[ Music ]
>> Molly: It's Monday, April 13th, 2009.
>> Natalie: I'm Natalie Delconti [assumed spelling].
>> Tom: I'm Tom Marett [assumed spelling].
>> Molly: I'm Molly Wood.
>> Benito: And I'm Benito Gonzalez.
>> Natalie: Welcome to Buzz Out Loud, CNet's podcast of indeterminate length. This is episode 951. And I am back on my feet. Thank you for holding down the fort, you guys, on Friday.
>> Molly: Back on your feet, literally.
>> Tom: Glad your feet are okay.
>> Molly: Yeah.
>> Natalie: My feet are fine.
>> Molly: Oh, glass in the foot. That's horrible. I'm so sorry.
>> Natalie: It was not super fun. And one of my Twitters got [inaudible] 'cause I Twittered about how I almost kicked a pregnant doctor in the stomach when she put Lidocaine in my foot. It was terrible. But I'm fine, back -- glad to be back on the show, and ready to talk about how homophobic Amazon is.
>> Tom: We should point out, though, that Benito is running the board for Jason Hal, who's winging his way to New York City right now. So thank you very much, Benito.
>> Benito: Sure thing.
>> Molly: Yeah, thank you for -- he'll be here all the week. So be nice, everyone.
>> Benito: I got your back, Jason.
[ Laughter ]
>> Tom: You don't know how much back he just got.
>> Molly: I know. Jason. Yeah, every time Jason leaves, we're like oooh. But I think Benito's gonna be awesome.
>> Tom: So Amazon suffered a Twitter storm over the weekend, a movement to tag notes about them on Twitter as hash Amazon fail over the fact that many adult books, including a disproportionate amount of gay and lesbian themed books, disappeared from the Amazon rankings and were lowered in the search results.
>> Natalie: So an author named Mark Probst is a romance novelist and had noticed that his novels had dropped off sales rankings. And he thought, "Hey, what's going on?" Because when Amazon lists their top sellers, that's a really big selling point for him. That's how he sells more books. So he let that go for a day, noticed it was happening to other people, wrote in to Amazon, and they said, "Sorry, we exclude adult material from appearing in our searches and our bestseller lists, so this is the way it is. Sorry about that." And he said, "Well, wait a minute. Heterosexual romance novels are not subject to these same rules." And so this has sort of started a storm because it looks like Amazon has taken all gay and lesbian material from their sales rank tags and just quantified it as adult, whether or not it actually is adult or prurient in nature.
>> Molly: Well, and actually, in the case of Mark Probst, his books are young adult. He doesn't, I mean, they're romance books, but they're young adult books. They're like Harry Potter. Like, they're not sexual books. And what's confusing about this is that it is a disproportionate number of sort of gay and lesbian themed books, but it's also not across the board erotica. It's also not across the board gay and lesbian books, like Lady Chatterley's Lover was de-listed. So what they did is strip these books of their sales ranks, and that's what they use. In case you've been confused about what -- it took me a long time to figure out why this was happening. But they compile their results of bestseller books based on the sales rank. That's how they compile the search data. So if they strip them of the sales rank, then they won't ever show up in search results and bestseller lists, which is -- and obviously, if you're on Amazon, and you don't show up in Amazon search, or as a bestselling book, even if you are, you're not gonna sell any books. But it was not totally arbitrary, but a little bit confusing, which lent a little bit of credence to Amazon then coming out and saying that it was a glitch. It was a technical glitch that caused this to happen.
>> Tom: But they haven't explained what kind of glitch. Obviously it wasn't just like, "Oh, the computer program messed up and suddenly all the gay and lesbian books are off the rankings list."
>> Molly: Yeah.
>> Tom: They were implementing some sort of adult content control.
>> Molly: Exactly. Like no matter what, it was a glitch in their censorship system, which is --
>> Tom: Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer is still in the rankings, whereas Onnais Nin's [phonetic] Delta of Venus is not.
>> Molly: Ron Jeremy's autobiography is still in the rankings, whereas the autobiography of a gay stripper is not.
>> Tom: And a nonfiction, a lot of nonfiction stuff got tanked as well, including a discussion of gays in the military and whether the gays in the military process is still valid. So yeah, maybe it's a glitch, or maybe it's bad programming. Maybe somebody put in some keywords, 'cause it made me -- we talked about this on East Meets West too; it made me think of the Xbox fiasco where they were banning people from identifying themselves as gay and lesbian on Xbox, because they considered that adult.
>> Molly: But there are some books that -- like Lesbian Couples: A Guide to Creating Healthy Relationships -- not stripped of its sales ranking. So it's not entirely keyword -- like, it's clearly not lesbian as a keyword.
>> Natalie: And it's only books too. Jezebel makes this point, that adult toys are still sales ranked. You can go there and buy things that I'm not going to list, that are in fact pornographic. And this is only for literature.
>> Tom: And this is not in the DVDs or the CDs or anything else; it's only -- something that's being run in the literature section of Amazon, in the books section.
>> Molly: One theory that I actually think is pretty interesting, there is a post about -- there's a post on, what is it...? TEHDELY-
>> Tom: Tehdely.
>> Molly: Tehdely. I get it. Or but...anyway, speculating that what this was was sort of like a two-way troll, right? That Amazon was probably putting in some sort of adult filter, and then on top of that, that trollers for the lulls, or because they have some sort of kind of moral high ground thing to seize and technical knowledge, were complaining, 'cause what this post speculates is that Amazon has an algorithm that de-lists a book after a certain number of complaints. So that maybe someone write a script that was specifically targeting books with specific content, gay and lesbian content primarily, and putting, you know, automatically complaining so that they would be de-listed. And that, to me, actually -- maybe it's not true, but that seems to make the most sense. Like clearly Amazon has adult content filters in place that I think you can argue should not be there in my opinion. Like if they're a book seller, and they list these things in their catalog, then you should be able to search for them and find them. But the fact that --
>> Natalie: Wait, say that again, "Clearly Amazon--" I'm sorry, can you make that point again?
