Robert weighs in on the controversy sparked from a recent Wall Street Journal article about the messy development processes in Microsoft, and the impacts on Longhorn.
But his clarification -- that it's just the process that's broken, not the product -- doesn't engender a lot of warm fuzzy feelings, especially for those who have lived through Windows hell. It is good -- for those who plan to use their software in the future -- that they are throwing out the bad code that was created by bad processes, but there is no certainty that what comes out of the process in the future will be better.
I am personally working to keep track of what is happening in web apps, not the gargantuan integrated Office-type application suites that Microsoft is interested in. The open source stack -- that is the real challenge to Windows -- is another demonstration that swarm logic works better than centralized, top-down development approaches, in software and everywhere else.
I recently suggested that Technorati must have introduced a tweak, at the very least, in their ranking algorithm. Adam Hertz responded to an email, saying that they had, and they were about to announce it. Yesterday, he posted the following:
For URL search, we've been looking closely at how we calculate the number of links and sources pointing to a blog, and we've made some tweaks to the display to better surface recent blog activity. Technorati now displays the total number of links from blogs over the last 6 months. Up until now, we displayed a count of all links from blog homepages, which tended to weight more highly blogs that have been around for a long time, even if they have not been posting recently.
This is a big change, since formerly technorati based blog rank on those links pulled from the "front page" of the 18.5M blogs they are tracking. Obviously, different blogs vary enormously in the halflife of front page posts. At Get Real, we keep only the last 17 days of posts on the front page. Somewhere else, they might keep 10 days of posts, or the last 20 posts, or whatever. Switching to the past six months, from my viewpoint, will lead to a real improvement, where those authors with the greatest long-term impact will have higher rankings, and those who have a brief spike in readership will not immmediately shoot up in the Technorati rankings.
So, this explains why Get Real's rank shot from 3,400 to 1,559. When you dig into the additional 5+ months of posts of 18M+ bloggers that Technorati was formerly ignoring, you will find an additional 1000+ posts linking to Get Real.
What is still missing? User selection of the period of time used, and a way to select specific areas of authority. The typical query would be -- if Technorati would support this -- "show me the top 100 bloggers on the topic of "social media" based on their posts in the past 12 months". We need to open the model so that user preferences drive the searches, not some canned algorithm. And since Technorati has gone so far with tags, why not use those to determine topic?
Things are hotting up in the podosphere, although Staci@PaidContentbegs for Wired and others to please, please stop using the term 'podosphere' . I hope they don't stop, though, because I have the domain name 'podosphere.com' and we have some plans for that.
Gregory Lamb writes in today's Christian Science Monitor that we are seeing a huge explosion in the range and depth of media we are exposed to daily: We swim in an ocean of media. Many are immersed in media all the time. I have a friend who has one or more TVs on on every floor of his three floor home all the waking hours that he is there.
Using more than one medium at once
"The extent that we saw that was quite remarkable," says Michael Bloxham, a Ball State researcher who helped prepare the report, which was released Monday at a media convention in New York.
What's more, of the time spent using media, nearly one-third was spent consuming two or more forms at once, such as watching TV and surfing the Internet, or listening to music while playing a video game.
One theory the study lays to rest, Mr. Bloxham says, is that this media multitasking, which the researchers call Concurrent Media Exposure, "is the province of only the young or the tech savvy." All age groups multitask, he says, though the pairings may differ. Those over 50, for example, were more likely to combine TV viewing with newspaper reading. Younger people might listen to music while sending instant messages.
This is just another example of continuous partial attention, which I have written about a lot in the past few years. This media partial attention is often a very social activity, where people will play video games while listening to music, or with a football game on in the background. In business, we subscribe to RSS feeds, and switch back and forth between reading a report, some blog posts, and IM with a colleague.
Ken Yarmosh pinged me about an interesting format for a discussion around Web 2.0: a blogoposium. This newly minted term attempts to leverage tags (Technorati, again) as a means of concentrating a bunch of talk on a particular subject in a concentrated period of time. I think "tagposium" would be a better term, but so much for that.
I plan to tag this post, and a later offering, with the "blogoposium1" tag that Ken recommends.
So I was visiting Technorati to induce the system to spider my recent posts -- some tags were not showing up there for stories written in the past few days -- and I saw this...
... which is interesting, since that last time I looked, like last week, Get Real's rank was around 3,400. That's quite a jump, which makes me think that Technorati had been so backed up that Get Real's rank might not have been recalculated in some time. My goal, now, for 2005 is to see Get Real in the top 1000 at Technorati.
I wish Technorati would provide the actual date of the last update. The implication is that it is ten seconds old, computed at the time of the query, which is obviously not true. And while they're at it, I would like then to exploit their own tagging system better. For example, I would like to find all links to Get Real that point to pieces that are tagged "social+architecture" or the like.
In a deeply throught through piece, Tim Porter confronts the future of print journalism, based on recent announcements of reductions, and declares that newspapers as we know them are done. Is there a soft landing? It looks like no. Tim suggests that newspapers have to redefine themselves, but not just by thinning everything down:
Newspapers need to abandon the dangerous position that because they have fewer journalists they will do less of everything - resulting in thin, watery journalism across the board. Instead, they must do more of less - jettisoning some types of coverage, eliminating duplication of effort with the wires (do you need your own writer at Wimbledon, your own movie critics in regional markets?) and developing depth and expertise in a narrower range of topics chosen intentionally to connect with the local community.
Tim suggests that the localization path may be the inevitable one for newspapers. He goes on, however, to makes other statements, like "we must create journalism we can sell." His final suggestion is that journalism must evolve into "intentional" as opposed to passive jourhnalism, which can be interpreted as becoming more activitist, more involved, less objective and passive.
Too much crime? Speak out against it, don't just report it. Think cronyism in government in government is bad? Expose it, and drive those that profit from it from office.
Sounds like intentional journalism is more like gonzo, participatory, artisan journalism: ie, blogging.
Tim is right, what survices of traditional journalism -- and the platform on which it has been presented, newspapers -- will be very, very different. What remains will be some newspaperish DNA that will find its way into some part of the future social media genome. But so much of the broadcast attitude and elitist "we know better than you" principles of conventional journalism will have to be dropped, even to have a few snippets of old journalism threaded into the future genetics of journalism.
