Back in the 1950’s Mao Zedong and his commie cronies came up with a big ol’ plan to turn China from a land of poor people with poor quality of life, to a modern society, industrial leader and world power. It was dubbed the Great Leap Forward. This is MacTalk’s Great Leap Forward.
MacTalk is nothing at all like how I imagine it in my mind. Not even close. Sure, it’s okay, but I’m never happy with the way it looks, or how it works. I guess this is a good thing, to keep on pursuing perfection, or something like that. Like Mao Zedong, who I presume was pretty rapt he started the PRC, but knew in his mind China could do better. Unlike Mao, my laziness, or a new videogame, usually gets in the way of following through with these ideologies.
This post is all about planning what MacTalk will be doing for the next year. Adrian and I (the dude who owns the other half of MacTalk Media Pty Ltd) have gone over how MacTalk went financially in the past year. We met our modest aims (just), which is encouraging! But of course, nothing is complete. There’s still so much I want to do with MacTalk.
MacTalk (currently) breaks down into 4 sections:
- Blog - the front page, articles, reviews, news and so on
- Forums - that place where people get into pointless arguments over trivial stuff
- Podcast - Can Touch This, MacTalk Interviews & MacTalk Podcast - plus some new stuff like video
- Wiki - not properly launched yet, but it’s there and it needs me to put some effort in
This structure isn’t changing any time soon. I don’t think I’ll have the time, or the concentration span to work on anything new I have planned that falls out of those 4 sections. Plus keeping these 4 sections gives me and the rest of the people that contribute to MacTalk a place to focus, with enough diversity to do something else when I get bored of one area.
But anyways, enough waffling, this is a list what I want to achieve on each section of MacTalk in the coming months. Mainly for my own reference, and plus for strangers out there to read and go “hmm, I think I could help with that - maybe I should contact Anthony” or, “I have an idea that would slide right in there, let me contact Anthony” or, “look, that is really retarded, I should contact Anthony to warn him about the impending stress and ultimate failure he is about to experience” - what I’m trying to say is that sharing is caring. Getting it out of my head and out there runs the risk of the ideas being stolen, but it also means I get the benefit of others. In either case, we’ll see how it turns out.
P.S: please don’t steal my ideas.
A product review at least once a week. This is quite easy - getting stuff is just a matter of emailing whoever has it and chances are we can get one. It’s a nice difference to about 2 years ago when our emails for review gear were ignored. Now I’m flooded with stuff and have a mini-army of reviewers (hello Raj, Andy and Athol)
Mac app reviews. Our roots! The Mac! Remember that guy? There’s a severe lack of Mac love on the blog. It’d be good to have a review of a Mac app every fortnight or so up on the blog. There’s some really shit hot stuff out there that is lost in all this App Store excitement.
Set up a writing fund. Content stuff doesn’t come for free! I want to put away a sum of money per month (maybe $300-500 for now) and dedicate that to paying dudes to write tutorials and longer form articles that require research etc. Reviews I don’t think are worth paying for to be honest - most people get a kick out of playing with new gear and get to keep the odd bit here and there which makes it worth their while. Plus reviews are generally pretty easy to write (what does it do & how much does it cost? what’s the packaging like? what’s the initial out of box impression? what’s the next impressions after using it for a few days/weeks? what’s wrong with it that should be fixed? what else is out there in the market? where do you buy it from? should you buy it or not?)
Tutorials. This is what makes great Google juice. Problem is, they’re the hardest things to write. Lots of screenshots, lots of details - takes a lot of time. But together with the writing fund, plus a general kick in the pants for yours truly, it should happen and will be wonderful. If you have any ideas for tutorials MacTalk should write, contact me.
Weekly opinion pieces. Get some “celebrity” type Apple lovers, or people who are expert in their fields to write pieces about any topic they please. I wanna know what these dudes have to say.
More experiments. I liked that experiment I did with no Apple gear for a week. It wasn’t read much, but those who did read it, seemed to enjoy it. I’ve got a few more ideas for things I could do and write about.
Cover more AU-related Apple news. This is what we really should be doing. Covering the AU Apple news beat. Even if it’s just rehashing what’s already been written on other sites, we should really be covering it. There’s not a lot of it, so you really gotta keep an ear out.
Weekly Q&A - “Ask MacTalk”. Get people to email us questions they want answered related to Apple or tech in general. There’s not a lot that would stump me, or if it does, I can rope in someone who does know to write it. And if I don’t know it, I can research and learn - the best type of learning IMHO.
