Back to Neptune

Veronica Mars is new tonight for the first time in weeks, I’m burned out on the Internet, and exhausted on top of that. So tonight, I’m going offline to spend time relaxing with my two favorite women. Thankfully, one of them is real.

Meet Big Bird again, for the first time

Hey, parents: Have you watched countless hours of Sesame Street and/or Muppet movies with your child? If you’re anything like me, your mind begins to wander a bit as you’re enjoying the 23rd consecutive viewing of the one where Zoe’s tutu flies up in the tree. Because I’m curious about how things work, my mind tends to wander towards the how of both the show(s) and the movies, specifically the world of puppetry, which I find pretty fascinating. To me it’s one of those things that is way under-appreciated, especially considering how much happiness it brings to our children.

For example: have you ever thought about how Big Bird is brought to life by a pupeteer? Think about it for a sec. Is there somebody inside of him? Okay- that sounds like an easy answer. But, keep in mind he’s 8 feet tall. So is Carroll Spinney just a really tall guy? I doubt it- I’d like to believe there’s a bit more magic at work.

Enter the relentless power of the web and the people who make it. Today, a few of my long-standing questions- including how Big Bird is played, and trust me, the answer will surprise you- were answered thanks to The Muppet Wiki, a huge collection of information, trivia, and insider info on all things Muppet, from Big Bird to Kermit to over 1,000 other characters of varying acclaim. Besides providing great historical insight into the creation and development of the Muppets, the site has quite a few really interesting nuggets that I think might interest parents, and their kids, who consider Jim Henson’s world a great and really interesting place.

Big news for TiVo?

The web is buzzing about a big announcement by TiVo set for tomorrow (Thursday) at 11am EST. Many are predicting TiVo will announce a free set-top box in exchange for subscription deal, but I’m going in the other direction and predicting they’ll announce a major content partnership.

INSTANT UPDATE: Looks like I was…mostly right. Lost Remote links to a report that TiVo will announce KidZone, a new service that will offer “virtual channels, specifically targeted to the children.” The report also notes:

Parents have the ability to select from an entire menu of weekly recommendations and automatically record all of those shows. When TiVo is in KidZone mode, it locks out all other programming access by children. Parents get password-protected ability to decide what’s best for their children to watch and kids get their own space on TiVo to enjoy their favorite shows. The service will be launched in June 2006.

My first column for Newsvine is up. It covers the rumored return of Futarama to TV and asks: why not bring back favorite cancelled shows to DVD or the internet instead?

Since Newsvine is still in beta, you’ll need an invite to view the site. I have a few left, so if you’d like one, and you know me, just let me know. My email address is at the top right of every page on this site.

This is really cool: Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright have launched a new site called bloggingheads.tv (a take-off on “talking heads”, hehe).

It’s a video blog of sorts, with Wright on the left side of the video and Kaus on the right. The unique part: Both men are sitting in (apparently) their own separate offices, speaking into video cameras and communicating with each other via microphone. Somehow, they’re splicing each of their own videos into one, creating a single show with a split screen (Okay, I’m not explaining this all that well. Just go check it out).

Some quick reactions: This is a unique, innovative take on video on the web. Both commentators are smart and funny. As is necessary, the site provides plenty of contextual, metadata about the video. Especially valuable is a “topic view” where you can click directly to video clips pertaining to a particular topic. Also great: you can subscribe to either a video feed or an audio (podcast) feed of the program. Really, really excellent stuff.

This is a “talking head” show with no bombastic, idiotic host asking insanely stupid questions. Instead, it’s two smart folks talking about current events. So far, blogging has had a revolutionary impact on newspapers. Next up in 2006 and beyond: TV.

Brightcove: Please update your site!

New web-based video service enabler Brightcove, founded by one of my favorite web pioneers, Jeremy Allaire, is making a drastic mistake as it launches: for me atleast, its site’s main navigation is completely broken in my version of Firefox.

Not to mention, the entire site is one big flash file. Yikes, but as much as Brightcove’s model may be “web 2.0”, their website certainly is not.

Idea factory: Share your TiVo programming hints with other friends

Looking for a pretty easy and usable web project?

How about using the TiVo website (where owners can view and schedule TiVo recordings online) and combining it with some kind of easily hackable online TV listings site (neither Yahoo!’s nor TVGuide.com’s had any kind of feed/API that I could find).

The result would be a simple site that allowed you to browse (or search, of course) upcoming TV listings. When you found one that a friend would like, the site would allow you to pop in their email address, which would then send your friend a link to the show, along with a link to the relevant listing on TiVo’s subscriber site. Your friend could then single-click to confirm, then schedule the recording on their TiVo.

To extend it a bit, also generate an RSS feed of a particular user’s suggestions, so that their aggregate suggestions to friends created a veritable “recommended” list of shows.

You could call the site “GuidemyTiVo.com” or something similar and include a TiVo-centric blog with it.

If you create it, let me know…I’d use it!

PS: HEY, TIVO! Developers are appreciating your HDK, but where’s the API?!?!

Network Landscape, version 3

Over last weekend, I spent a good amount of time updating Network Landscape, the TV/DVD/movies weblog I publish.

Besides a fresh design, the site got a new RSS feed, enhanced “quick news” section, leaner code, an update to its underlying blog software, and some other tweaks.

Over the next few weeks, the site will be roaring back to life, with writer Henry Hanks reviewing much of this season’s new crop of shows. We’ll also have some great giveaways, like LOST season 1 on DVD and more.

Check it out and feel free to send your feedback.