Seth Goldstein launchesd a five part series on media futures by adopting a metaphor for social medai: cellular automata. These are the game-of-life simulations that complexity theorists have used to represent the emergent order that arises from seemingly systems involving the interaction of independently operating agents, who may in fact have very simple rules to guide their behavior. The most important rules turn out to be how the agents moderate their actions based on their perceptions of what those around them are doing. As Seth points out, this interaction is through a medium -- the cellular matrix in these simulations -- and this leads to astonishingly rich effects. In the real world, he suggests we are seeing similar effects:
This would seem to be the essence of social media (props to my wife and guide Tina Sharkey for coining this years ago and registering the domain) and social computing, two memes that seem to be growing in influence. When individual decisions such as applying certain tags to pages or photos achieve a broad social consensus, then it as if these tags begin to self replicate which is the essence of automatic behavior.
The confluence of social media and social computing, which I been calling social architecture (as in the social architecture of web 2.0), is what I consider the critical meme of our day. I look forward to see where Seth plans to take this metaphorical exploration. And I was totally unaware of Tina Sharkey and her role as the coiner of "social media" -- I'd like to find the reference if anyone has one.
[Update: The mad linker points out that this piece is from March, and that Seth has completed the series... so, I intend to read them and write a longer post, then.]
Phil Wolf of Skype Journal posted
a picture of the Skype Product Roadmap that was shown to him and various independent software developers. The thing is interesting in a way, but the flap that followed -- where various Skype folks are howling about NDAs, broken trust, and so on -- is much more interesting.
Mena Trott writes about the unveiling of a next generation blogging solution that builds on the legacy of Typepad and LiveJournal, called Comet. Her mom helped in the demo at DEMO, and was awarded the coveted DEMOGod status. The demo was structured around answering the concerns that a person like her mom might have with regard to posting in a public blog:
We went through all her concerns and showed how “Comet” addresses them. First, she does have things to say — she emails me and calls me constantly. If she was just to write about the family, she’d have more than enough content. But if she was to write about the family, she’d feel uncomfortable about anyone being able to read it. Therefore, we’ve provided privacy options that let only certain groups read your content. Not only that, but we provide views from the groups she has set up in dynamically driven pages that can be organized by keywords and topics. And finally, we’ve built in aggregation in both the application and the “published” pages.
We’ve taken the stuff we’ve learned from the community features of LiveJournal and mixed them with the publishing features of Movable Type and TypePad. And we’ve made it extremely media-rich. Adding photos, audio, books and music reviews, etc... is as easy as dragging and dropping files into your posting screen.
Sounds like Comet is an attempt to answer the 'pulling together the threads' issue I have been writing about; but I think the reality is that no one vendor will really manage the creation of all the threads. Folks like Typepad will have to deal with an explosion of media types, and new, specialized forms of bloggish expression: music reviews here, movies reviews there, food posts, over yonder, vlogs somewhere else. It will be interesting to see how a horizontal blog technology, like SixApart's, fares in the fragmented and federated world that is coming.
I foresee increasing interest in specialized bloggish tools -- like Last.fm's Journal for music reviews, and Flickr for photos -- and some sort of personalized aggregation tool -- a la Netvibes -- to render a complete picture of people's many streams. Will there be a place for general purpose blogging tools, at all?
I got a pointer from Suw Charman about a Chinese-based company that intends to launch a barrage of blogs on various topics, with Chinese citizens pretending to be Americans. Basically, masquerading to get advertising revenue. The amazing part is the fact that the founders are openly blogging about the business plan, simply concealing the names of the blogs that they are running in stealth mode:
My problem with this venture is that we are exploiting a once pure medium and diluting the blogosphere with what are basically lies. To Jeff [Jeff Clark] this is a non-issue. He spent the last few years as a software engineer in China coordinating projects between american programmers and their outsourced counterparts. He trained the chinese programmers so well he was no longer needed and was offered a reduced salary or the door. To him this venture is his way to tap into a hot economic trend and avoid working for someone else his whole life. For me this is a way out of the cubicle. I’ve spent the last few years watching the clock as a financial analyst for a large credit card firm. Finding the best ways to maximize the number of clients that carry a balance was just too depressing for me. Blogs are intrinsically a blend of fact and artistry. Our product really won’t be that different.
Yes, it will be. But this sort of blog astroturfing -- artificial grassroots activities -- is bad in every way. Yes, the authors and handlers may make money, but they are faking their identities, which is morally fradulent. Readers of blogs do not in general expect that the identities of the authors are bogus: this is not fiction, after all.
I believe that as trade practices like this arise, the importance of real reputation will become ever more important, and participation in real blog networks like Corante will become the norm. Otherwise, people may believe you are astroturfing.
The New York Times Co. announced a staggering staff reduction plan Tuesday that will likely mean some 500 job loses at the company's many properties, including an expected 45 newsroom positions at The New York Times newspaper and 35 at The Boston Globe.
In a memo to staffers, company chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson wrote: "We regret that we will see many of our colleagues leave the Company; it is a painful process for all of us. We have been tested many times in our 154-year history as we are being tested now." They promised this would not impact the quality of the paper's journalism.
Microsoft is reorganizing seven divisions into three, which is being widely considered as the company preparing itself for the next war, since the battle for the desktop (as in operating system) is long over, and the next battle is looming.. Erick Schonfeld argues that is may be Ozzie Time:
Perhaps the biggest shift, though, comes with the announced retirement of Windows chief Jim Allchin (who will continue as co-president, with Johnson, of Platform Products and Services until Windows Vista ships later next year), and the rise of Ray Ozzie as chief technical officer for all three divisions. Allchin was always the biggest champion of Windows and, thus, PC-centric software. Ozzie is tasked with helping Microsoft shift to more of a Web-based software-as-a-service strategy.
Waiting five years between major revisions of Windows threatens to put Microsoft at a competitive disadvantage when Web-based software companies like Google and Salesforce.com can upgrade their software and add new features on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. If Ozzie can figure out a way to combine the power of Microsoft's PC-based applications (Windows and Office) with the flexibility and network effects of its Web-based applications (MSN), he can help Microsoft maintain its industry status as biggest dog on the porch.
