"I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.” - Doc Searls
About the Author
Stowe Boyd is a well-known media subversive, and an internationally recognized authority on real-time, collaborative and social technologies. His new blog is Message.

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October 31, 2005

Multiply Gets Funding Despite Social Spam Stigma

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over a year ago, Clay Shirky and I got into a complementary blog thread about the spammish emails that social network application, Multiply, was sending out: (see The Ten Commandments of Social Networking). This interchange led to me laying out the first seven of the Ten Commandments of Social Networking, which spawned The Operating Manual for Social Tools project.

I haven't really heard a peep from Multiply since, but today got an email alerting me to their having received some investment, which is leading them to develop a Japanese version.

I haven't heard much since I dropped out of all the social networking apps... is anything happening out there, or is the bloom off the rose?

Comments (18) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Get Real Show: Interview with Rick Klau, Feedburner

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I caught up with Rick Klau, of Feedburner, and he shared his insights on the exploding market for RSS solutions, and with specific discussion around podcasting and Feedburner's direction.

This Get Real show is sponsored by GoToMeeting.

Comments (43) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Chris Nolan on The Next Vice President

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ok, I am breaking with tradition by discussing politics here, but I can't help it. Chris Nolan (who is participating at the upcomming Symposium on Social Architecture) asks, and answers, an important question:

[from Spot-On: Chris Nolan]

Who's going to be the next vice president of the United States?

My money's on Condi Rice.

Wow. That's one way to turn heads away -- at least momentarily -- from the stink emanating from the White House these days.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Politics

October 30, 2005

Get Real Only Worth $263,640.18?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Guido van Nispen alerted me to this cool Technorati applet that calculates the value of your blog:

Inspired by Tristan Louis's research into the value of each link to Weblogs Inc, I've created this little applet using Technorati's API which computes and displays your blog's worth using the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal.

My blog is worth $263,640.18.
How much is your blog worth?

But based on Get Real's Technorati rank of 1,220 (1,373 links from 500 sites), the value should be more llike $775K, based on the lowest value at Tristan's post! Must be a glitch in the calculation, or he rejiggered the value of a link way down.

So... if this metric is way off -- as Jason Calacanis makes a good case for, here, basically saying that other factors are just as, or more important that links, like traffic, demographics of readers, and so on -- Guido wants to know what should be a general metric of valuing blogs, if any?

I'm not certain that there is such a tool, although any time that a blog or blog media firm is purchased, something is going to be dreamed up. But I doubt that I could actually command thre quarters of a million for Get Real.

Comments (0) | Category: Technology

October 29, 2005

Why I Hate Sony Ericsson and Cingular

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I think it is amazingly prescient that the folks at Nokia are going to start sending me new model cell phones to review, starting next month. There must have been a disturbance in the Van Allen Belt or something, because just before they contacted me, I had resolved to post a long and bitchy post about my most recent phone, a Sony Ericsson S710a.

I love the engineering of this phone. It looks great. It takes great pictures (except for the truly stupid shutter sound that cannot be turned off, although there are three more or less aggrevating versions of the shuttle sound -- I particularly hated this feature when shooting pictures at a school play featuring my younger son, recently) and that makes up for some of the negatives, but my problems with connectivity suggest a complete breakdown in product management by Sony Ericsson and Cingular, my carrier.

This is touted as an EDGE capable phone, and I am being charged the monthly fees that would -- in principle -- allow me to use the phone for email, web access, and so on, at EDGE speeds. And, of course. I would like to be able to use the phone as a modem, as I did with its predecessor, a Sony Erricsson T367. But all of that has been a failure, for months.

Yes, the bluetooth connectivity to and from my Mac works, as it did for the T367, so I am able to move photos and other stuff (like phone call recordings!) relatively easily fromt he phone. But theconnectivity stuiff just can't get set up. Why? It looks like Cingular caan't be bothered to figure out how its offerings actually work with the phones they are selling us.

Once you buy this phone from Cingular you have to go to the Sony Ericsson website to download the settings for email, for example. In my case -- perhaps because my phone number was ported from another carrier? -- I was being sent settings for SBC instead of Cingular. These did not work. And in the case of the EDGE settings, the Cingular people at my local store did not have the faintest idea how I should proceed, aside from directing me to call their tech support staff. I tried to call several times, but the wait was always too long for me. A tech support email to Sony Ericsson received a quick response, however, but directed me to a third party hobbyist's Mac modem settings, and two+ screenfulls of directions about what I needed to do to manually set my phone up. A close reading of that hobbyist's site suggests that I would have to do even more to get anything like EDGE speeds, though. I have yet to undertake that, partly because I would still need to garner necessary infromation from Cingular to make it work. I bet this would take several days of my time. Really. Look at the instructions:

[via email]

Dear Stowe Boyd,

Thank you for contacting Sony Ericsson Online Support.