Update of Rules. Exocet has been awesome and been doing this. They shall go live very soon and you will all listen to them and treat them like Moses bringing those stones down from Mount Sinai.
vBulletin 4. Newism will be making a proper theme based off the current design that will suit vBulletin 4. Our blog will also transition to vBulletin 4’s new CMS, which is pretty awesome and a better fit for MacTalk than Wordpress. It will look pretty much like what you have now, just tidier, particularly the forums.
Photo Gallery. A place for those “here’s my desktop” shots. I like perving at people’s desks, so this will be a nice way to do it. Kinda like OCAU’s PCDB, but built into vBulletin and part of the forums. Can also house project pics, or general random pictures of Apple related stuff. Whatever - we have plenty of bandwidth and plenty of server grunt.
Facebook support. There’s a plugin for vBulletin that lets you log in and register via Facebook, instead of a vBulletin account. Mainly so people who want to post on MacTalk don’t need to register and those that do link their accounts, can pimp their MacTalk posts on their Facebook pages and so on.
Forum donator program. Dudes want to support MacTalk. Some do it via contributing content, or helping me out with things. Some do it by telling their friends. But some people want to give us money and I’d be dumb not to make it easy to take that money and to give something in return for it. It’s basically an extension of the podcast subscriber thing (which I ended today to make way for this). You basically get a bunch of perks on the forums, plus some bonus content emailed to you in return for $5-10/month. Oh, you get a little star next to your username too!
Ability to change your own username for a fee. Just like what Something Awful does. $10 as a once off fee to change your username. Mainly because it’s a pain in the arse, rather than to make money.
Tapatalk & native forum iPhone skin. Lots of dudes love using their iPhones and iPod touches to use the forums. I gotta pimp Tapatalk some more to let people know it’s there and with vBulletin 4.0, get Newism to make a dedicated iPhone skin for those who don’t want to buy Tapatalk/casual users.
More social, more “getting to know you” type stuff. I must admit, MacTalk is a pretty close knit community. I think I’ve met almost every regular Melbourne based MacTalker, and consider all of them (except for some really annoying dudes) friends. But that probably only happened because I run the place. It’d be good to have a bit more sharing and inter-personal stuff. I don’t know how to do that, but it’d be good. We are people behind these keyboards and usernames!
More MacTalk Interviews. I really let this slip, mainly because I’m horrible at it. Have you listened back to those interviews? They’re awful. Would really like someone else to do them instead of me, but no-one answered my call out. It’s also hard to find relevant and interesting guests that aren’t looking to use it as a venue to promote their shit. So it looks like I will keep them going (as it’s something I would really want if I wasn’t the dude running MacTalk). I need to make a list of 10-20 people I want to interview and get dates and times set.
More giveaways on the two podcasts. People loved the iTunes cards to recommend an app on Can Touch This. That’s coming back. We can also arrange prizes for the MacTalk Podcast. Dunno how to give them away though. Might have to bring back the voicemail for that. Either way, prizes. I think people like prizes. Disappoints me that it takes something as futile as a prize to get people to pay attention, but whatever, that’s life.
Livestream the MacTalk Podcast better. I think we can make the podcast a better experience for those watching it live. More interaction with the audience and the camera, plus using Livestream perhaps instead of uStream, as Livestream can go direct onto an iPhone with no extra software (how awesome). I’m not sure how exactly we can class it up and make it a nicer experience for those listening live, but between the 4 of us, I’m sure we can think of something
Screencasts. Been wanting to do this for ages, but honestly don’t want to do it myself. Had a few interested parties, but it’s tough work to do for free. Just showing how to do stuff in OS X & app reviews and how to do stuff in certain apps and general app tutorials. What I want to do is get people like Xero & CompNow to get their staff to do the screencasts. Why? Because they know what they’re on about and this can prove to people that yes, they’re not just sales bimbos, they do live and breathe Mac and iPhone.Plus they’ll do it for free because they can use it as a marketing vehicle as well (logos at the start & finish and in the blog post, as well as a mention at the end of the screencast like “if you liked that, come visit me at Xero in Carlton and we can chat more!”
Video review podcast. A weekly podcast of gear reviews. In video. It could work. Also a video iPhone app podcast would be good too. So you can watch the apps being used instead of just hearing about them. I don’t think a MacTalk TV show would work too well, as I don’t have the time, skill or creativity to do that, but something as simple as pointing a camera at someone while they talk about some products is easy and I think would be enjoyable.