Well, good luck to him. Groove never became anything more than a niche application, but it was out there *way* in advance of the new explosion in web applications. He may be the right guy at the right time, but I think he will have his hands full with the wave of innovation going on out there in the weeds, and the entrenched competitors on every front: yes, Microsoft is fighting big competitors on everyfront. In search, online music, business collaboration products, handheld devices, and their cornerstone, PC operating systems and office apps.
Many years from now analysts will look back, draw a mark on a timeline and say, Here it is, the beginning of the fall of Microsoft. But dont think for a second that MS is going to collapse in a week or two. Oh no, we couldnt be so lucky, its going to take some time. You see, much like the Roman empire, MS is going to take a while to completely crumble. And even if they do fall there is no guarantee that they wont pick themselves of up start over. Or, more likely, something different will arise from their ashes and a new company with an old name will start to compete in the market place.
But where will that mark be? When will historians peg the start of their fall? Personally, I feel it to be in about a year and a half into the future. When Longhorn comes out, and fails to be everything MS hoped it would be, that is where you can draw your line. That is where Microsoft had the chance to reassert their domination and instead they pissed their chances away. Longhorn is going to be a big disappointment to a lot of people. And when all of those people realize its time to upgrade, they might just look somewhere else.
I think the turning point goes back to Microsoft's inability to get people to upgrade to XP when it was first released. That was the first nail in the coffin.
But the coming Battle-Of-The-Stacks is really the war for everything: the entire application and communication stack. Microsoft has bet that they will win, everywhere, and invested strategic levels of their capital into that prospect. Can they survive is they lose any of the battlegrounds? Yes, Microsoft can survice if MSN loses to Google in search, and loses to Yahoo in online mail and instant messaging, and loses to Apple in music. But it can't survice if it loses some critical collection of these areas. If web-based app development based on open source (Linux + Java + MySQL + Apache) becomes the dominant base for future apps, and business collaboration and communication shifts to that platform instead of Microsoft's .Net and Office servers and applications, Microsoft is in deep yogurt. If Microsoft loses the battle for the living room -- the blackbox that connects PCs, game machines, and teleivisions together -- to Apple, or Sony, or any combination of other players, Microsoft would be gravely wounded. If iPod PDAs and phones become ubiquitous, then Microsoft's enormous investments in that sector implode. And so on. There are so many battlefields I don't know why the pundits think Microsoft can do it all.
The most likely scenario to me is that Microsoft will lose one, two, or more of these battles, and will then be a much diminished player: perhaps dominant in games, but not in cell phones; perhaps strong behind the firewall for large business (like IBM of old), but nearly non-existant in small and medium business (their initial beachhead in business, once upon a time); maybe strong on desktops, but not on servers.
Its possible that one central battlefield will become clear, and Microsoft may be able to concentrate all their energies to winning it. But such a Waterloo could play against the Napoleon that Microsoft seems to have become. Aggressive and schooled in the competitive tactics that have brought justice departments the world over after them, they may look like the smart bet. But I see them fighting against dozens of strong and highly motivated competitors -- Cisco, Apple, Sony, IBM, and so on -- so I am betting against Microsoft. Or at least I am betting that Microsoft can't win everywhere, and unless they take drastic actions -- basically ceding the battle in some of these areas before losing strategic rescources along the way -- they may lose in areas that could be won, if they concentrated their resources and investments. But I am betting on hubris, momentum, and short-sightedness, so that Microsoft will have a few big losses, and the hope to conquer the world will lead to them losing most everything.
At Emily Chang's eHub, I saw a link pointing to Writely. The basic concept of Writely is simple, and well-realized: a web-based repository of documents, each of which can be shared with other collaborators.
The documents themselves support various rich text elements, like styled text, tables, images, and so on. Every edit session is saved as a separate timestamped version, and you can open earlier versions, see what changes have been made by collaborators, and even revert to earlier versions. You can export the docs as RTF and Word formats. You can publish docs to make them accessible to specific users or to the public. Docs can be tagged, and each tag can then be used to select the corresponding subset of documents.
I encountered a small number of annoyances in the user interface -- the folks behind Writely didn't test on a Mac with Firefox, apparently -- so various elements that were highlighted wound up being impossible to see. They say they are working on a fix. Doesn't work at all on Safari. A "note" capability -- more or less a post-it that gets placed on the doc -- is in alpha, and really needs to be rejiggered to be more like a Word comment. I also can't get the RSS feed from my account to be accepted by NetVibes as valid. But otherwise the features form a great starting point for what is likely to become an instant success.
What I like about Writely is the web-centric model: the docs reside in the system, and (aside from the occasional exported doc) everything is off the desktop. The endless problems of passing docs around as email attachments are completely avoided. And the ability to push docs from a private, collaborative development to a published version for a larger group, and the then fully public. This is the usual lifecycle of many documents, like press releases, for example.
What is missing? I would like to be able to save comments with doc versions, so that collaborators could summarize changes. Other, more sophisticated capabilities -- like document templates, page headers and footers, and other page layout -- would really round out the document capabilities.
But I have switched over. I intend to use Writely aggressively -- partially to get away from the document clutter on my desktop, and partially to make all the Corante corporate docs I manage accessible to my partners.
I have actively started using a bunch of specialized web apps that provide the means to publish writing or other information. For example, I wrote recently about the reasons why Last.fm's journal is a cool place to write about music: the integration with Last.fm's music database is really great. Likewise, the integation of 43Places' geographic database with posts there is equally cool. I anticipate that dozens more of these domain-specific solutions will be rolled out, similarly integrated with specialized domain-specific databases.
Just as I was getting fed up with this mess, someone introduced me to Netvibes, which is a new Ajax web app, that attempts to provide a perhaps better MyWeb. The idea is a way to pull together your favorite RSS feeds -- like an RSS reader -- but a format more like a portal.
What I would like, though, is something different: to be able to define a Netvibes portal, pulling together all these threads of my online life, and publish it so that it is accessible to others. They don't support that yet, but I intend to start the begging and whining.