The phone can support EDGE, however we do not supply the EDGE service. If you require certain scripts to access the EDGE network, you will need to download them.

If you are unable to access your email, by using the over the air configuration tool, you may need to contact your service provider to obtain the manuel email settings for your phone.

I have included the instructions below for inputting them into your phone.

If you are unable to set-up your e-mail using the OTA (Over the Air) configurator on or through your service provider, you can manually configure using the instructions below.

- Internet account (A simple way of setting up an Internet account is to ask your service provider to send you a message that contains the required information to create an account automatically on your mobile phone)
- If you don·t have a Data account configured in your phone, please see the section, set-up a data connection, below. The additional settings needed from your service provider are listed in the section
- Service Provider/E-mail provider specific settings. Please see the section, Set-up E-mail, below
- Verify your ISP account offers POP3 or IMAP4 access.

Before you begin configuring e-mail, you need to have a data account. You can have several data accounts saved in your phone, with different settings for different purposes (for example, one for WAP and one for email). If you already have a data account in your phone, please go to the section, Set up email. If you don·t have a data account in your phone, please follow the instructions below.

When manually setting up a Data Connection, you will need the following information from your ISP or GPRS provider:
- One of the following
* APN (Access Point Name) · For a GPRS / EDGE connection
* Access Phone Number · For a GSM connection
- User ID · The user name you use to connect to your account with the provider.
- User Password · The password you use to connect to your account with the provider.
2. Highlight [EDGE DATA] or [GSM DATA], press "Select"
3. Enter the name that you want to associate with this connection and press "Continue"
4. Highlight the [APN] field (for a GPRS connection) or the [PHONE NO.] field (for a GSM connection), then press "Edit"; then fill in the information from your provider and press "OK".
5. Highlight [USER NAME], press "Edit"; then fill in the your User ID and press "OK".
6. Highlight [PASSWORD], press "Edit"; then fill in the your password and press "OK".
7. Press "Save" to complete your data connection set up.
NOTE: You can create and store several data connections in your phone.

1. Highlight the account you just created and press "Edit"
2. Select IP Address and enter the IP address for the gateway, "Save".

Please contact your service provider or e-mail provider for the following settings:
- Incoming server address (POP3 server) and port · which identifies the computer where your incoming email messages are stored.
- Outgoing server address (SMTP server) and port· which identifies the computer through which your outgoing email messages are sent.
- Email address
- Email User name
- Email Password

2. Choose [NEW ACCOUNT], press "Add"
3. Enter a name for the email account, for example Home or Office, press "OK"
5. Choose the data account that you created earlier to use with this email account
6. Choose [PROTOCOL] - POP 3 or IMAP 4. POP 3 is the most common.
7. Choose [INCOMING SERVER]. Enter the name or IP address of the service provider for incoming email messages.
8. Choose [INCOMING PORT]. If needed, change the port used by the protocol you are using.
9. Choose [ENCRYPTION] > [INCOMING SERVER] or [OUTGOING SERVER]; If you want encryption, you will be prompted for your domain.
10. Choose [MAILBOX]. Enter the username for your email account.
11. Choose [PASSWORD]. Enter a password for your email account. Your service provider will alternatively request a password on connection.
12. Choose [OUTGOING SERVER]. Enter the name or IP address of the SMTP server to be able to send email messages.
13. Choose [OUTGOING PORT]. If needed, change the port used by the SMTP protocol.
14. Choose [EMAIL ADDRESS]. Your Internet service provider supplies you with your email address.
15. Choose [DOWNLOAD]. Choose whether to receive [HEADERS & TEXT] or [HEADERS ONLY].
16. Choose [FROM NAME]. Enter your name. This will appear in outgoing email messages. This is not mandatory.
17. Choose [SIGNATURE]. Choose if you want to add a signature to your email messages. This is not mandatory.
18. Choose [COPY OUTGOING]. Choose [ON], if you want email messages sent from your phone to be sent to an additional email address of your choice. This way, your sent messages are copied and can be saved for future reference. This is not mandatory.
19. Choose [CHECK INTERVAL]. Choose how often you want the phone to connect to your email server and check for incoming email messages. This is not mandatory.

If you have both an office and a home email account, you can set one of them as default.
2. Select the account that you want to use as default.