>> Molly: Yeah, I think that Amazon clearly does have some sort of adult content filter in place on their site, and I think that they shouldn't. However, I think it seems most logical, given the kind of arbitrary nature of some of the exclusions, like it doesn't seem to be as simple as a keyword thing, that it makes sense to me that there is some kind of trolling going on, that somehow, someone is specifically targeting these books and causing them to be de-listed.
>> Tom: I think that it's fair for Amazon to say, "You know what? We're gonna have adult material on a high shelf." You know? It's -- there's a similar theory where you, you know, you put the Playboys up at the top shelf of the magazine rack so the kiddies can't get to them easy. And how you go about that is where the discussion could fall. But this is way beyond that. They've taken a sledgehammer to content. And it's not just gay and lesbian material, it's -- like I said, if Tropic of Cancer's okay, why is Onnais Nin not? I mean, where -- the line, obviously it is a glitch, whether it's a computer glitch or a human glitch, we don't know. And they haven't said anything more about it.
>> Molly: Well, that's the biggest problem.
>> Natalie: I suspect that they will though, 'cause this it not the kind of thing that Amazon usually remains quiet about--
>> Molly: You would think so, but now here it is, more than 24 hours later, and all they have said was that it was a glitch, and then when people ask them specifically about the type of content that was being blacklisted, Amazon said, "We're not prepared to comment on that." And they have said nothing more.
>> Natalie: Well yes, Molly, but it was a holy holiday, so maybe that is the reason.
>> Tom: I think you're right, Natalie; I think they're scrambling.
>> Molly: I'm sure they are scrambling, and people speculated that if it were in fact a trolling thing, if it were in fact an attack, that that is the perfect day to pick because it's a long weekend for people who observe Good Friday, and it was on Easter holiday. And so people weren't available to deal with it. I mean, I think -- to me, this points to some sort of concerted effort, but either way, I think Amazon needs to get out in front of it a lot faster.
>> Natalie: Yeah, it's time. Definitely it's time. Another thing we want faster is the Palm Prix. There are reports that it may launch April-slash-May. I actually have been briefed on this, so I've agreed to a non-disclosure, so I'm gonna let Tom and Molly talk about this.
>> Tom: You know when it is, don't you?
>> Natalie: I do.
>> Tom: Ah! A Sprint memo hints that the Palm Prix smartphone release date would be in May because they're telling the Sprint call center folks, "Okay, get ready to train up on the Palm Prix. Training's gonna begin in April. Cancel your time off." You know, all that stuff that, you know, always leads to rumors about the iPhone and all of that is happening with the Palm Prix. Palm -- many of the reports cite a May release date of the Palm Prix, targeting the date of May 17th. Other reports say that the Palm Prix could go on sale as early as this week. PC Mag is talking about that as well. So...what we can say with some certainty is that the Palm Prix probably does have a release date now. Palm -- we were sort of speculating before that Palm didn't even know, that they hadn't figured it out, that the thing wasn't done yet. So we'll be seeing it shortly, right?
>> Molly: I think June. I think like very early June, like June 1st-ish.
>> Tom: Do you think they're waiting to see exactly when Apple decides to do the next iPhone and then try to trump them?
>> Natalie: No, no.
>> Molly: Seriously. Like play your own game, Palm.
>> Natalie: They're briefing us -- they wanna get it on the early show. And so they brought the phone to show, and they had a couple press briefings in New York two weeks ago, and so Howard Stern got his hands on the Prix, even though he went with the Bold.
Remember, we talked about how he was in this big phone search, and all the phone companies were racing to make him pick their phone. He did test out the Prix. He liked it. But he ended up going with the Bold. And then they brought it straight actually, from him, over to CNet and showed it to us. And so they do feel like they have a release date. They are planning on a specific release date, and so -- but they were still like, they said, it was a real -- it was funny 'cause she said, "Well, when it comes out, we'll wanna get it on the early show." I'm like, "Well, you will need to give me lead time." And she goes, "We will give you a certain amount of lead time." And I go, "I feel like I'm dancing the tango with you; can you give me something?" So she ended up just telling me because, but it was...
>> Molly: And that is why Palm, by the way, always has leaks. That, what happened right there -- 'cause you ask them like three times. "Are you sure you can't -- maybe you should just tell me." "Okay, we'll tell you." And then everybody finds out.
>> Natalie: Well, because she can't just say, "Hey, tomorrow we're launching and then I guarantee that I can get it on the morning show, because it doesn't work that way. And so the more lead time I have, the better. And that's why -- you know, I think that she didn't really want to, and she -- I'm probably saying more than I already should, but the point is, it did seem like they were set on a specific date, and they were going to be ready for that. But she did also say, "Subject to change."
>> Tom: Alright, so I'm not gonna try to get you in trouble. Let's move on to the next story. But folks, don't believe all the rumors. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Just read Natalie's facial expressions in the video; it's all written there.
>> Natalie: Yeah, someone in that chat room's like, "Hold up your hands. Hold up your hands."
>> Tom: How many fingers?
>> Natalie: Yeah, I wanna be a woman who's good for my word. So I'm gonna try not to say anything. But I can say that I do like it. That I played with it and I thought that it was lovely.
>> Tom: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Steve Jobs is still engaged in running parts of Apple anyway, even while on medical leave at home. For example, he has been involved in the user interface for the latest version of the iPhone operating system, he's been reviewing products, working on future projects, all this according to sources to the Wall Street Journal.
>> Molly: Yeah, okay. Can we take a minute and talk about this story? 'Cause if this story --
>> Natalie: Why? Is it surprising you?