I went through a monumental change at Get Real last week. I decided to drop the dozens of categories I had been using, and to drop back into a small number of very general categories, like "events," "technology," and "corante." This is primarily motivated by my adoption of tags, starting back in March. In recent months, i have been creating more and more tags, and part of the rationale for categories had been absorbed by the tags, and the two were overlapping.
For the moment, I have continued to use Technorati as the targetted tagspace, but I hope to transition to a Corante managed tagspace in the near future. More to follow.
For me, writing without having access to the web is like trying to sing with my ears are stopped up. I have become so used to reading while writing that I find it almost impossible to write in the way I used to think normal.
Just a reminder that Greg Narain and I are kicking off a series of webcasts at 1pm ET today, called Podcastng on Windows (see here for details). The series is sponsored by GoToMeeting. Today, we start with an introduction to podcasting, and Greg will enlighten us all on his Beercasting project, which has been very successful so far.
(PS If you wrote down the codes to join the teleconference, please do not use the 'sub pin code' -- thanks!)
Infomatics has released some data on mobile phone growth for the year. Subscribers are set to jump from 335 million to 380 million this year - however, if we look at past trends, each year's "estimates" have been exceeded quite significantly, so I wouldn't be surprised to find the same going on here. Although many developed countries are nearing saturation, developing countries will push the growth, and we'll start to see more people around the world supporting 2 or more devices. Via Moore's Law
I agree that adding voice to transactions makes for richer communication and reduces friction, especially in certain types of transactions and certain national cultures. But then again, adding shipping services helps to reduce friction as well -- does that mean eBay should go out and buy FedEx? Yes, markets are conversations as Ross Mayfield reminds us, but does that mean you need to buy a phone company to participate or even orchestrate those conversations?
Pay per call lead generation models are an interesting step beyond pay per click models, at least for certain kinds of businesses. There clearly are interesting opportunities to cross market to each other's user base (one interesting statistic from the presentation -- there is only a 1% overlap in their US user base -- although this can be read both ways, as either an opportunity or a challenge).
But here are the bottom line questions:
* Is this acquisition going to improve the performance of the individual businesses in ways that either would not be possible or at least would be much more expensive without an acquisition?
* Are there any other business relationships short of acquisition that could have produced these improvements in performance?
* Will the improvement in performance be sufficient to earn an acceptable return on the very high price paid for Skype?
* Why couldn't eBay simply have licensed Skype's (or any other VoIP provider's) service and embedded it in its platform to deliver voice-enriched transactions or pay per call lead generation programs?
* Why couldn't they have negotiated cross-marketing programs to reach each other's user base?
And John does go on to suggest that as eBay begins to rethink its place in the world as more than just a big auction house, and as a competitor to media messes like Google, Yahoo, and the half of Microsoft that is online, then this may be just the initial piece of a new platform puzzle for eBay. They may be preparing to join the War of the Web Apps -- who is going to dominate as the platform and services provider of this brand new day?
With Skype they get an internet telephony play, which is also an instant messaging network. Note that Google just released their own IM product, and that Yahoo has moved aggressively in the IM/VoIP arenar recently, too.
This may be a case of eBay planning to invest much, much more than the few billion they spent on Skype. What's next to be bought, I wonder?
I spoke recently with the founder, Ofer Ben-Schachar, who suggests that we are going to drown in the flat tagspace that we are creating, and that one obvious solution is to create hierarchical aggregations of tags. He points out that we have grown used to this idea in e-commerce sites, where the class of "cameras" is broken into various makes, price ranges, or types.
I argued with him, suggesting that these domain schemas -- like the way discussions about wine naturally fall into vintage, region, country of origin, and grape -- are a general case, but that there is no way that a system like RawSugar, or a group of people, can develop such schemas for all sorts of things. Or to agree, in many cases, how these classifications work. Consider the difficulties in classifying music: what the hell do you say Broken Social Scene is? And most of the things that people fiddle around with on the web are not clearly about just one thing, or only linked to one schema.
He showed me an example of how RawSugar could provide a means to decomplexify a universe of discourse for one reasonably well-defined group: those interested in bicycling in the San Francisco area. He worked with several groups and developed a taxonomy for this universe of discourse, including tags and a hierarchical ordering of them, so that information about trails would be tagged consistently with "rides for kids," "gentle rides," "difficult rides," and so on.
My argument remains the same: I believe that that the approximation and fuzziness of tags is their true value: we don't have to be dead on, but over time, order emerges. I don't buy the idea that we need to have order imposed.
At the same time, there are hundreds, if not thousands of realms where clear-cut natural domain schemas exist: restaurants, wine, and many other examples come to mind. Even music -- leaving aside the fuzziness of music genres -- naturally has artists, labels, albums, tracks, and so on. So there may be a way that RawSugar can worm its way into the tagosphere, and provide value.
I'm not in the beta program (ahem!) yet but I would love to see what the Flockers are up to. Roland Tanglao is was raving about it back in August. An open source browser that lives and breathes social architecture.
Mapstats is one of a bunch of Ajax web apps I found through Emily Chang's eHub (and I have more of them to talk about, coming soon, like Writely). Mapstats provides a website stats capability, and displays the last 25 visitors on a Googlemap.
Very lightweight, easy to use, provides basic capabilities -- unique visitor count, page hits -- and plots that data on a graph. I love the map (go here to zoom in on where Get Real's visitors are from and what they are looking at).
I am truly amazed at the innovation that seems to be spinning out of the Ajax movement. Dozens of web apps are being conceived and spun out: people are having parties where the purpose is to dream up and then implement (in real-time) an app as a group activity. Wild stuff. There are a number of these apps that fall short (like NumSum, which I really wanted to use as a replacement for Excel, but it is too limited at the moment), but a larger and growing number of truly useful apps that have been spawned recently that are truly revolutionary, like Basecamp, and the new Last.fm release.
