first and to receive the best search results. So if you went to iFilm that night before the game, you could click on a bunch of superbowl commercials, which of course never loaded. But all of the advertisements surrounding the commercials were there and they were already making big bucks before they even copied the broadcasts and then posted the videos. Thats crummy of them and you can predict their behavior to be like this in the future too I suppose. I have noticed that over the last few months the obnoxiousness had gone way down, but its still pretty out-of-control for my tastes]”
Here are a couple of note now on YouTube:
For one of the best historical accounts of the various tsunami videos now, see:
“As adults, by and large, we think of the home as a very private space – it’s private because we have control over it. The thing is, for young people it’s not a private space – they have no control. They have no control over who comes in and out of their room, or who comes in and out of their house. As a result the online world feels more private because it feels like it has more control.”—
Another gem quote: “As a technologist, we all like ‘techno-utopia’, this is the great democratiser… Sure, we’ve made creation and distribution more available to anyone, but at the same time we’ve made those things irrelevant. Now the commodity isn’t distribution, it’s attention – and guess what? Who gets attention is still sitting on a power law curve … we’re not actually democratising the whole system – we’re just shifting the way in which we discriminate.
What makes Facebook interesting these days? Basically the same things that made AOL a star a decade earlier.
private messaging without an external email client: just like AOL!
live chat: just like AOL!
integrated games and shopping: just like AOL!
every company feels a need to be there: just like AOL!
And here we are again, with consumers converging on a single site and companies clamoring to capture their attention.
AOL was eventually done in by a lack of openness and charging for options that were free elsewhere. So far, Facebook has avoided those mistakes. It will be interesting to see what social and economic forces drive its future—and whether it ultimately becomes something other than The Next AOL.
The core of the issue is this: the TV buyers have 50+ years of econometric modeling history that tells them if they buy X amount of GRPs or TRPs (Target Rating Points), it will generate Y in return. Everyone acknowledges that there are major flaws with this methodology, but are, for the most part, resigned to it; accepting it as the best we’ve got.
As video expands to other platforms, including online, digital out-of-home, and mobile, there’s a natural desire to take that same metric and apply. But doing so fails to account for the unique attributes of these new digital delivery channels — things like interactivity, ratio of ad clutter to content, dynamic ad serving, and so forth.
I’ve already talked about how online GRPs are not the answer. Not only are all screens not created equal, but there is a big difference between seeing an ad inserted into Lost on Hulu and an ad on a monkey video on YouTube.
Or the powerful custom integration and white label content executions that sites like blip.tv can produce. We’re seeing record interaction rates as we get better and better at figuring out how to make awesome digital video ads that WORK.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski delivered Monday on President Obama’s promise to back “net neutrality.” But he went much further than merely seeking to expand rules that prohibit ISPs from filtering or blocking net traffic — he proposed that they cover all broadband connections, including data connections for smartphones.
Genachowski, Obama’s law school classmate, announced in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution his intent to codify and expand the four current broadband principles (.pdf) known as the Four Freedoms and extend them to all broadband connections. He said that an open internet is necessary for economic growth and democratic participation. The rules were originally applied only to wireline broadband services, and the FCC kept postponing any ruling on whether they also applied to wireless services.
“The NFL said Monday it will allow players to use social media networks this season, but not during games. Players, coaches and football operations personnel can use Twitter, Facebook and other social media up to 90 minutes before kickoff, and after the game following traditional media interviews.
During games, no updates will be permitted by the individual himself or anyone representing him on his personal Twitter, Facebook or any other social media account, the league said.
The use of social media by NFL game officials and officiating department personnel will be prohibited at all times. The league, which has always barred play-by-play descriptions of games in progress, also extended that ban to social media platforms.
Earlier this summer, Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 by the team for criticizing the food service at training camp on Twitter.”—
If, say, Newser were to balk at a pricier contract and begin treating AP content the way it deals with other news organizations — headlines, excerpts, links — I get the impression that the AP would take action. “There’s no question that we see value in headlines,” Kasi told me, “and that value in the headlines is that we’d rather that it point to our publishers’ sites than some other site, for example, if all the other site is doing is simply cutting and pasting our content.”
Hackers are now using Twitter to send coded update messages to computers they’ve previously infected with rogue code, according to a report from net-monitoring firm Arbor Networks.