>> Molly: It is surprising me that anyone is taking this story for anything even remotely resembling the truth. It is surprising to me that analysts have used this story as a basis to actually change their rankings on Apple stock, conveniently enough, one week before Apple's earnings announcement. It is surprising to me that this is being reported as though it is a serious story, and in fact, if it appeared anywhere other than the Wall Street Journal, if it were in the Tech Crunch, for example, we would be taking it for the piece of garbage company plant that it obviously is. Like I'm not saying that it's not true. But it is un-freaking-believable to me that this story can appear and never sort, not even one time, do they cite a source by name, except to say that Tim Cook wouldn't comment, or said, "We're focusing on operations at Apple." And that it is then being re-reported on news.com and elsewhere which, I'm sorry, is shameful, as though it were in fact a real story.
>> Tom: So when's their earnings report?
>> Molly: Give me a break. The earnings report?
>> Natalie: "Why don't you go talk to Natalie about that?"
>> Molly: The earnings report is on Wednesday, the 22nd.
>> Tom: Really? What a coincidence. That is really odd.
>> Molly: Isn't it though? And then sources, familiar with the matter, repeatedly say that Steve Jobs is firmly in control and the company's doing awesome. And then you know what? Apple's stock --
>> Natalie: Apple PR.
>> Molly: Yes! It is clearly PR, it is clearly a plant. The Journal is completely credulous ninnies in reporting this, "Apple stock is up today," and then Sha Wu, the magic Apple analyst is like, "Actually, even though last week I said that you should definitely not buy Apple stock, I changed my mind; I think things are looking good for them." You have got to be kidding me with this. This is shameful reporting. That's all I have to say about that.
>> Natalie: This is the biggest Wizard of Oz scam. Do not look at the man behind the curtain.
>> Molly: Like I don't even care what's actually going on with Steve Jobs. I just can't believe that this story is getting the kinds of serious consideration that it is. What happened to sources? Seriously?
>> Tom: What, are you saying that you could never do a story with anonymous sources?
>> Molly: I'm saying that you shouldn't, actually.
>> Natalie: Well...the point is no one has pointed out that this is very convenient information.
>> Molly: It is. Exactly.
>> Natalie: At this time.
>> Molly: Like you can do a story with anonymous sources, but then you have to do some reporting to make sure that your anonymous sources are giving you valuable information as opposed to very reassuring information that comes out at a financially convenient time for Apple.
>> Tom: It is oddly timed.
>> Molly: Yes, it is. God.
>> Tom: Wait, this report came out Saturday, in the Wall Street Journal.
>> Natalie: Yeah, and it's the biggest "no duh" of all because of course Steve Jobs is still running the show.
>> Tom: Nobody's saying he's running the show. Let's be -- what they're saying is that he's still involved --
>> Molly: That's what they are.
>> Tom: Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is running the day-to-day operations and Steve is closely involved, right.
>> Natalie: Oh yeah. We're splitting hairs. What's the difference between "in control" and "running the show?"
>> Molly: Yeah, that's the magic. Like, they are basically saying that he is in control. And the other very important thing that they are saying is that he is going to return in June. And they do actually have a spokesman with a name, saying "He continues to look forward to returning to Apple at the end of June." But this is all about reassuring investors in advance of an earnings call. C'mon.
>> Natalie: Yeah, it's unfair.
>> Molly: I just thought -- the story made me furious. I was like, "How can this be reported as though like, 'Oh, don't worry...he's still in charge. Woo!'"
>> Natalie: 'Cause we were all wondering right this very second, we were all wondering about that, for no apparent causality at all.
>> Molly: Yeah, I still -- I'm sorry. I don't necessarily believe that he's coming back in June, but this is just, c'mon. C'mon, Journal. Be better.
>> Natalie: I think it's his intention to come back in June.
>> Molly: Yeah, and hope springs eternal. Like I think that would be great for Apple, but this -- shameless.
>> Tom: Skype co-founders are trying to get their money, or actually get their product back. They want to buy back Skype from eBay. Nicholas Instrom [assumed spelling] and Janice Freese [assumed spelling] four years ago for $2.6 billion. Do you think they can get it back for less?
>> Natalie: Probably, like a bargain.
>> Tom: So this was just a scheme by them all along to make a little off the top, get it back, then they're gonna re-sell it again.
>> Molly: Oh, they're pretty much waiting until eBay's about ready to put Skype on eBay and they're like, "We'll take it off your hands for you." That would be hilarious.
>> Tom: They should be like, "Fine. Nicholas, Janice, you want it back, we're putting it on eBay. Bid along with the rest of the people. $25."
>> Natalie: To be fair, eBay did try to do things with Skype. In the first couple of years, especially when they had it, they tried to do the "click to Skype in a live bid," and "live calls with your auction," and it just never really turned out the way that they thought that it would. And also, Craig's List came and bit them in the butt and took a lot of their market shares. So it's not like it was a terrible, terrible idea; it's just that they never really were able to get anything to pan out the way that they wanted it to.
>> Tom: It was a little confusing why they bought Skype in the first place. It was kind of a stretch. They've done a good job with Skype as Skype. It's got 405 million registered users now compared with the 54 million it had when they bought it in 2005, but there's just no synergy, to use that word. There's no integration of Skype with eBay.
>> Molly: And they kept saying there would be, and it just didn't --
>> Tom: I mean, I remember trying to stretch and be like, "Well, maybe it's that, you know, you can call and talk to the op--" but who wants to do that? Who wants to say, "Yeah, I'll take calls from the bidders."
>> Natalie: That's the beauty of Craig's List, is that you don't ever have to talk to someone if you don't want to.
>> Molly: And that was the beauty of eBay too, like I don't wanna do that. No one wanted to do that. It just made no --
>> Natalie: ...to talk to strangers. I don't even like people.
>> Molly: If it was that difficult for eBay to explain what they were gonna do with Skype, then everybody kinda saw this coming.