Over at Centrality, I wrote a post yesterday, exploring the social capital of the Gulf coast:
A recent Washington Post editorial by Joel Garreau on the heartbreaking Katrina disaster, entitled A Sad Truth: Cities Aren't Forever, starts out stating a historial truth -- that cities don't necessarily live forever -- and then winds up suggesting that New Orleans will find it difficult to bounce back from Katrina because of relatively low social capital:
In his 2000 book, "Bowling Alone," political scientist Robert Putnam measured social capital around the country -- the group cohesion that allows people to come together in times of great need to perform seemingly impossible feats together. He found some of the lowest levels in Louisiana. (More Louisianans agree with the statement "I do better than average in a fistfight" than people from almost anywhere else.) His data do not seem to be contradicted by New Orleans's murder rate, which is 10 times the national average.
Garreau sparked my curiousity, so I dug out Bowling Alone, and looked through for the salient mention of Louisiana, and discovered a much darker truth buried there...
I saw that Om Malik mentioned a new web based (Ajax) instant messaging client called meebo. Pretty neat, if you need to login on some locked down machine or one that isn't yours. But I have the same heartburn with this as I do with the other multi-headed clients -- they only support the lowest common denominator -- 1:1 text messaging -- and so you have to throw away all the better stuff to use them.
And it doesn't support Jabber, so I can't use it for the whole world.
What I hope is that these guys read the Nerdvana series I wrote, and try implementing that.
There are currently connection issues with the iChat client. We are aware of the problem and are working on it. Please expect a fix in the next few days. Thanks for your patience during our beta period.
I don't consider this to be anything other than a victory speech... We changed the whole notion of what the Public Advocate's office could be... It doesn't matter what the percentages are, we created a real debate about what the Public Advocate's office could be and we raised a lot of important ideas... In case you didn't hear, today the New York Parks Department announced that they will be giving free Wi-Fi in most of the city's parks today.
I was one of gazillions who posted yesterday about Andrew Rasiej's bid for NYC Public Advocate, and apparently Rasiej has been getting more searches at Technorati than Katrina or the Skype deal with eBay. Either this is proof of the mobbing effect of all those posts -- and the specific recommendation from Rasiej's handlers that people should "Check out what other bloggers are saying by going to http://www.technorati.com and type Rasiej into the search box." Although some hecklers are suggesting that this is a dark conspiracy at Technorati -- that they are rigging things so that the Rasiej posts are "most popular" as some sort of support for his campaign. Or maybe people are just worn down on the Katrina coverage, and are genuinely interested in a politician who seems, well, profoundly different from the norm.
The rumours were true. Skype has been sold... to eBay. At a $4.1 billion dollars, I think they've done pretty well with the sale. Probably better than anybody expected. About half of eBay's cash reserve has gone into the deal, according to Jeff Clavier.
It's an interesting acquisition, likely to cause some rumbles in the stock market and in the markets themselves for some time. Only time will tell what this pairing will truly mean, but some of the plans are already up front in the press release:
Skype, eBay and PayPal will create an unparalleled ecommerce and communications engine for buyers and sellers around the world.
“Communications is at the heart of ecommerce and community,” said Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay. “By combining the two leading ecommerce franchises, eBay and PayPal, with the leader in Internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the Net.”...
Online shopping depends on a number of factors to function well. Communications, like payments and shipping, is a critical part of this process. Skype will streamline and improve communications between buyers and sellers as it is integrated into the eBay marketplace. Buyers will gain an easy way to talk to sellers quickly and get the information they need to buy, and sellers can more easily build relationships with customers and close sales. As a result, Skype can increase the velocity of trade on eBay, especially in categories that require more involved communications such as used cars, business and industrial equipment, and high-end collectibles.
The acquisition also enables eBay and Skype to pursue entirely new lines of business. For example, in addition to eBay’s current transaction-based fees, ecommerce communications could be monetized on a pay-per-call basis through Skype. Pay-per-call communications opens up new categories of ecommerce, especially for those sectors that depend on a lead-generation model such as personal and business services, travel, new cars, and real estate. eBay’s other shopping websites — Shopping.com, Rent.com, Marktplaats.nl and Kijiji – can also benefit from the integration of Skype. - Skype Press Release
The deal truly speaks volumes about markets and convergence. We've heard that "markets are conversations" from economists for ages, and eBay truly embodies this action between the actions of buyers and sellers. Skype is that platform for communications in real time, and brings true conversations to the market, where it will play out in everything from transactions to improved buyer relations to, as Ross Mayfield notes, identity.
From a user perspective, I hope that Skype turns around from the downward growth into positive numbers. That I receive no eBay spam or embedded ads. And that the product continues to evolve for the benefit of us users.
Just because Suw is not posting heavily at Strange Attractor (see Fallow period), doesn't mean she's goofing off, as this BBC piece details: she's the co-founder of the UK-based Open Rights Group, working with folks like Cory Doctorow.
In a story with few real surprises, Steve Ballmer is alledged to have thrown a chair across a room and shouted about wanting to "f***ing bury" Eric Schmidt, of Google, after yet another senior engineer quit the company to work at Google, according toBusiness Telegrapgh:
The issue of its [Microsoft's] competitive tactics is a hot one because only a week ago Ballmer was the subject of some embarrassing publicity that speaks of the depth of rivalry between Microsoft and Google, the internet search engine giant.
According to a sworn statement, Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room when a former Microsoft engineer met him in November to discuss his intention to defect to Google.
Small wonder there were a few giggles in conference when Ballmer welcoming the competitive environment created by the open-source movement which gave birth to Linux, the free alternative operating system that nibbles at the edge of Microsoft's empires. So did he really throw a chair? He's clearly powerful enough. Ballmer insists: "I've never thrown a chair in my life."
So what about the colourful language? The engineer's affidavit alleges that Ballmer shouted: "F***ing Eric Schmidt [Google's chief executive] is a f***ing p****. I'm going to f***ing bury that guy. I have done it before, I will do it again. I'm going to f****ing kill Google."
Suddenly the body language is that of a chastened schoolboy. In the morning session, Ballmer was making points about Microsoft's persistence and tenacity at maximum decibels ("If we didn't get it right we'd keep working it and working it and working it") while punching the air.
That animation has gone now: "Did I want to keep that fellow at the company? Yes. Did I say I wanted to compete with Google? I don't know what words . . . Did he write down the exact words? I don't know. By and large I made a commitment nine years ago that I was not going to curse. I know I've had one or two transgressions in nine years, but I made that commitment to myself. Is that one of them? I don't recall."