As part of Sony Ericsson's commitment to excellent customer service, we offer a wide variety of mobile products to suit your lifestyle. If you require more information, or have any other questions, please visit our website at or call us at 1-866-766-9374

Best regards,
Your Sony Ericsson Online Support Representative
Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications

So, I am baffled. Why build all these features into the phone and the service, if the product folks can't be bothered to make them work? If it is possible for some passionate amateur to get this to work, why doesn't Sony Ericsson, Cingular, or both, license his solution and/or his advice and make something that is installable, so that I could simply register for the service, and click 'ok' a few times?

Despite the fact that the phone has many good features, I am on the prowl again. Not for a better phone, per se, but one that balances features -- yes, I need the ability to record phone calls, and I will always want a good camera in my phone -- with product integration: I need the service and the phone features to actaully meet in the middle, not leave it up to me to hack it together. Either make it downloadable, or put it in the phone to begin with. I don't want to debug the phone, I just want it to do what's advertised. But I also lust for more fuctionality. I admit it. So here's my current wislist for the dream phone:

  • 3Gish connectivity: I want to be able to connect to the web from my phone, both directly -- for IM, web browsing, email, or specialized apps -- or indirectly, as a modem for my Mac. And I would like it to be fast, please: as fast as possible.
  • Camera - At least 1.5 M pixels, plus other features. Email photos, various lighting and special effect settings. A real lens system? The S710a has a light, which is cool and good for other purposes, too. I also like the video capability of the S701a, but its too time limited -- I really need at least 30 mins -- and the ability to use an external mic. Strangely, my phone supports speaker phone capabilities (necessary!) but no way to use that when videoing (or else it is always used, and there is no way to know).
  • Bluetooth -- Truly essential for syncing and connectivity. Don't want an additional cable so Bluetooth is critical, although I would be willing to accept a cable if it did other things, like USB charging of the phone, or firewire connectivity to camera/camcorder capabilities. Also, I would like my phone to be able to play nice with my Skype or other online VoIP accounts. So when the desktop VoIP tool 'rings' it would be directed to my cell phone, if I were in Bluetooth range. And, likevice, I would be able to call out on my cell phone, directed through the VoIP solution.
  • Speaker phone - 'nuff said.
  • Geopositioning -- Never have had it, but after using my wife's GPS unit, I want it. Also would like to have geolocation associated with metadata of other media: photo, video, and audio.
  • PDA fetaures -- I make extensive use of the calendar and address book on my phone, in the obvious ways. I would like hyperlink there, so if I include a URL is an event, for example, I could click on it and open the phone browser pointing to a map, or a website, for example.
  • iTunes -- Why the hell not? My phone is much bigger than a Nano, so it seems reasobably to only lug one gizmo around. Besides, I am not using the PDA extras on my iPod at all, so that's a waste. And now that there is a video iPod there will soon be a...
  • Video iPod Phone -- All the above plus video. I like the idea of being able to not only watch video podcasts, or stream TV, but more importantly, to converse face-to-face through my phone with video just like I do through my Mac with iChat now. This is the killer feature: video phones at last!

I can dream, can't I?

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Telecommunications

Get Real Show: Lee Wilkins of

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I had the opportunity to chat with Lee Wilkins, VP Products & Strategy for, to get his take on podcast directories and what his company is trying to accomplish.

The Get Real show is sponsored by

Comments (37) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

October 27, 2005

Podcasting on Windows: Today's Show Postponed

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Due to a communications black out (Greg's cable is on the fritz), we are forced to push today's scheduled Podcasting on Windows to tomorrow, Friday 28 Oct at 1pm ET. Greg will be reviewing iTunes, Yahoo, and other directories, and I have an interview with Lee Wilkins, co-founder of Be there!

Comments (38) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

October 26, 2005

Hugh Macleod on Who Owns The Commons

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Hugh (gapingvoid) Macleod sent this along as a comment, referring to the recent post, Nicholas Carr and Om Malik on Who Owns The Commons:

Reminds me of the most bizarre moment of Les Blogs in April... when a French journo started asking Barak Berkowitz, the CEO of Six Apart what he thought his company's social responsibility should be.

"You make tools for ze people but you have no sense of ze social responsibility!!"

I'm guessing MT wasn't beholden enough to the French State and its regulations for the journo's liking.

Like, Barak should spend twenty years ticking off the social responsibilty boxes before being allowed to sell some poor Frenchman a piece of $100 software, just in case something bad happens down the road.

I dunno, the more fertile a field we plough collectively, the more people are going to try to build individual silos on it. That is human nature.

But silos are easy to knock down. Even Google is starting to show chinks in its armor.

The thing is, some people like silos. They like the comfort and status belonging to one affords to them. They're just not used to the idea of silos being vulnerable.