>> Tom: Have you never heard of Rick Springfield, eBay? Don't talk to strangers; nobody wants to --
>> Molly: Oh, I'm totally like...cricket.
>> Tom: Let's go to the Time Warner story. Time Warner Cable is backpedaling more now after the outrage over its expansion of internet data caps. They have changed the model suddenly, even though they said they were forced into putting the bandwidth caps at the rates they are, they have raised the caps and they've also lowered the amount you'll be charged for going over. So apparently it's not as bad as they originally said.
>> Molly: I guess things aren't quite as tight as they made them out to seem. But still tight enough for caps. These guys have a little credibility problem.
>> Tom: RS Technica points out that the argument of it being expensive to upgrade still appears dubious. Time Warner Cable last night announced the new pricing scheme for its new 100-gigabyte a month tier for $75 a month. We talked about that on Friday. Comcast is using the same technology, offering a 250-gigabyte cap for $43 a month.
>> Molly: Plus Wired did a look at Time Warner Cable revenues and showed that broadband costs had decreased by 12 percent in 2008, even as revenues had increased by 11 percent. And said, "Hey, Time Warner, looking at these numbers, which do in fact constitute data, how do you explain the continued insistence that you need caps?"
>> Tom: And Verizon-Fios, which is the only one of these people who has actually spent billions of dollars on infrastructure improvements, $18 billion actually, is offering a 50-megabit...per second connection with no cap for...$145. So it's pricey --
>> Natalie: Well, that's what they'll charge you per month. When you factor in what they charge you after you cancel your account, it's like $5,000 per month.
>> Tom: Most people may not run into that though.
>> Molly: Hopefully.
>> Natalie: I bet you they do. Jerks.
>> Tom: But still, I mean -- you know, the fact of the matter is, no caps. And Verizon has television. They have, you know, a conflict of interest just like everybody else does these days. So it's just, you know, yeah, we know it does cost money to roll out higher speeds to everybody. It just doesn't fit that that's why they're doing the bandwidth caps.
>> Molly: Yeah, like Skype and eBay, it just doesn't add up. And it's kind of inexcusable to say -- it's inexcusable of any of these companies not to use the subsidies that they were given and kinda the government handouts that they were given to improve their infrastructure and then have a weak infrastructure that is not even as weak as they are painting it out to be and then use that to justify caps and higher costs. Like it just doesn't -- it's not cool.
>> Tom: And the icing on this cake is actually the lead on the RS Technica story. Time Warner came out and said, "The problem isn't with the caps; it's with the press reports. It's with the premature press reports that don't tell the whole story. We're actually gonna change that caps that we said before. The press shouldn't have reported what we said. They should've waited for us to change our mind."
>> Natalie: This is gossip journalism at its best.
>> Molly: Exactly. "The press made us look bad about the things that we were doing."
>> Tom: "When they passed along the facts of what we said."
>> Molly: I know. That's terrible.
>> Tom: I mean, not that the press never does that, but I don't think that's what happened this time. Twitter has been hit by a series of worm attacks.
>> Natalie: That's right. A 17-year-old boy from Brooklyn decided to create a Twitter worm called stalkdaily just for kicks and giggles. He created this fake Twitter page where if you went there, you were infected and then your Twitter ID would send out tweets that he wanted you to send out, like, "Dude, stalkdaily's so awesome. Dude, stalkdaily rocks."
>> Molly: And it wasn't even helpful like stock, STOCK. It's like stalk, like STALK, like a stalk of wheat.
>> Tom: He just wanted to promote his website.
>> Molly: It was like a wheat-based website.
>> Natalie: It wasn't malicious. It was more self-promoting, maybe a little egotistical, but not super malicious, although I don't love the idea of someone else sending tweets for me.
>> Molly: Well...he tried to take that black hat sort of tactic and say like, "I like to find, you know, holes in things and then exploit them for- not for totally my own gain, but kind of..."
>> Tom: That may be a tactic in many cases and maybe it is in this kid's case, but that is also a thing. It's a trait of people who just like to try to poke holes in stuff.
>> Molly: For the lulls.
>> Natalie: It's for posterity, really.
>> Molly: Yeah, it's totally for posterity. Exactly.
>> Tom: And you know, here I was, making fun of Twitter being a security risk just the other day, and then over the weekend this all comes out. But it does point out the big security risk with Twitter, which is the security risk of the internet, which is clicking on links. And what Twitter does that exacerbates the problem is the shortening of the URL. And I'm not...criticizing Twitter for the shortening of the URL; it's a necessary part of the 140-character limit, right? You need to shorten those URLs.
>> Molly: Which is, of itself, arbitrary, so, I'm just saying.
>> Tom: Well, yeah, but I'm mean, let's take that as red and just say, "Okay, you've gotta figure out how to do this." When you do that, you introduce obfuscation. You can't tell what you're clicking on. Even if somebody says, "Oh, this is what you're gonna click on," you don't really know that until you click on the link.
>> Molly: Well, and what's silly about it is that tiny URL includes the ability to create a preview URL, so why couldn't Twitter just implement that implementation of tiny URL? 'Cause that's what they use as a shortener, so couldn't they just create the tiny URLs that have a preview instead of the tiny URLs that don't?
>> Tom: I wish I could credit who had this idea that I'm about to say, but somebody suggested something which I think is the fix to this, which is, anything that begins HTTP, just gets shortened in its display, but it's the actual URL. It doesn't get converted to a tiny URL. So when you look on your Twitter, it'll say HTTP://WWW.CNET. COM/REV..., but when you hover over it to click on it, you see the whole URL down below.
>> Natalie: Oh, that is a good idea.
>> Molly: I mean, that works, or the preview-based tiny URL so that you hover over it and you see the -- I mean, either way --
>> Tom: Well, the preview-based I think you have to click and then it shows you what the full URL is before you click through. I think that's how the tiny URL works.