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece (Thomas Freidman on The Power Of Networks And Blogging) digging into the issues surrounding the New York campaign of Andrew Rasiej, who is running for Public Advocate. This position is usually not front page news, but in the world of today, it certainly should be.
In that piece, I suggested that the move to public access wifi -- a key plank of Rasiej's platform -- represents the start of Politics 2.0:
The bottom-up, emergent model of social connectedness that we are making, here in the small, in the blogosphere, is like the genie getting out of the bottle. And once everyone is connected, then the blogosphere includes everyone; and then online social networks and realworld networks will increasingly be one and the same.
In the same way that pushing for free municipal wifi is an end run around entrenched interests -- the telcom and cable giants that want to charge us $60 per month for ever for so-so access to the Internet -- politicians like Rasiej see that creating a fully connected polity is an end run around the 20th Century political apparatus that now governs us. Rather than struggling to reform and revise the gridlocked system that we have -- lobbyists, political chicanery, ossified politicos, and a system more reminiscent of WWI trench warfare than a government responsive to the needs of the people -- let's hope that a batch of idealists seize the Internet as a way to leapfrog us into a new, and more connected form of political involvement.
It's not just a better form of communication -- fireside chats writ large -- but rather a step into emergent democracy, Politics 2.0, where the governance of our cities, states, and the country, will finally be directly in our hands, and not ceded to a caste of self-interested professionals to manage on our supposed behalf.
Rasiej is the start of something big. Micah Sifry pinged me, reminding me that the election is upon us; here's his recent email:
Tomorrow, people around the country who care about bringing a more
net-centric, bottom-up and transparent politics to life are turning
their attention to the New York City Democratic Primary, where
technology entrepreneur and education activist Andrew Rasiej is
competing to become the citys Public Advocate.
Its not too late to add your voice to the conversation. Check out what
other bloggers are saying by going to http://www.technorati.com and
type Rasiej into the search box.
(If we all do this between the hour of 11am and noon, eastern, who
knows, maybe well get Andrew into the Technorati top ten!)
And if you know three people who live in New York City who are
registered Democrats, give them a call and ask them to vote for Andrew.
Then ask them to each call three more people to do the same thing.
Rinse, and repeat. The turnout on Tuesday is, unfortunately, expected
to be so low that you really could sway the election.
And whatever happens, we know were making a difference by pushing new
ideas forward, and encouraging other candidates like Andrew to run in
Advocates for Rasiej
So -- a call out to all of you in New York, or who, like me, think we need to step onto a new base of civic involvement, and that the blogosphere is perhaps the only shining example for the way it might be in the future, for all of us. Please pass this along, and let your New Yorker friends and family know what could be the outcome of this otherwise pedestrian election for Public Advocate.
[Update: Here's a post from Doc Searles onj Rasiej's call for the formation of a National Tech Corps; also, a great post at Escapable Logic on the importance of municipal wifi (Wifi, The Metaphor)]
Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) will be joining us at the upcoming Corante Symposium on Social Architecture, 15 November 2005. His topic will be the impact of social architecture on media. In related news, the New York Times today announced that Jeff will be joining the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, as director of the new media program and associate professor. We couldn't have a better voice for this issue that his.
I am also pleased to announce that the Berkman Center on Internet and Society is a partner with Corante on the Symposium, which will be 15 November 2005 at the Harvard Law School, and a reception the night before.
Following a tip from JD Lasica, I took a long look at NowPublic.com, a very interesting experiment in social news gathering and dissemination.
The premise is pure swarm logic: individual contributors create news stories, and may hyperlocalize them down to the country, state, and city level, as well as adding any sort of tag that might be used to characterize them. Visitors can find leading stories through most recent or most popular views, or by searching by tags, keywords, or location. The use of tags is facilitated by the prominent provision of a tag cloud at the top of any view.
Registered users can additionally vote on new stories, increasing their popularity, and moving them to the top of the search results for key words, tags, and general popularity. In this way, the "front page" is laid out based on the collective social gestures of thousands of registered users. Note that in true blogospheric fashion, there are as many potential "front pages" as there are keywords and tags: a front page for every interest, passion, or obsession.
I signed to fool with the site, and discovered that I was user #4324, based on how my first story's url was structured. The user interface was simple, and I rapidly created the following piece, about an antiwar concert scheduled on my birthday, in DC:
I have already received 24 votes!
NowPublic provides a great level of control on the sharing of "footage" -- imagery of various sorts. I have not experimented with that element of the service, but I intend to do so.
NowPublic allows contributors to pull stories from other locations -- such as blogs -- via RSS. I set things up so that entries that I post at my personal blog, A Working Model, are now accessible for reposting at NowPublic. Here's the RSS feed selection interface:
And the resulting story, reposted from my blog:
For those not already blogging elsewhere, NowPublic provides free basic blogging, and supports RSS feeds from them. Oddly enough, blog posts are not automatically posted as stories, and importing through the RSS feeds doesn't work: NowPublic gives an error message when I try to import my NowPublic blog content as news stories (although I was able to import that feed into Feedigest, and to import the exported feed from Feeddigest). Also odd: none of the tag or rating architecture that supports news stories have been integrated in the blogging technology: there is no way that authors can tag their blog posts and readers cannot search via tag cloud, nor rate blog posts. A strange omission, perhaps intended to get folks to push their blog posts into the NowPublic news channel.
All in all, I am fascinated by what NowPublic represents, on many levels. As a student of citizen journalism, NowPublic represents a great example of the power that social architecture, well-implemented, can put into the hands of everyday people: the power to shape, channel, and make explicit the implicit dialogue that underlies news coverage. As someone tracking the adoption of social architecture, I believe that NowPublic demonstrates the key elements of all future, successful social media, in particular the primacy of emergent, bottom-up characterization by tags and the importance of aggregated social gestures -- in this case "votes". As the president of Corante, I have specific interest in the ways that social architecture principles -- like tag clouds and user ratings -- are likely to become a commonplace in the world of social media, and how quickly we at Corante should be adopting them for our own publishing.
