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It's been a slow few weeks in Wi-Fi and wireless land; that should change this week: The holidays were quiet, but both the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Macworld Conference & Expo happen this week, and we'll see some action. I'll be at Macworld starting tomorrow evening; Apple might pull out a surprise. At CES, we're likely to see quite a lot of gadgets and home-networking servers.
Michael Arrington is planning to lie to press relations folks: Over at TechCrunch, a site I read in sick fascination, founder Arrington says that he's tired of the inconsistency that's resulted from embargoes, and will no longer honor them. Embargoes, delays in the release of news, are used by firms that want to have go out simultaneously about some new product or service or company change.
Reporters typically are asked if they'll agree to an embargo and not write about a given company topic until a specific date and time. In exchange, we are typically offered briefings (one or more) with product managers and executives, sometimes provided hardware or software to test in advance, and the opportunity to reflect and write something that isn't produced in the heat of the moment after an announcement is made.
Some people break embargoes, usually unintentionally, where a story in a content-management system is timed to go live at a given time, but the system errs or the wrong date and time is entered. I have never knowingly broken an embargo, but I have made an error a couple times in posting a story prematurely.
Arrington points out, pretty accurately, that because some PR folks are becoming a bit desperate, and are often blasting out thousands of emails about embargoed items to reporters and bloggers they don't know, that embargoes are being broken all the time.
He notes, "...when an embargo is broken[, it] means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact that they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear - sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first."
I often receive emails with news that says it's under embargo before I've agreed to hold the news, which isn't kosher. I also hear more from PR folks I don't know at all, and thus don't know whether to trust that they will work to make other reporters and sites hold the news, too.
Frankly, as someone who is more analytical than newsy here--it's pretty hard for me to break news, and I try to take a 35,000-foot view--embargoes aren't quite as critical to me as I might write about a story hours or days after the news comes out.
And if it is a story that I've written in advance and someone else goes live, I don't hesitate to alert the PR person, and go live with my own story. If anyone breaks the embargo, we all get to, because there's no reason for anything to be withheld.
The only problem with Arrington's post is that he says he'll simply lie to press folk. I don't lie. I'll tell someone that they can tell me details and I'll honor the embargo, and I will; or that they can tell me, but I'm not going to agree to the embargo, and they can choose whether or not to tell me.
Honesty is the only policy here.
Sound off! Or, rather, sound on!
Making pollen while the sun shines: Loyal readers, I'll be taking the next week off for some serious staycationing, enjoying the variable Seattle weather, playing with the kids, and generally relaxing. I hope you are all doing the same, wherever in the world you are.
Please withhold all serious and interesting wireless news until after Labor Day, 'kay?
It's hard for me to believe this, but Wi-Fi Networking News is seven years old on Sunday, 6 April 2008: Folks, there are times when I feel a little bit aged. Turning 40 a couple weeks ago didn't give me that feeling. Have two children (1 and 3 2/3) has a bit (mostly when I'm achey from too much carrying and too little sleep). But finding that my "other child," Wi-Fi Networking News is a grand spanking seven years old has, in fact, made me stoop just a little bit.
I started Wi-Fi Networking News under the less euphonious name 802.11b Networking News back in April 2001 after spending months researching what became a front-cover article in Circuits, the then-separate tech section of The New York Times. The first post is still live, as are all the nearly 4,800 others.
(I had help: Nancy Gohring wrote part-time for WNN for a couple years when we had a bit more traffic; she took a full-time job for and still works for IDG News Service, which I am now slightly affiliated with through my new hardware regular blog at PC World.)
Since starting, I've covered extensively the growth of the hotspot market, the rise and fall and rise again of municipal networks, the change in consumer equipment from expensive and slow to cheap and fast, the growth of the enterprise market, the phoenix-like in-flight calling/broadband market, and, more recently, cellular and WiMax technology.
Enterprise coverage was once a central part of Wi-Fi Networking News, but it became clear a few years ago that as equipment was redesigned to be integral to the enterprise, that my ability cover and test gear was too limited, and the need for true enterprise experience was necessary to write about it. This disappointed a lot of enterprise readers and equipment makers who wanted me to keep writing about corporate hardware.