Actually do it. Like I said earlier, it’s almost done, just needs a bit work and will be up before the end of the year. All I really have to do is pop in a barebones structure, set some rules, make sure the vb - mediawiki auth is working and get it themed.
Mobile Wiki Theme. Make it work on an iPhone nice and smooth - dudes like that shit.
Promote Content Creation Via Prizes. Give out stuff (prizes from sponsors, iTunes cards, MacTalk stickers and badges and shit) as incentives to pick the low hanging fruit for wiki content.
Hold Bounties for Creating Certain Articles. Some stuff is long and boring to write, so maybe place like, a $200 bounty on something if it’s written (e.g: a long entry on ripping DVDs on Mac OS X).
OTHER RANDOM STUFF
MacTalk Newsletter. A weekly email newsletter sent out summarising what went on during the week on MT. Just to keep those who aren’t on the site 24/7 up to date with the latest.
AU iPhone FAQ. This was a really popular article and would cut down on a lot of questions being asked over and over. Is best suited to the wiki. But I should start writing it ASAP.
Regular MacTalk Meet Ups in every capital city. Would be nice to have one every couple of months at least, instead of this sporadic style we have now. Even monthly would be good. Have one person who is the head honcho of each state, give them a budget for activities/whatever and hopefully every state gets a regular MacTalk meet up every month, even if it’s just “I’ll be in this pub, at this time, so look for the dude in an Apple hat and we’ll drink up together reminiscing about the good old days before Windows users flooded to the Mac” - it will be good.
Official MacTalk IRC Channel. We’re nerds, so there has to be one. Coming very soon as it’s quite easy.
Print stuff. I like print. There’s something about paper and ink and staples that I like. To reach a lot of people, you need to go into their hands as they aren’t finding MacTalk via the net. I want to do a magazine again, but not really a magazine. I’ve had so many ideas for what a magazine can take. Right now I’m thinking of making a small 8-12 page mag about the app store, featuring apps I like. Print out 10,000 copies and just leave them around and give them out like how I did with my first attempt at a magazine.
Flyers to give to sponsors/online stores to include in shipments to pimp MacTalk. An A5 flyer designed to entice people to come and visit MacTalk. To let people know we exist. You can get 50,000 A5 single sided colour flyers printed for under $1,000. Also do something similar on 90x50mm business cards that I can hand out to professionals/sales types etc. to be evangelists. Give out the cards to people you think might be interested in MacTalk.
MacTalk Merchandise. T-shirts, mouse mats, keyrings etc. - just shit dudes have been asking me for over the years. I think t-shirts or caps or something would be best. I reckon hoodies would be useful for winter and I’d actually wear it (if it comes in 9XL lol amirite).
So that’s my brain dump - there’s gaps and not a lot of detail and each thing needs to be tackled individually and I probably need to get actual proper staff that I pay a wage and shit (who wants to come work for me for minimum wage?!), but that’s what I’ve been thinking about and that’s the sort of direction I want to take MacTalk in. Feel free to contact me if you have any ideas, tips, comments, offers, warnings and arranged marriages.
Let’s hope MacTalk’s Great Leap Forward doesn’t end up like China’s and result in millions dying of famine, the plan ending up regarded as a disaster and the actions of a delusional leader that once knew what he was doing and was revered, but aimed too high and fucked it all up.
Blur - Trailerpark. It’s on the album 13. Seriously dudes, get this album. It’s been a favourite of mine since I was in high school. But anyways. The line, droned over and over in this song: I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones. Amen brother Albarn. I too lost my girl to the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones didn’t steal your girl Anthony, jeez! Chances are they don’t even listen to the Rolling Stones, let alone seduce them with their old man rock antics.Yeah, I know that shitbird. Let me explain! Fuck… The Rolling Stones are cool right? They’re bad-ass, they’re womanisers, they can play that guitar like no tomorrow, they’re good looking, they’ve got long hair, they do drugs (‘cause drugs are cool) and they’re rebellious. Everything I am not. So when Damon sings, “I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones”, he’s singing about all the girls who have looked him over because he just isn’t as cool as that son of a bitch she is with, but wish you were and never will be. Not the actual Rolling Stones (Brown Sugar baby). I feel your pain comrade. Fuck the Rolling Stones.Also, when down, “No Distance Left to Run” would normally be the go-to track, however, because I am a jealous motherfucker, I prefer to blame others for my failings, so Trailerpark it is.