I had a chance to speak briefly with Michael Tippett, the founder of NowPublic, and he stated that NowPublic is a work in progress, and that recent spikes in activity -- particularly around Katrina -- have accelerated plans to streamline and scale the implementation. His interest is twofold, I was glad to hear. First, to support the NowPublic website, as an interesting activity in and of itself, and as a showcase of the design elements of the NowPublic technology, and second, to license the technology to others seeking to apply it in similar ways.
I can't make a judgment on NowPublic's likely impact on conventional media, although I beleive that all media outlets will find themselves going through "social shock" in the next few years -- being redefined and reworked by social architecture. NowPublic's experiment suggests just how radical a change that may be.
Felix Miller of Audioscrobbler and Last.fm emailed me today, letting me know about the beta availability of web services accessing various things, such as the RSS feed from Last.fm Journals.
If your user name at Last.fm is "stoweboyd" (and mine is, your Journal's RSS feed is http://ws.audioscrobbler.com/1.0/user/stoweboyd/journals.rss, although it doesn't appear anywhere on the Journal pages, or the user profile info, yet.
Other information, like recently played tracks are also accessible, in various formats. Here's my recent journal entries (formatted by Feeddigest):
I just saw a rumour that eBay could be on the prowl to buy Skype. Bit of a business model shift, it would seem. The news comes out of the September 8th Wall Street Journal:
EBay Inc. is in talks to acquire Internet-telephony company Skype Technologies SA for $2 billion to $3 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, in a deal that would represent a dramatic shift in strategy for the world's largest online auction site.
The talks are in a sensitive stage and could fall apart, according to one person briefed on the matter. Luxembourg-based Skype, whose software allows consumers to make free telephone calls around the world using Internet technology, has been in active discussions with other technology companies, and none has led to a deal.
But the emergence of eBay as a suitor reveals a lot about the auction leader's growth prospects and strategy. While still dominating its field, eBay's core business is maturing, and the company is searching for new product categories and international markets. The company has made a steady string of acquisitions and investments over the last year and a half to enter markets such as rental-property listings, online classified-ad listings and comparison shopping.
Granted that its core business is maturing, I still don't see how VoIP fits into anything near a similar business strategy. From what the article notes, Skype is the only potential buy that is completely outside the eBay market - the others in shopping and classifieds at least fit the same business model.
So, this sounds like a crazy move on both parts. Don't you think?
Back in July, I read a piece by Tom Coates, called Where are all the UK start-ups? His question is interesting, sociologically, because Americans -- who he contrasts with the Brits -- seem so prone to creating start-ups.
My main question is this: Where are all the bloody start-ups? Where are the small passionate groups of creative technologists (people with clue) getting together to build web applications and public-facing products that push things forward? Where is the Blogger or Flickr or Odeo or Six Apart of the UK? What aspect of this country is it that confounds these aspirations? And I know that Audioscrobbler is wonderful. I really love it. But eventually you have to ask - is that really all we can do?
So is it a lack of money or a poverty of ambition?
A recent ChangeThis manifesto may provide some of the answers to this question. John D. Gartner has produced The Hypomanic American that suggests that Americans are naturally inclined to the euphoric, almost manic mindset of entrepreneurialism, perhaps because the frontier has selected the foolish dreamer types of the world to congregate here.
One statistic in general from the manifesto sparked this juxtapositioning of ideas:
When asked, Do you think that starting a new business is a respected occupation in your community? 91 percent of Americans said yes, as compared to 28 percent of British and 8 percent of Japanese respondents.
There you have it. If only 28 percent of British think entrepreneurial activities are likely to be respectable, guess where they are going to work? At larger, more well-established (= less risky) companies.
Coates suggests there is an antipathy in Britain between engineers and business people, and that this leads to a disconnect in their dealings. Personally, I believe there is a complete mismatch between risk-averse banker-types and risk-seeking hypomanic types. The crash-and-maybe-burn-or-maybe-strike-it-rich attitude of many entrepreneurs just runs counter to the mindset of the traditional business sort.
Gartner points out that the hypomanic temperment also leads to all sorts of risky behavior -- including sexual indiscretions -- which may account in part for the attitudes of normal folks in countries that have been exporting their foolish dreamer types for centuries. Britain may have to import hypomanics, or breed them, for a surge in new business startups to occur. Maybe its time for a BBC TV series, glamorizing some team of entrepreneurs, played by very, very beautiful people?
[PS Anyone have Tom's email address? Please email to stowe -AT- corante.com]
Mercora announced a swarm approach to getting an artist or group sent to the LA Music Awards. They will aggregate the choice of listeners... (Windows users only at the moment)... using the Mercora IM Radio application.
"It's not what you know, it's who you know." That maxim is probably at work in the recent investment of Minnesota's "largest public radio network" in Gather.com, a social networking service targeting public radio listeners. The service, to be launched in December, is meant to be a clone of the socially architected hit, MySpace:
However, Gather may be different. MySpace caters to teens and young adults and has been described as having the personality of a teenager's poster-papered, music-filled bedroom. Gather, designed for public radio's older, more sober audience, might more resemble the parents' book-lined study.
Well, we'll see. Do you really want to network with people because they listen to the same radio shows as you?
MySpace benefitted from stumbling across a real-world community with unmet needs: indie musicians and their fans. While I am an advocate for social architecture -- in fact, I believe that all ecommerce will be socialized in the future -- that doesn't mean that every marketer's segment, like public radio listeners -- are in fact a community. It's just as likely that they are a collection of unintegrated groups. My hunch is that this is a hammer looking for a nail, but I am willing to be surprised.
I am sorry to say that I won't be able to attend the upocoming Our Social World conference in Cambridge, England. Many of my favorite people are going to be there, presenting their fascinating insights, dammit. [tags: our+social+world
The folks at Technorati have introduced a new service into their mix, the Technorati Blog Finder, which is intended to help people find authoritative blogs on various topics.
Hold on a minute... isn't that what Technorati was already doing? Well, sort of. But existing services from Technorati aren't based on a persistent profile of blogs. Search just finds recent posts that include a given search term, and the Tags service finds recent posts that are tagged with the search term. The point of the Blogs service is to find blogs that are tagged -- using a different tag syntax -- as matching the search term. This is intended to be a tag-based declaration of the topics that the blog touches upon.