The focus over the last few years on municipal Wi-Fi was not just necessary--few people besides me were covering it in depth--but also represented the only significant news in the Wi-Fi world outside of the development of 802.11n/Draft N gear. It's only recently that WiMax, cellular data, spectrum auctions, and in-flight broadband have picked back up to become stories that you all want to know about--because they've become real technology you might work with. As the city-wide Wi-Fi arc played itself out, I'm covering it less because there's less of interest; it's going to become routine and the province of city CTOs and CIOs.
While writing this site, I try to have opinions, but not an agenda. I try to keep an open mind, though I do descend into cynicism, often well founded, but perhaps too readily employed. I'll try my best to keep myself honest and cheery in the years to come.
The biggest trends I expect to see develop in 2008 to 2010 are in these key areas:
Appliances. I expected 2007 to be the year that Wi-Fi was in everything: cameras, games, phones, and tchotchkes. Instead, Wi-Fi has only gradually spread, with a few gaming consoles, and many handsets and smartphones gaining or extending their use. It may be that I missed a trend: cameras in phones may become so good by 2009, that we don't need a camera with Wi-Fi at all (Wired reports today on several 5 megapixel cameraphones shown at CTIA this week). It's also likely that if WiMax gets a foothold, we'll get handhelds probably in 2009 that sport high-speed connections for all kinds of high-bandwidth purposes, like live uploading of streaming video.
Video over wireless. I look at this category as not just another instance of broadcast, like Qualcomm's MediaFLO which is really TV to the cell phone; rather, we'll see ways in which Wi-Fi, WiMax, and cellular data are used to push stored and streaming media to all sorts of devices. I look to Starbucks, Apple, and AT&T to lead the way on cached media in stores that can be filled up at local network speeds: download a full-length, HD movie in a few minutes in a Starbucks from the iTunes cache rather than 3 hours at home.
Radio over Wi-Fi. Internet radio via Wi-Fi music players seems like a trend--buying a boombox you can tune in wherever you are, or using a handheld MP3 players--but even with many devices, I don't feel a sense that it's caught on quite yet. If Apple puts Internet radio over Wi-Fi into new iPhone/iPod touch firmware, it'll likely take off; Nokia allows a third-party program for its N series for Internet radio over Wi-Fi already.
Cellular data/mobile broadband. I admit to being wrong about the potential of cell data, due to the overhype from the carriers and the horrible pricing relative to throughput and availability of the 1xRTT and GPRS systems. As cell data networks have matured into true broadband--slow, but broadband--media, the hype has lessened, disclosure has improved (no more "unlimited" usage, eh?), and the value has increased. We'll see more of the same with faster flavors of GSM networking and WiMax's deployment. The networks will become faster and cheaper and less restrictive.
For a good sense of what people are still reading on Wi-Fi Networking News, here are the titles of the top 10 articles since I switched to Google Analytics in Sept. 2006:
A few observations. Security remains key in people's minds: Security articles from 2004 are still being heavily viewed in 2008. Linksys is definitely high in people's minds for particular problems: Change the default password, buy a Linux (not VxWorks) embedded router, report problems with various models. Oddly, the wireless speakers and wireless printers articles are short stubs that are pure blog: they link to longer articles elsewhere. The Best Wi-Fi Signal Finder Yet story is 4 years old and still gets 1,000 page views a month. The invisible hand--nay, the long tail!--works in archives as it does everywhere.
Will I still be pounding away 7 years from now on this site? That seems about as unlikely as the last 7 years, which means it will probably happen. Traffic has dropped off over the years from the time in which Wi-Fi was a great (and expensive) mystery to today when there's more information and less confusion about it. As long as there are any questions to be answered, I'll keep writing.