I am a media whore. I want to watch everything, listen to everything. BitTorrent, Usenet, file sharing forums all let me dive right in to the flowing river of delicious content and rub my body all over it’s digital goodness. Mmmm.
Without this sort of access to the stuff I crave, being limited by what is portioned out to me on commercial TV, or what is sold in a store, I would be a very different person. All those songs I listen to, all those things I watch, make up part of who I am. That’s how important this stuff is to me - it makes up part of my core being.
It probably sounds like I’m just a cheapskate who likes to infringe on intellectual property, but that’s not true. I really do want to support, as much as I financially can, the creators of the media I so lovingly enjoy. Unfortunately, backwards and old-fashioned media companies, won’t let me do it on my terms and because of that, are literally missing out on money.
The iTunes store is as close as it gets for what I want right now. It’s easy to use, has the least intrusive DRM and of course, works on all my Macs and iPods and iPhones. But it’s far from perfect. There are five things, that I think the media companies should do that will end 90% of the piracy of their content and in turn, stop them all from dying out, and for us to rely on dickheads on YouTube being our main source of entertainment.
Step 1 - I’m Australian, Speak English and Have Money!
I live in Australia and because of this, media companies think I’m a retarded gimp with a finger up my arse who doesn’t notice it when there’s only season 1 and 5 of The Wire up on the iTunes store, or that an album is available on the US store, but not on the AU store.
I might be able to understand if I was in a non-English speaking company and content had to be regionalised - but Australians don’t need US content translated or modified.
For music, there should really be a single iTunes store. All the content from all over the world is available to purchase in your local currency. Sure, keep on promoting what you’re promoting, but if I want to give you money for some unheard Japanese act, why won’t you let me?! Instead, I turn to BitTorrent, where it exists and with no region restrictions.
For movies, there is this wonderful technology called subtitles. I am not afraid of them. In fact, I prefer them versus overdubbing with shitty voice acting. If there’s a movie from overseas, that’s hasn’t got English audio - slap on some subtitles and sell it to me.
For TV shows, just because it hasn’t aired here who cares? I want to give you money, directly, to watch the shows the networks don’t pick up. If it’s yet to air here, I don’t care again, I want to give you money to watch it ASAP. If it’s a show in the UK, that might only make sense to those in the UK, I don’t care! If I want to watch it, I want to watch it and I want to give you my money to do so.
The Internet doesn’t have country boundaries. What is known in the US, or UK doesn’t just stay there, it’s spread instantly around the world. The media you’re serving up locally, is available globally, you just have to click the button to let me watch or listen to it. Do that and I bet there will be large amounts of money from people overseas that you didn’t’ even have to market to, or tailor it for. Instead of an audience of 400 million, it’s 6 billion! (or however many people use the Internet these days).
Step 2 - Keep Your Margins, But Reduce the Pricing
When I say reducing pricing, I don’t mind slash it to be virtually free. I’m just saying, don’t charge me $16.99 for an album, when I can go to a retail store, pick up the same album for less. You don’t have to physically make the CD, or the cover, or print the liner notes. You don’t have the store them in a warehouse, or deliver them to the store either. Sure, bandwidth ain’t free, but damn, it’s gotta be cents vs. dollars for the creation of a physical album.
Same goes for a DVD/Blu-Ray. The DVD contains a 2nd disc of extras, is higher quality, still has to be manufactured and shipped, yet is still the same price, or less, than a digital download which is of inferior quality and has no special features at all.
So when you go to decide the pricing on the latest digital downloads, don’t go “ok, the RRP of the CD is this much, that’s what we will charge” - instead it should be “ok, the bandwidth & support is this much and the usual margin we make on an album is this much - let’s charge that”.
I also really, really want a subscription based service. Sure, buying everything is fine and it works for a lot of people, but not me. I want to keep paying for the rest of my life. I’m never going to ease up on listening to music or watching TV or movies. If I could have on-demand access to a large library of media, I’d happy pay $200+ for it. Shit, Foxtel is close to $150 for all the channels and a PVR in HD. $200 would be a bargain for every TV shows, movie or album ever made, on demand. Offer it in packages, just like Foxtel, so people can choose what they want to spend. Or don’t even make people subscribe. Have out-right purchases *and* subscriptions. That way everyone gets what they want. Even chuck in (optional) ads if it means the price can be lowered to rope more people in. People are cheapskates remember.