>> Molly: There's no hover.
>> Tom: Yeah, I don't think it's a hover thing. 'Cause that's what you really want, is before you click, you wanna know what it is you're clicking on.
>> Molly: Right.
>> Natalie: Right.
>> Molly: Do that, Twitter. Make that happen.
>> Tom: I'm sure they're already way ahead of us.
>> Molly: Maybe somebody who's in college could work on that if they weren't so busy in Facebook all the time, blowing their GPAs.
>> Natalie: No, we're asking smart people to do that kind of thing, and people who are in college on Facebook are not the smart kind apparently.
>> Molly: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
>> Natalie: According to an Ohio State University study, students who use Facebook score sometimes even a letter grade below other students who do not. I'm not really calling them stupid.
>> Tom: The people in college who aren't on Facebook are the smart ones.
>> Molly: Let's ask Bill Gates if college grades determine if you're smart or not.
>> Tom: Bill Gates didn't waste his time on Facebook.
>> Natalie: No, but Bill Gates spent quite a lot of time in the computer lab not going to his other classes.
>> Molly: Exactly. It has nothing to do with Facebook, you idiots. I hate these kinds of red herring stories.
>> Tom: 68 percent -- hold on, let's get the story out before we poke holes in it. 68 percent of the Facebookers, among the 219 people questioned, enjoyed a significantly lower GPA than those who didn't use Facebook all that much. So 68 percent of the people who did had a lower GPA.
>> Natalie: Now, the author did say, "Okay, normally college students do have distractions. This is just the new form of distractions." But something about Facebook is a bit more immersive, it sucks you in a lot more, and it affects your grades more than, I don't know, what else do college students do? Drink.
>> Tom: Play football, play video games, talk to each other, do drugs.
>> Molly: I have to say that my GPA plummeted right about the time I became editor-in-chief of my school newspaper, which nobody would've necessarily considered a foolish pursuit, but it definitely affected my grades.
>> Tom: When I was spending 50 to 60 hours a week as the program director of WPGU, my grades suffered. So people should never work.
>> Molly: Like don't get me wrong. Like everybody wants a scapegoat and everybody wants to say that these new internet technologies are a worse scapegoat than the prior thing that caused people's grades to drop. Although I think there's no question that Facebook is pretty addictive.
>> Tom: Sure, sure.
>> Molly: So it kinda might just be one of those things where, you know, it --
>> Tom: So is opium.
>> Molly: If you take all the pursuits combined that can lower people's grades, maybe it's 10 or 12 different things, right? But I think there may be a higher percentage of people now in school all doing the same thing, and that thing is Facebook. So it seems like that one thing has a bigger impact than any of the single things that previously just combine to lower kids' grades. You know what I'm saying?
>> Tom: Well, let's pull out the... we have the study, what do we take out of it? What we take out of it is kids, if you want your GPA to be better, don't spend a lot of time being distracted by stuff. I mean really, that's what you're left with.
>> Natalie: 219 students does not a causality make.
>> Molly: Oh, well yeah. It's a terrible study.
>> Natalie: Right, not representative.
>> Tom: Don't forget when we were very excited when they surveyed 300 people in the University of Melbourne last week and found out that if you spend 20 percent of your day surfing the web, you're actually more productive.
>> Tom: I wasn't excited. I wasn't even here for that. I would've told you that was terrible study too.
>> Tom: You say that now.
>> Molly: There is a statistically significant number of people that you have to question. I can't remember what it is; I'm gonna have to look it up.
>> Natalie: It's something like, I wanna say something like 90 minutes per day is wasted per employee in our country, which ends up to be something like $10 billion in lost productivity.
>> Molly: Oh, you just pushed Tom's giant button.
>> Tom: I hate those studies; I really do. Because it's just like you just make that up. And in fact what the --
>> Natalie: It's salary.com that makes that up.
>> Tom: Well, they're not the only ones. What the Melbourne study was saying is, that time isn't wasted; it actually ends up fueling your productivity because your brain gets a break and you're able to work more. So just taking the amount of time and putting a dollar sign on it doesn't make it wasted.
>> Molly: Right, and it's assuming that people who were not doing something else during that -- it's assuming that those people who were not on the internet, if they weren't on the internet during those 90 minutes, then they would be working at full capacity? That's [inaudible] assumption.
>> Natalie: Well, a lot of these studies are based on employers -- I mean, if you're paying someone for nine hours of work per day, and you only get seven, then that is saying something. And that doesn't say that otherwise you would be filing your nails or picking your wedgie.
>> Tom: Yes, but you gotta look at the output.
>> Molly: Yeah, I object to the idea of paying people to work nine hours a day. What you're paying them to do is do their job. So if they're doing their job, then you've lost no money. If they're not doing their job for whatever reason --
>> Natalie: Well, we're talking about a grand spectrum of work here then. Because there are studies that also show blue collar versus white collar and people with more autonomy in their job actually work longer hours and you are paying for a job, versus time clock employees.
>> Tom: Right, and I bet they take more breaks.
>> Natalie: Right. Well, yes. In which case, you are paying per minute.
>> Tom: And here's the thing. This is the falseness in this idea of like, "Oh, well I'm paying for nine hours, but I only got seven." If you look at the person who did seven hours and you looked at the person who worked nine hours straight without a break, who did more?
That's what you should be looking at. And what the Melbourne study was saying is, if you work for seven hours, you will actually do more than the person who worked straight for nine hours because you get a break and you get refueled and you work more productively.
>> We're not talking about nine consecutive hours.
>> Tom: Oh, yes we are.
>> Molly: Oh yeah.
>> Natalie: We're not.
>> Molly: In those studies that say that if you don't work -- yeah, those studies that say it adds up to lost money are saying that you were at work for eight hours or nine hours, and for two of those hours, that specific day, you didn't work.