This looks to be the first reported case of hackers using the popular micro-messaging company to control botnets, which are assemblages of infected PCs that can be directed to spy on their users, send spam, or attack web sites with fake traffic.
Arbor Network’s Jose Nazario, an expert on botnets, discovered the so-called command-and-control structure. Infected computers were following the Twitter feed “Upd4t3″ (now suspended) through its RSS feed.
“Basically, what it does is use the status messages to send out new links to contact, then these contain new commands or executables to download and run,” Nazario wrote. “It’s an info-stealer operation.”
The tweets turned out to be obfuscated links to sites where further malicious code and instructions could be downloaded.
Hackers have long used IRC chat rooms to control botnets, and have continually used clever technologies, such as peer-to-peer strategies, to counter efforts to track, disrupt and sometimes decapitate the bots.
Perhaps what’s surprising then is that it’s taken so long for hackers to take Twitter to the dark side.
There’s something ironic about this finding, given that Russian hackers allegedly used a botnet to take Twitter down for two days last week.
In the past few years, China’s Internet vigilantes have mobilized to root out, expose and shame people they perceive to be exhibiting corrupt or immoral behavior. Marked for their unfettered zeal, the literal translation of the Chinese term for this ad hoc group of sleuthing online activists is: “human flesh search engine.” Nevertheless, while the stature of this group of online watchmen continues to grow, a new Chinese movie may force the Internet phenomenon out of the online sphere and into the country’s public dialogue. “Invisible Killer,” produced and co-written by Xie Xiaodong, is the first movie to broach the subject of Internet vigilantism and dramatize the pitfalls of having a mobilized and motivated online mob administering its own brand of justice.
VoloMedia, a podcast analytics, advertising, and distribution company, just received a patent for “providing episodic media,” including podcasts. According to the company, which filed for the patent in November 2003, U.S. Patent 7,568,213 covers all episodic media downloads, not just the RSS-dependent downloads that power today’s podcasts. VoloMedia CEO Murgesh Navar says that the company doesn’t plan to go after individual podcasters, but that the company plans to “work collaboratively with key participants in the industry.” We do wonder, however, if VoloMedia can really claim to have invented podcasting in 2003, given that the concept was already under development by Dave Winer and others in late 2000 and early 2001.
The only company mentioned specifically in the announcement is Hulu (as an example for a content platform that might one day offer episodic, downloadable content), but in an interview with NewTeeVee’s Chris Albrecht, Navar also revealed that the company is already in talks with Apple and a number of TV networks.
In December of 1999, Josh and I created CollegeHumor.com on a laptop while DJ’ing an office Christmas party in Baltimore. In December of this year, I will have been running the editorial side of the business for ten years. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, that makes me an expert in dick jokes.
So, with that valuable wisdom in my head, I will be transitioning out of my role at CollegeHumor at the end of the year. Per the above link, I’ll be heading up a new production company for IAC called Notional. I’ll still be involved in CH at a high level, just not the day-to-day. To be honest, the whole team at CH is so amazing right now that I doubt they’ll even notice I left. Notional will produce content for all platforms, but initially specialize in TV shows.
Anyway, more info to come. I’m expecting this to be really challenging – I’ve got a ton to learn. But hopefully it’ll be super fun as well.
Meeting for those interested in applying for local NYC Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding: 7/28/09 at DCTV
The NYC City Council is having a meeting to encourage the tech community to apply for local BTOP funds to create programs that address CTCs and digital divide issues. Problem is they didn’t put the information about the meeting on the web. (Sigh.)
Here it is for anyone interested:
On Tuesday, July 28, 2009 from 6-8 PM at DCTV’s Third Floor Conference Room (located at 87 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013) Council Member Gale A. Brewer invites all members of the New York City technology community to discuss the recently released Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding that has been made available through the federal stimulus package which passed in February 2009. The purpose of this event is to help galvanize interested applicants around common goals. Please distribute this invitation widely and invite all pertinent stakeholders to attend.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009, to stimulate the national economy and invigorate neglected industries that directly affect the nation’s competitive edge. Included in this stimulus package is the $7.2 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, also known as BTOP. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) released rules (also known as notice of funds availability, NOFA) for the BTOP governing process on July 1, 2009.