Thanks to those who took the time to fill out the poll; I'm still reading results: If you haven't answered my poll about how you like this site and what I should cover, follow that link. I received responses from probably fewer than 1 percent of regular readers, but they were pretty enlightening. Those who chose to respond rarely pay anything or much for Wi-Fi when they're out and about, and nearly universally would like me to cover muni Wi-Fi with less attention.
You'll get your wish on both counts! Yesterday's Starbucks/AT&T deal means there's more Wi-Fi (starting in second quarter) than ever before in the U.S., at least, that's going to be free or cheap; and the implosion of the municipal Wi-Fi market means it's no longer superheated (or supercollapsed), and I'll be writing less about every city and project, and more about what works and where.
We'd like to gauge your interest in the kind of coverage that Wi-Fi Networking News offers: Tell us how you use Wi-Fi and what you think about our content by filling out the poll below.powered by Google Docs Terms of Service - Additional Terms
Don't check your monitors, wireless readers; we've gone all inverse: After six years of something close to the same color scheme on Wi-Fi Networking News (and the family of related sites), I have finally acceded to two realities. First, many readers--dozens not thousands--over the years have begged me to produce a less-dark design to improve legibility. For a while, I toyed with the ability to choose your own color scheme, or some such. But that was complex and wishy-washy. What convinced me to change to a dark-on-pale approach was (second reality) that virtually all readable news sites and blogs on the Web choose a white or off-white background with dark type. There's a reason for that.
The switch has been flipped! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Update: That's inverse, not perverse. If you're not seeing the new dark-on-light design, try emptying the cache of your browser, or hitting force reload (Alt or Option plus the Reload button in most browsers) to bring in the new styles and images.
Our new junior editor will specialize in hospital Wi-Fi: Filed from the trenches, please welcome Rex Warner Fleishman, the latest member of the reporting team of the future. Using the latest advances in medical technology, Rex has already had pictures of himself beamed to all corners of the globe through free Wi-Fi provided at the hospital from which he started his beat yesterday morning. (Mother and child are resting comfortably; postings by dad will be light for a few days.)
This is one of those Dilbert situations: if you read Wi-Fi Networking News via email and you're a Yahoo subscriber anywhere in the world, we have a problem: Okay, so I am aware that I can't notify you very easily that there's a problem when you receive these notes via email. But I just discovered via massive bounces from all Yahoo subscribers to the email version of Wi-Fi Networking News--the daily posts sent individually or as a collected digest each night--that Yahoo is using silent rejection on my email.
(Update: I was contacted by Yahoo, and they said they've tweaked their settings for my email server. Thanks!)
Despite using double opt-in methods of subscription and having received no complaints that I'm aware of from people trying to unsubscribe in the years of running the email distribution list for this site, Yahoo "deferred" every message sent to my double opted-in subscribers, did this for several days, and now has bounced all these messages.
As a matter of good Internet policy, all these subscribers accounts are now in suspension on my site to avoid any concern of sending mail after a mail server has said that the delivery has entirely failed.
Yahoo, like most large Internet companies, has little useful information about how to contact them when this kind of problem happens. If you have ideas (or work with or for Yahoo), let me or them know. In the meantime, I feel like a little part of my world has just disappeared!
You've asked for it, and here it is: I've finally created an RSS 2.0 newsfeed that combines all six blogs that I update on wireless data: the flagship Wi-Fi Networking News site you're reading here, and five others on cell data, public safety wireless, WiMax, voice over wireless LAN, and 802.11n/MIMO. This single feed will allow you to keep tabs on what's happening across these fields. None of the other blogs sees as much activity as Wi-Fi Networking News, but they each feature a specialty that seemed to crowd the "Wi-Fi" definition too much. You can subscribe to the feed by copying this link and pasting it into your newsreader; some browsers may let you simply click the link to subscribe.
Welcome the latest addition to the Wi-Fi Networking News set of sites: You might notice a small change in the list of six sites at the top of this page--WNN Europe has been replaced with Public Safety (Wireless) News. The new site will be devoted to the rapidly emerging category of gear and networks that are used for first responders: fire, police, rescue, and specialized responders. Many municipal wireless networks are already in use that operate exclusively for public safety purposes; public access doesn't exist or is a distant second item. More networks will have the dual purpose, with public safety having priority.