>> Natalie: Right, we have laws about talking breaks.
>> Molly: Not for salaried employees. I wish there was a law that would make me take a break. Sometimes the light turns off in my office 'cause I haven't moved enough. It's like ridiculous. I'm like, "Oh, I'm in horrible pain; I wonder what it is."
>> Natalie: Right, but do you really think that if we only measured output, that we would get the same results as people who are --
>> Tom: Yes. I do. I do really think that. Sorry. I do. I think you should measure output. I think you should measure productivity.
>> Molly: I think you properly insent [phonetic] people to do their jobs and then all you have to measure is output. Because people work at different rates, they... learn differently, they work differently, they output differently. Some people are faster, some people are slower.
>> Natalie: Yeah, I just don't think that you can really make that generalization about everyone. How about this as a work principle? Work and get paid?
>> Molly: Then I think it's fair that you can't generalize to that extent, but then you have to be able to say that on the side of the studies as well. Like you can't just say, it is too broad to say, "Everybody, you have a goal, an output goal. Just get it done some way." And if that's too broad, it's also too broad to say that any moment that you're not working is a moment that you're company's losing money. You see what I'm saying? Like you can't be that black and white on either end.
>> Natalie: No, I'm not saying that at all, but would you not agree that social networks and other digital distractions are a loss in productivity in the workplace?
>> Tom: Not always. I would say that up to a certain point, they're actually a benefit because they distract you, they take your mind off your work and you come back fresh to what you're doing. And I've experienced that feeling, where I force myself to take a break, and when I come back to what I was doing, I do it much faster because my mind's fresh, rather than I'm slogging through, I'm not taking a break. I'm working, but I'm working slow, 'cause I'm just getting bogged down in it. But I think...to your point, Natalie, at a certain point, it becomes too much. And so, if you spend too much time, then yes. It is going to be a drag. It's not like you can just play all day. You obviously have to do the work 80 percent of the time.
>> Molly: But then that comes to the output question, right? Like if it is that much of a distraction to you that your work is suffering, then your work is suffering and that's the point. Not necessarily the existence of the social network as distracter.
>> Tom: That's why Google does the 20 percent time. They're trying to capitalize on the break time because they say, "Look, take 20 percent and do whatever you want," but the intellectual property belongs to Google and we might turn it into a labs project and make money off of it.
>> Molly: Also, you should be working during your break. Don't get me wrong; Google is the devil.
>> Natalie: Well, I think that we would feel a lot differently about this though if we were paying other people's salaries.
>> Molly: I have been a manager, and I have always -- my philosophy as a manager has always been that what is important to me is that you do your work.
>> Tom: And really that you do it.
>> Molly: And really that you do it. If I come up behind you, and you're on Instant Messenger, and you're on Twitter, and you're on your personal email and you're on Facebook, and you haven't gotten your work done, then we have a problem. But if you have gotten your work done, I don't care. I don't care how it gets done.
>> Natalie: Right, I'm not advocating micromanagement, I just think that no one has really been able to quantify how much of a distraction things like social networks and email and chat clients are.
>> Tom: Except for Ohio State and the University of Melbourne. They think they have quantified it.
>> Natalie: And I don't think that either of them have successfully done that. And I'm not saying that salary.com has either, but I am saying that there is something to be said for loss in productivity. Because if you look at the search results that we get at the end of the year from Yahoo and Google, what people are up to is not productivity. They're Googling Britney Spears.
>> Tom: That's fine though. That's what they need to do in that 20 percent time. All I'm saying is you can't have a zero tolerance and say, "All you get to do is eat lunch for an hour and then don't take any breaks and never search the web." What I'm saying is, there needs to be tolerance in there like, you know what? If you wanna surf the web a little bit in the day, once you get bogged down and your brain needs a break, you should be allowed to do that.
>> Natalie: Agreed, but it's a slippery slope.
>> Tom: It's slippery in both ways.
>> Molly: Any distraction at work is a slippery slope.
>> Tom: It's like that path to school that's uphill, to school and back, that your parents used to take. This one's slippery in both directions.
>> Molly: Yeah, 'cause it's not just the web. Anyway, yes.
>> Tom: And now that I've tortured and killed that metaphor, let's move on to the Zune HD photos.
>> Molly: I'm tired from climbing uphill.
>> Tom: 'Cause it may reveal Microsoft's next move, according to Donald Dell on the MP3 Insider blog. Or it may just be a pretty picture of the Zune.
>> Molly: And Microsoft's next move is...?
>> Tom: Zune HD has a touch screen, apparently, from this crazy little picture and one button.
>> Molly: One button. Not a round button. A squirkle.
>> Tom: Is it a squirkle?
>> Molly: No, it's not a squirkle, right? A squirkle's just the actual -- well, I guess it kind of is a squirkle.
>> Tom: Squirkle-ish. Squirkle-like.
>> Molly: The squirkle is what they called their square circle, their touch pad on the old Zunes. It really just looks like actually the same Zune, just with a bigger screen.
>> Tom: Yeah, bigger screen and... possibly some sort of iPhone, iPod Touch may be more like it. And called HD, because it's gonna be able to display high definition video? We don't know. This is just a leak, a leak that tipsters provided to Ngadget. There's an hdzune.net URL out there, but apparently that's just registered to some guy who's...a Zune expert. So he's trying to get ahead of the game and be ready to launch his new site when Microsoft does admit that this is real, if they do.
>> Molly: Donald says that he would hate to see the Zune versus iPod war lose its steam, but I have to say I don't feel like there's much of a war going on anymore.
>> Natalie: I know. What steam?
>> Tom: Well, this would be the steam coming back into it. If they released like crazy cool touch screen gadget, especially if it was a Zune phone, then it might heat things up. I mean, my theory on the Zune has always been it's like Internet Explorer. It's gonna take 'til that third, fourth generation before it finally dominates the market. Well, we saw the third generation, and man, was it a disappointment. So let's not count that one. This would be the one.