In an effort to involve the entire technology and not-for-profit community, I would like to encourage your participation in a meeting on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 6 PM – 8 PM at DCTV’s Third Floor Conference Room (located at 87 Lafayette Street, NY, NY 10013). This meeting will bring together organizations and institutions and provide an opportunity to connect and collaborate on a comprehensive plan for New York City’s BTOP application. These grants are all competitive. The goal of this meeting is to foster partnerships and maximize the possibility of bringing projects to the five boroughs through BTOP funds.
The BTOP grant application was released on July 9, 2009, and is due by 5 PM on August 14, 2009. After a thorough review, the NTIA will announce the finalists in September 2009 and will allocate the funds in November 2009. The NTIA expects projects to be completed within two to three years of the award date. The first of three funding rounds will provide about $1.6 billion in competitive grants to all fifty states.
The breakdown for NTIA’s $1.6 billion BTOP [NOFA 527-545] grant is as follows: • $1.2 billion allocated to provide last- and middle-mile services to unserved and underserved areas; • $50 million for computer centers; • $150 million to drive broadband demand; and • $200 million in discretionary funding to spread among the aforementionedcategories, when in need.
For “last mile” funding purposes in New York City, an underserved area can be designated by meeting one of three criteria:
• No more than 50 percent of households have access to facilities-based terrestrial broad-band; • No fixed or mobile provider advertises speeds of at least 3 megabits per second (Mbps); • The rate of subscribership is 40 percent or less.
The application process is ranked on a 100-point system. The rubric is outlined in the following way: 1. Project Purpose (30 points) 2. Project Benefits (25 points) 3. Project Viability (25 points) 4. Project Budget and Sustainability (20 points)
For more information on this breakdown, please log on to www.broadbandusa.gov and click on the “Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program”. Of particular interest to New York City applicants are lines 1410 through 1593.
Contact Kunal Malhotra, Budget and Legislation Director, or Samuel Wong, Legislative Aide on Technology, at (212) 788-6975 or at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions and would like to attend the NYC BTOP meeting on July 28, 2009.
According to Inside Higher Ed, applications to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism have gone up around 40 percent higher than last year. Applications to Temple University’s Department of Journalism have remained steady over the last few years. In March, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported that due to student interest and potential demand, the University of Pennsylvania is working to propose a journalism minor.
Journalism isn’t dying; it’s being revolutionized. What better time to make a mark at a top-tier school then?
One of the most basic features a good software application offers is a way for users to get the data they put into the system out. Sounds reasonable, no? But that isn’t the way it works, especially for a a few notable webapps.
For example, Twitter only lets its users retrieve the last 3,200 updates they’ve entered into the system. If you’ve tweeted over 3,200 times? The status updates starting with number 3,201 are simply lost to you. Poof! Gone. You can’t retrieve them using Twitter’s API or search engine. And yeah, I know, Twitter’s supposed to be ephemeral, represent the NOW, be the current “pulse of the planet” or whatever. But for its most loyal users, who log their lives and thoughts and links on Twitter, that update back in early 2007 matters. The cap can feel like someone has burned your diary. Most likely this is a scaling issue, but let’s get serious here: if I’ve been kind enough to enter data into your system over 3,200 times, the least you can do is let me export, backup, page back through all my status updates always.
Flickr does a similar thing with non-Pro accounts: you lose access to sets you’ve created beyond a certain number. At least Flickr gives you the option to upgrade to a Pro account in order to still get them (and I have), but it still wigs me out that I would create something on a system and then get denied access to it without paying. I could see denying me access to other people’s data, but my own? Really?
Most software works pretty simply: you enter data into it, and it outputs something useful. But at the most base level, you should be able to get back out what you’ve put in.
“Many independently produced films never make it onto the big screen simply because the costs involved are too high. At the moment most digital movies are distributed “over land” on hard disks costing up to $2000 for each copy. BitTorrent has the power to change this outdated distribution method and get smaller budget films onto the big screen.”
For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.
The astonishing offer is detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he feels it’s a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff.”
The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — is a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.
And it’s a turn of the times that a lobbyist is scolding The Washington Post for its ethical practices.
Twitter is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 followers or 10,000, you can break news. That’s because all tweets are recorded and indexed at search.twitter.com. If someone types the right keyword(s), they can find your tweet.
Breaking Tweets prides itself on giving many different types of Twitterers credit for breaking news, whether it be someone in Honduras with a dozen followers recording the first “earthquake” tweet or a news organization providing the first details of a major story.