Step 3 - Bump Up The Quality
With audio, this isn’t really an issue. Me and some other nerds would like Apple Lossless as an option, but 256K AAC is fine. It’d be nice to have surround sound albums though. You haven’t lived until you’ve hear Brothers in Arms in 5.1!
Video however, leaves a lot to be desired. I can get *awesome* quality rips of movies and TV shows, which have been encoded by dudes in their bedrooms. The trailers Apple puts up on the QuickTime site look amazing. Yet I go to download a movie off iTunes and well, it looks shit compared to a BluRay or sometimes, even a DVD.
With such high ownership of 720p+ TV’s - it’s time to concentrate on the output quality of the content being produced. Sure, the file size will be bigger, but that leads me to the next step.
Step 4 - Bandwidth & Storage
All this media puts a drain on our crappy download quotas here in Australia. iiNet are doing well by being able to claim that all purchases via the iTunes store don’t count towards your quota. I’d like to see more ISPs do this. When you’re streaming 4-8GB movies every now and then, plus your regular TV, that 20GB limit disappears quickly. That said, I’m also in favour of a “user-pays” ISP, that charges a base service provider fee with no included data, then charges you for bandwidth in the range of cents per gigabyte. Like how you pay for water, gas or electricity. That’s a whole other debate though..
You know that 30TB server I have? I don’t really like it. I’d much prefer it if all my content was hosted in a proper datacenter, by someone that knows what they’re doing. I can then just access it whenever I want over the Internet, knowing whatever I have purchased is there for me, on demand.
Right now, if I delete a song from my iTunes library, that I purchased off iTunes and didn’t back up. It’s gone. What the fuck is up with that? Why don’t they let me re-download it? It hasn’t even got DRM on it. Let me re-download it whenever I want! The file is already sitting there on a server, just let me download it. That is the biggest benefit of digital - unlimited copies with no quality loss.
Step 5 - Depth of Content
I want to see everything. Dump your archives on the Internet. Someone out there wants to pay for it. Give it to them! Imagine all the TV shows the ABC has that are not online. All this original Australian output that no-one is seeing because it’s not (and rightfully so) on free to air TV, could have a revival by being placed online and able to purchase at a reasonable price. Right now, it’s all rotting away in some store room, earning sweet fuck all. Put it on the Internet, sell it and bam - cash flow. Even if not for the cash, at least for the purposes of history!
All the record companies have the same issue. Artist back catalogs that are sitting in warehouses, not available for record stores to order. Digitise it, put it online, sell it and you’ll earn money. But movies are probably the worst of the lot. So many films literally rotting away that should be digitised and put online so that people can watch them and studios be paid.
This is ultimately, my biggest issue with legit downloading - the stuff I wanna see or hear just isn’t available online (I even find this issue with illegal sources).
You fire up your AppleTV. Go to the iTunes store. Select a TV show you want to watch. Every TV show, ever made, anywhere in the world, is available. There’s recommendations for you based on what you’ve enjoyed before. There’s stupidly fine grained tagging, categories, synopsises, cover art, trailers & samples, favourites and lists and bookmarks and friends recommendations. You pick the show you want to see and it starts playing, in glorious 1080p HD with 5.1 sound, as good as Blu-Ray streamed over the Internet, without worrying about bandwidth as your ISP doesn’t meter iTunes store content and you have QoS on your router so other internet activities aren’t impacted.
On your Mac, you load iTunes and want to put some more music on your iPhone. Go into the iTunes store and there’s every album, ever made. Available in Apple Lossless, 256k AAC or 128k HE-AAC. Just select what music you want, copy it on your iPod and away you go.
That is what I want. I want to be able to stop this crazy hunting and searching and downloading. I want to be 100% sure that the content I’m watching is what the creators intended us to see and that it’s correctly meta-tagged and in the best quality available. I want to be able to access it anywhere, at any time - without needing to invest in massive hard drives to back it all up myself. I want stuff that is made in Sweden, or Germany, or Japan, or Hong Kong.
There’s boatloads of money in this for everyone - people don’t mind paying for entertainment. Some don’t and never will, that’s always been the case (VHS and cassette tape bootlegs anyone?), but if you build something so impressive people will use it. You just have to give them a reason to.