>> Molly: What? You can't say let's not count that.
>> Natalie: Well, let's not say it's a disappointment. It was a CNet editor's choice.
>> Tom: The last gen?
>> Natalie: Yeah.
>> Tom: The third gen Zune?
>> Natalie: Uh huh.
>> Tom: Was? Oh, Donald. You love your Zune.
>> Molly: He does love it.
>> Tom: Yeah, but it hasn't -- I shouldn't diss on the Zune. It's actually quite a good MP3 player, but it hasn't dominated the market in the mine share.
>> Molly: And even Donald will agree that the Zune is technologically a great device that is hampered by the worst software you've ever seen in your freaking life. And that's the biggest problem with it. Like it is, the hardware is great. The synching wirelessly is great. There were a lot of things about the Zune that I absolutely loved when I had the 80-gig Zune, until I used the software and wanted to cut my own head off. It is horrible.
>> Tom: So maybe the fourth gen is the one. I think this is make or break for the Zune though, whatever they come out with next, whether it's this HD Zune thing or something totally different.
>> Molly: Yeah, we'll see.
>> Natalie: Well, speaking of bigger screens, there is buzz afoot that Amazon may be releasing a new, bigger screen Kindle in time for the holiday season, so that's what, eight months away? The Wall Street Journal, again, is reporting that people have seen it, they talked to people who have seen it -- this is kind of like a Sasquatch -- and they're saying that this will be optimal for newspapers and magazines to advertise to us.
>> Molly: Mmm. To advertise to us.
>> Tom: So this goes along with the rumors we heard from like Hurst and Plastic Logic about having magazine-style readers that would deliver you subscriptions to your magazines. Some of them have talked about having touch screens, color screens, that sort of thing. So it's not surprising to think that Amazon is in the game on this as well. They're not just gonna sit back and be like, "Yeah, Kindle 2, that's all we got in the tank here."
>> Molly: I think it would be cool if they did one that was magazine size or... tabloid size basically, a lot cheaper and really just for subscriptions. Like I think it could be cool to do one that is very very periodically oriented and then knowing that those periodical subscriptions cost more, maybe make cheaper hardware.
>> Natalie: Like a net-book Kindle.
>> Molly: Yeah, totally.
>> Tom: Yeah, sort of.
>> Molly: A net Kindle.
>> Natalie: Kindle book.
>> Tom: Kin-net-le.
>> Molly: Kindle book.
>> Tom: The thing about the Kindle is, you know, I cancelled my paper subscription to the Chronicle because it was a whole lot cheaper to get it on the Kindle. $5 a month, for six-month, $30 versus $200 for the paper version for six months. And the thing is, yeah, I'm missing some sections of the paper and it's not in color, although it does have photos, so if I had a bigger screen that allowed for more of that paper to be delivered at the same price, and that could keep the paper in business, I'm all for it.
>> Molly: That bigger one actually should be color.
>> Tom: I kinda think so.
>> Molly: If it's gonna be a periodical-friendly one, it should be color capable, yeah.
>> Tom: For sure.
>> Natalie: That way it can really take on the huge textbooks that you run around with, then it's a real textbook experience.
>> Molly: Oh yeah. Totally, good point. Also it should be steam powered.
>> Tom: Yes! That's exactly what -- you took the words right out of my mouth.
>> Molly: I'm sorry; they were yours.
>> Tom: Because everything should be steam-powered, including this new steam-powered USB charger that's on Ngadget today. I'm just fascinated with this. It's totally impractical. It's a big, ol' -- not a big steam engine like, you know, that would run Jay Leno's car or something like that, but it's a big ol' honkin' thing that sits on your desk, runs on the power of steam. It's extremely loud, but it does create enough voltage, continuous five-voltage charge, to charge an iPod.
>> Natalie: This is actual steam though, not like a Molly rant.
>> Molly: Oh yeah. Nope, real totally steam.
>> Tom: Although I bet you could power an iPod with Molly's rant.
>> Molly: ...make everything kind of damp. That's my concern about all these steam-powered gadgets.
>> Tom: It doesn't put out steam. It just uses the steam to power itself.
>> Molly: Alright.
>> Natalie: So you can't give yourself a USB-powered facial.
>> Molly: I know. I hate that part.
>> Tom: What I don't know about this thing
is how you get the fire going to make the steam. Is it just electrical? 'Cause then that kind of, you know.
>> Molly: It does look like scary blue, you know, what's that tool that -- I don't know. It looks scary and hot.
>> Tom: Scary and hot.
>> Molly: And dangerous.
>> Tom: Just like we like our gadgets.
>> Natalie: Speaking of scary and hot.
>> Tom: Are you calling our next voice mailer scary and hot?
>> Natalie: No, I'm calling the subject scary and hot, because he would like to know what is that scary and hot thing in the New York City podcast studio?
[ Silence ]
>> Molly: Oh. Burley steals your audio.
>> Natalie: Okay. No, we can --
>> Kevin: I have a random question.
>> Tom: Start it over.
>> Molly: Yeah, start it over.
>> Kevin: Hi, this is Kevin from Reno and I just have a random question. I -- what is that face on Natalie's feed as, whenever you cut to her on the left hand side of the screen, there appears to be someone's head or face sitting up on the screen. And I just had to ask that question. Thank you. Bye.
>> Tom: Yes. Yes, we could hear that.
>> Molly: Yeah, we could hear it.
>> Natalie: Oh, I didn't hear it and I don't think anyone else in the chat room heard it.
>> Molly: Oh, alright.
>> Natalie: So let's just paraphrase. What he was asking is, what is that scary face that's in the New York City podcast studio up on the control board. And it is a mask of the one and only Jeff Bagelar [phonetic]. I think they created that because they wanted to do a noc with them wearing masks of their own face or something ridiculous. A noc is the videos that we have when you go to cnettv.com and we tell you what's new on CNet. So that face just lives there.