WNN Europe is gone but not forgotten. The archives will remain active. In the time that site has been launched, we've posted under 200 items, and it's been increasingly clear in recent months that there are few Europe-only stories, but rather stories that span other categories.
I've hired a PR firm: The folks at newly formed Mobility PR will be representing Wi-Fi Networking News, but not quite in the way you might think. Fundamentally, I get enough press. I'm a reporter. I'm quoted. It's all good. What I need is to make the site reach more people so that I can devote more resources to producing more independently reported and researched sites. That's what the folks there will help me with.
Mobility--which has a pretty funny blog already--comprises three folks, two of which I've known for a while. John Sidline was an executive with iPass, an access aggregator, who I'd met with and discussed the industry with a number of times. Melissa Burns was on the team that handled iPass for The Hoffman Agency, and I'd had many positive encounters with her as well.
I'll be careful to disclose any conflicts of interest here as I attempt to always reveal when I have a relationship with a firm or person I write about.
The experiment worked well last weekend; let's try it again: This open thread allows you to post comments on any Wi-Fi topic.
We're trying an experiment in participation: Here's an open thread in which to comment on anything Wi-Fi related. Feel free to post. It's moderated (we have too much comment spam and other problems to do otherwise) but anything germane to Wi-Fi will be posted. Enjoy.
A Wi-Fi Networking News advertiser wants your help: They're trying to figure out more about the kinds of ads they might run on our site, and if you've got about 3 minutes (my score in filling it out), follow the link and answer a few questions. I can't tell you the advertiser's name as that would skew results!
The Wi-Fi Networking News sites have been slightly redesigned: Most of you won't notice any difference, or very little, but we've redesigned our six sites to make them more compliant to Web standards. For the not-so-technically minded, one advantage of our new design is that you can print any page from browsers that support CSS styles for printing. (Try it and preview the results.)
Another advantage is that this site should work much better in portable and mobile devices, as well as display on older browsers with fewer problems. Browsers released in the last three to five years should display this site nearly as we intend. (If you see something strange, hit reload or empty your browser cache: the CSS file is named the same.)
I should also note that the various news services like Google News that appear to scrape our site instead of using an RSS feed to determine new stories now produce the correct results for what's new! Our RSS feeds continue available and unchanged from before, as well as the email lists you can subscribe to at upper left.
We've also moved the navigation among the six sites that comprise our various efforts at covering wireless data news to buttons at the top of the page below our nameplate and banner ad. Previously, we used a sidebar that contained brief snippets from the other sites, but we haven't found that people are clicking through.
Senior editor Nancy Gohring moves to IDG News Service: I bid a fond farewell to these Web pages today to Nancy Gohring, who has been the senior editor of Wi-Fi Networking News for two years, and the driving force behind WiMax Networking News and WNN Europe, as well as the three other subject-specific sites we added early this year. Nancy moved to Dublin, Ireland, around New Year with her husband when he successfully received a transfer to the European offices of his firm.
Nancy was on contract here at WNN, and I can tell you as a current freelancer, that the freelancing life has its ups and downs--and is trickier when you're six to nine hours later than the market you've been covering for a decade. Nancy's new job as one of the IDG News Service's European correspondents will allow her a greater scope of coverage and travel in her current time zone. I'll be linking regularly to her stories from our sites. (For instance, here's her first article about Kent's new broadband wireless via Telabria.)
From all of us here at WNN--that's just me, now--our best to Nancy in her new job.
We're taking a brief holiday here: We'll be back late next week with more news about wireless in general and Wi-Fi in specific while our crack staff--me and Nancy--take our continentally separate vacations. Don't do anything newsworthy while we're gone.
Apologies on multiple blank messages: We had a list glitch as we transition to a slightly revised mailing system that will handle lists for multiple blogs...you heard me, multiple blogs. More news soon, and my apologies for shipping you four empty messages.