There’s endless talk these days about ebook readers, Kindle and all its e-ink cousins, and future tablets from Apple and other phone makers. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that these devices are all designed to emulate the experience of reading printed material, but this is a starting point not the end point. The forms are going to evolve in ways we can’t imagine and they may not be best served by 2-D paper emulators.
Reading this description of new functionality in Microsoft’s XBox, I started wondering whether as game box evolves into an all-purpose “entertainment hub” which is thoroughly integrated into major social networks, whether it might extend it’s reach to host new forms of (social) reading. if a “book is a place” perhaps one strand of the near future will be to explore that space with a joystick. I hadn’t thought about it before, but perhaps the interview of me in This Spartan Life is a thought experiment in this direction. It would be interesting to re-imagine The Golden Notebook project which proved the viability of an asynchronous reading group as taking place inside of a virtual space where sometimes you would really be “with” other readers and sometimes on your own.
The article that kicked off this little reverie is from this morning’s MIT Technology Review is about a new camera/controller for Microsoft’s X-Box. The sentences that caught my attention:
Microsoft also debuted 10 exclusive new games and the ability to access social networking sites Facebook and Twitter as well as streaming music service Last.fm on the Xbox Live service. The popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter will be fully integrated into Xbox Live beginning this fall. There were several announcements about the Xbox 360’s video capabilities including increased functionality with the online Netflix service, 1080p high-definition video downloads, live TV in the United Kingdom and the ability to watch movies online with friends.
You may have more Facebook friends as the years go by, but when it comes to your close friends, you lose about half and replace them with new ones after about seven years, new social research suggests.
People might like to think they have control over whom they choose as friends, but social networks could also be influenced by the context in which we meet one another. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how much our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference.
He conducted a survey of 1,007 people ages 18 to 65, and then contacted the participants seven years later. From the original group, 604 people were re-interviewed. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?
The results showed that personal network sizes remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical subject’s network seven years later. And only 48 percent were still part of the network. This finding goes against previous research which had showed that social network sizes are shrinking.
The calculus was elementary: If amateur Web stars like “Fred,” the high-pitched persona of Nebraska teenager Lucas Cruikshank, can create the most popular channel on YouTube, imagine what Hollywood could do with its stars, budgets and marketing muscle.
Conceived with great fanfare, big media’s attempt over the last two years to capitalize on the Internet video phenomenon embodied by YouTube and “Saturday Night Live” digital shorts has fallen victim to recession-triggered cuts and inflated expectations about the advertising revenue they would command.
Unlike other media, where larger numbers of viewers lead to higher advertising revenue, high-volume trafficon the Web hasn’t necessarily translated into big money. Advertisers in short-form Internet video pay about $10 to reach every 1,000 viewers, so even a video that gets watched more than 1 million times — a big hit by Web standards — might not generate more than $10,000. Three- to five-minute-long “Webisodes” cost $5,000 to $25,000 to produce.
"It’s very similar to what happened in ‘99 and 2000, where everyone saw gold in the hills," said Mika Salmi, the former head of digital media for MTV Networks and now a technology venture capitalist, in reference to the first dot-com boom. "The reality is that it’s much harder to make money than everyone thought."
“One or two generations from now, the impossibility of scrubbing every private utterance for the demands of permanent public presentation will lead to a society much more accepting of occasional flubs, faults, and flaws. Behold, the triumph of context.”—I like the disclaimer heather-rivers appended: ”This is what I’ve been banking on all this time with my incurable oversharing.” (via anil)
… the State Department is advising social networking sites to make sure their networks stay up and running for Iranians to use them and helping them stay ahead of anyone who would try to shut them down. For example, senior officials say the State Department asked Twitter to refrain for going down for periodic scheduled maintenance at this critical time to ensure the site continues to operate. Bureau’s and offices across the State Department, they say, are paying very close attention to Twitter and other sites to get information on the situation in Iran.
If you’re interested in the future of news and newspapers, read Craig Stolz’s article Washington Post’s Masterful Failure of Online Journalism. It gives no prescription for creating revenue streams online — it’s simply one of the smartest pieces I’ve seen about journalism on the Web. The key question is this: what does the Web do best, and how can I exploit that to create compelling stories? (thanks, jjg!)