>> Tom: And sadly, you're not at the studio today; you're at the CBS broadcast center, so you cannot show it off in this video. You'll have to look at yesterday -- or Friday's video or tomorrow's video to find it. But you did. I don't know if you realize this, but you did call Bagelar hot there.
>> Natalie: I did call him scary and hot. Yeah.
>> Molly: He, you know?
>> Tom: Well, the scary is the disembodied head aspect. That's not his fault.
>> Molly: Some guys are like hot in a scary way. I'm not saying it's Jeff Bagelar, I'm not saying anything about that. I'm just saying some guys are.
[ Laughter ]
>> You know, most of us at CNet New York are probably a little bit of, some variant of scary and hot. Some more scary than hot.
[ Laughter ]
Let's move onto the emails.
>> Tom: We'll check our notes with Jason once he gets back. "So who is scary and who is hot?"
>> Molly: "Who's scary and who's hot?"
>> Natalie: I'll give you a diagram later and put everyone on the spectrum.
>> Tom: Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike wrote in and said, "Regarding your comments about the SF fiber cut on Friday, sure, I can provide some information for you." He was a lineman for the county, I'm guessing, for five years at a nameless communication company that starts with Q. Well, that shouldn't be too hard to guess. And we'll include his whole email in the show notes, but essentially, he sketches out how all the cables that are laid for Telcos are under air pressure. And so this is meant really to keep the water out. But it also allows monitoring so that they know when the air pressure goes down whether a cable has been affected or not, and he even says when they had to go out on maintenance calls, they had to let him know, "Hey, we're gonna be cutting this cable here, we're gonna be working on this cable, so the pressure will go down; ignore the alarms." Believe it or not, the cables are under ten to twelve pounds per square inch of pressure. Your car tire's about 30 PSI. So the question remains, after all this great information from Mike, thank you very much, how did they not know that the cable was cut, or where to find it, or did it just take a while to fix it? Didn't know exactly where it was.
>> Molly: Maybe that's what -- 'cause it seemed like it would've been obvious that it was cut right away.
>> Tom: Yeah, based on this. And it would be awfully hard to cut. So this wasn't an accidental like, "Oh, I was digging in my yard and I accidentally cut the fiber optic cable that slashed all of South Bay off."
>> Molly: Sabatoge. I guess if you were digging with a big machine.
>> Tom: Backhoe. Something like that.
>> Molly: Steve from Florida writes in, said, "I'm actually kind of excited to do my first [inaudible] actually. In episode 50, you talked about how Amazon has started to sell Xbox Live codes to redeem Xbox games that are served over Xbox Live." Tom, that was a lot of Xbox in one sentence.
>> Tom: Xbox, Xbox.
>> Molly: "Tom had mentioned that this method seemed clunky, since it would require you to enter the code for your Xbox in every purchase. Well, actually you can redeem your marketplace code online via the xbox.com website and it pushes the contents of your Xbox once it launches." Yeah.
>> Tom: I can't believe I didn't think of that.
>> Molly: Had I been here, I could've helped you out though.
>> Tom: You say that now.
>> Molly: I might have forgotten at the time.
>> Tom: I totally forgot about it. But yeah, so you can cut and paste. It's still clunky, but it's not as bad as writing it down on a piece of paper and taking it home with you or whatever. Okay. Thanks, Steve.
>> Natalie: And Ben in Rochester, New York, says, "For $150 for Time Warner Cable's unlimited plan is not the answer. You can upgrade to a Business Class connection, no caps, and pay a lot less. Only problem is then there is a contract. The benefit of being that there is an SLA teleworker plan, 10 megabits per second down, 1.5 up, $79.95 a month for 24 to 36 months, no installation fee, no caps."
>> Tom: Yeah, so you get -- SLA stands for service level agreement for those out there who don't know, which means you actually get better service on that. And it's actually only $5 more a month than the top level, but you only pay $80 a month. Whereas the top level of the one Time Warner is suggesting, you would continue up to $150 a month the more you went over and there's no cap.
>> Molly: And we talked about this one. Comcast for instance instituted their caps too, that you should get their business plan too.
>> Tom: So maybe we should just all move to business class.
>> Molly: Also everyone should get the Costco business card, I mean really. Be a business Betty; that's the way to live.
>> Tom: You're going for the, let's all incorporate and be a nation of entrepreneurs?
>> Molly: Yeah. I am my own business. It's the only way to fly? I mean, really, this could apply to a surprising number of things.
>> Tom: Seriously. For real.
>> Molly: Yeah.
>> Tom: Alright. Tom Marett, Inc.
You can find all kinds of great podcasts at CNet by the way. Gadgettes, we never plug it enough.
>> Molly: I know!
>> Tom: It's a fantastic podcast that you can watch live on Thursdays, right?
>> Molly: Yep, live on Thursdays. It's kinda like the 404 but with ladies. As the main hosts, I mean. It's a slightly but not significantly more ladylike version of the 404, except that it's totally focused on gadgets. It's myself, Kelly Morrison and Jason Howell, who talks a lot in Gadgettes, actually. Like even more than Buzz, so.
>> Tom: That's 'cause he's drunk by that time.
>> Molly: He's usually pretty drunk, yeah. It's a good show.
>> Tom: He's a talker.
>> Molly: Yeah, you would like it: gadgettes.cnet.com.
>> Tom: Gadgettes.cnet.com. 'Course podcast.cnet.com for all the rest of the CNet podcasts, and bol.cnet.com if you want to find everything about this show. All the links, all the things you need to know, the phone number, email address, it's all in one place: bol.cnet.com.
>> Molly: Bye, everyone.
>> Natalie: See you tomorrow.
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