The Blogs service using the same algorithm for authority used to order results in Search and Tags services. In the graphic above, I searched for blogs tagged with "social media". Note the ad real estate all around.
First of all, I feel that this is a much more useful tool -- right off the bat -- than the monolithic Technorati 100 list, the Feedster 500 list, or any other all encompassing list. Finding the top 10 blogs on "social media" -- if that's what you are researching -- is much more helpful than looping through the top 100 blogs and hoping that the two lists overlap somewhere.
What I don't understand is why Technorati can't distill these lists out of Search and Tags -- why do we have to have yet another form of tag, and yet another sort of declaration?
In this case, I had to create a series of tags, like this --
-- and place it somewhere on the blog that is accessible to Technorati: in my case, on the bottom of the right margin.
Still, a useful service, so long as the Technorati servers can keep up with demand -- which apparently they cannot. When I clicked this morning on Mary Hodder's Napsterization "412 links from 295 sites" to see who had been linking to her recently, I got the now-usual Technorati runaround: "Sorry, we couldn't complete your search because we're experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute or add this search to your watchlist to track conversation."
I like the fact that the authority ranking emerges from the social gestures of many other people, but I would like to concoct a way for that to reside locally -- at each blog -- the way that comments and trackbacks do, now. It's great to be able to assert "this blog is about X, Y, and Z" in some way that allows people to find what they are looking for, but I remain concerned that all the raw data is contained within databases owned and operated by aggregators, such as Technorati. On the whole, though, I like the idea of being able to declare these assertions, and this service (if Technorati can ever solve its server load issues) looks very useful for the blogosphere.
I have been using the ClustrMaps application for just over a month, and I find that the distribution of readership for Get Real (see here) fascinating. I guess I expect to see North America and Europe -- because I personally know readers there -- but seeing the traces of people from Africa, Asia, and South America always surprises me, and reminds me what a global village we are part of. I am also amazed at what I think must be a local spike -- 60K+ readers since 24 August.
I got the chance to see what the Feedburner pro account yeilds in the way of stats. I am happy to see that Get Real's RSS subscriptions are growing, slowly, now about 612. But perhaps more interesting is finding out exactly what people are reading, and clicking through to.
It is no surprise that recent posts on Google Talk take top honors, but the level of interest around the Podcast Hotel messwas surprising. I would have imagined that longer, in depth posts -- like the one on Jeteye -- would be more widely read, but I don't know exactly what the thinking process is. Over time, I am looking to gaining a better understanding of reader behavior from monitoring the Feedburner stats.
I also learned about the beta of Mint -- a new blog stat tool -- that is ongoing. Sounds like a very interesting project:
Repeat referrers the single most useful web stat
As a previous user of both Shortstat and Refer 2.0, I get great value from perusing my list of referring URLs. For the uninitiated, this is a list of all the URLs on the web which people are clicking on to get to your site. Did MSNBC just link to a blog post of yours? Bam, its in the referrer list. Is Metafilter sending over morons to your latest iPod contest only to have them suggest Google.com as a potential greatest site youve never seen? Its in the referrer list. Or is some 16 year old kid spouting off about something he knows nothing about and then referencing you as an example? Again, its in the referrer list.
Anyone who can hook me up with access to the beta? Anyone know Mint's developer, Shaun Inman?
Paul Scrivens, who I recently met at the Blog Business Summit, has an interesting post on Being the Hype, making the case that hype can be overblown, like the boy who cried wolf, leading to negative effects: "If you continue to hype every product you release, hype will no longer be generated. This is what 37signals was doing wrong in my opinion. It's not that they are releasing a number of products or that many of them, some will argue, share the same qualities. It's that instead of just telling us that a new app will be launching next week or simply just launching it, we get a taste of our 4th product marketing speech which begins to wear on people. Apple gets hype because they don't bother hyping anything themselves. The rumor sites take care of that. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Microsoft hypes every new OS and has no chance of living up to their own hype." Amen. [tags: paul+scrivens]
I may be misrepresenting the gist of Evelyn's intentions in her recent post, Not For Everyone, but her approach to recasting her consulting services struck a resonant chord for me.
I have long held that a useful consultant has to miss big with at least 25% of potential clients, or maybe more. She quotes Henry Beckwith -- "Avoid nice." -- and Laura Cutler -- "Nice is nowhere. You do not want everyone to like what you do... You want 10 percent to love it." -- and concludes "Avoid nice. Go for remarkable."
She hasn't completely outlined what the result of this soul-searching is. My sense is that those who realize that their calling is consulting -- advising others -- have to have an epiphany at some point that includes the understanding that you can't help everybody. Some are not ready to be helped, and in some cases, there may simply be a mismatch of personalities or worldviews that makes the dynamic between the consultant and client difficult or impossible. Or, the company may be strangled in political infighting, or dominated by a unrealistic market strategy. I have seen all of these, and more.
I fire approximately half of my clients: some in the initial contact (I get dozens of folks approaching me every month seeking free advice, for example, and I weed through those for the likely ones), some in the early discussions, and some even after an engagement has started. I rig all engagements to start with an initial day of intense work, so that I can quickly take the temperature of the client -- the individuals, the company style, the politics -- and determine if there is any hope for my prospective advice to take root. If there isn't, what's the point? Aside from the fees, of course; but my true goals lie beyond.
For example, my writings about social tools and architecture have led to interesting engagements with a variety of entrepreneurial start-ups with very engaged, very interesting people. On the other hand, I have had some really agonizing work with larger, more conservative, and slow-moving companies who -- in principle -- want to gain the benefits of social media for their companies, but are unprepared for anything but the most superficial adoption of the social mindset necessary. I plan in the future to be even more active in weeding out those that I think are unlikely to undertake change necessary for progress.
So, like Evelyn, I will be characterizing my personal consulting services -- and those of Corante, as well -- as really only suited to one in ten or less. We are ready and eager to work with those who are committed to change, open to new perspectives, and poised to act. Those who are merely going through the motions, who are hoping to find a shortcut, or a way to make superficial tweaks to their business plans, technologies, or marketing programs, please don't contact me. The rest: let's talk.