Comments (34) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

AIM Triton: "I AM" Campaign

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Posted by Stowe Boyd


AIM is working hard to collar the all-important youth market, and has respun the AOL tools into a Nerdvana style client (see various postings) where everything is based on the buddy list. Although (for shame!) it is not available for Mac OS.

I expect this to be one of the areas of future battle between MSN, Yahoo, Google, and AOL: who will develop the best integration of communication, collaboration, and coordination tools based on the "buddy list is the center of the universe" motif?

They are focussing on communication first (leaving aside blog-style, asynchronous style stuff, which doesn't look like it is integrated yet). What is missing to date: calendaring, media sharing (real-time or slow-time a la Flickr and, and project collaboration (a la Basecamp). Inevitably, these will all coallesce. No one has the who story, and whoever releases the critical mass beta will likely destabilize the marketplace.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

October 25, 2005

Outfoxed: Trusted Social Circles

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Stan James has created a fascinating fusion of social networks and web experience in a project and technology called Outfoxed. James has developed a plug=in for the Firefox browser to allow users to rely on their networks of trusted advisors before taking any actions that could have major consequences.

James' descriptions of his motivations (the whole thing is the outgrowth of his master's thesis at the University of Osnabrück, Germany: Trusted Metadata Distribution Using Social Networks) and how the technology is intended to work are -- honestly -- more compelling than the implementation, today [... read full post at Centrality]

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Web 2.0 = Male 2.0

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Liz Lawley points out that the folks at the Web 2.0 conference are doing a better job than last year on the male/female balance of speakers:

[from speakerwatch: web 2.0 redux]

So, I guess I should be grateful that they've more than doubled the number of women speaking, right?

I hadn't noticed, since I was spending all my time in the unconference out in the hall and in meetings, but there were eight women out of 107 speakers. Way better than last year's three.

Comments (39) + TrackBacks (26) | Category: Events

October 24, 2005

The New Visionaries: Rebooting The Web

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over the past months, I have been in contact with a growing roster of really amazing visionaries, those that are making Web 2.0 a reality. People like Catarina Fake and Stuart Butterfield of Flickr, Dave Sifry of Technorati, Jason Fried of 37Signals, and Felix Petersen of, to mention just a few.

I am launching a new project, one that will open up the interactions I have been having with these people, and allow me to also return to video, a format I haven't used very much since the late '90s. Starting this week, I am starting the production of "New Visionaries: Rebooting The Web" where I will be conducting interviews with people who are advancing what people are calling web 2.0.

I like the image of rebooting the web: not just adding a teensy bit more to it, but messing with its internals so seriously that you have to restart the machine to use the new stuff. Steven Johnson recently used a similar sort of analogy in characterizing this web 2.0 shift:

[from Web 2.0 Arrives, pointer from 106 Miles to Chicago]

The result is the equivalent of a massive software upgrade for the entire Web, what some commentators have taken to calling Web 2.0. Essentially, the Web is shifting from an international library of interlinked pages to an information ecosystem, where data circulate like nutrients in a rain forest.

Yes, a dense, rich, and interconnected collection of newly tooled applications, that build on what others offer and give back to the system, allowing others to build on them in turn.

Who are these visionaries? What do they share in common? What is driving them? Where is it heading? Can the big companies -- like Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft -- channel whatever these forces are, or will they simply keep on snapping up smaller, more innovative web 2.0 companies as they emerge? What are the business models? Who will be the winners in this newly recast race, and what does winning mean?

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (4) | Category: Technology

October 21, 2005

Symposium on Social Architecture: Liz Lawley

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am glad to say that things fell our way -- meaning a change in travel plans -- so that Liz Lawley (of Many-2-Many and Mamamusings) will be able to join us at the Symposium on Social Architecture, coming up on 15 November at Harvard. She'll be leading a session called "Is Social Software A Mirror Or A Lens?"

"We make our tools, and they shape us." – Kenneth Bouldin

Does social software reinforce existing structures—power, gender, class—or transcend them? Does it level the field? Do folksonomies or metrics derived from social gestures create a tyranny of the majority? What is the role of social tool makers and early adopters in these patterns? How do different people—geography, class, age—differ in their responses and adoption of social technologies? Can we use social tools to benefit personal, individual ends as well as civic, collective ones? How does social technology engender different forms of social interaction?

Liz is phenomenal. It will be a joy to see her again.

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

John Udell on Meet The Life Hackers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jon Udell is surprised that the blogosphere didn't megalink to Clive Thompson's Sunday New York Times piece, Meet the Life Hackers, an attempt to dig into the issues and answers to living in an interupt-driven world. I riffed on it (see Meet The Life Hackers), but I think that Clive Thompson merely turned over a bunch of rocks -- mostly Microsoft projects -- and added a few shallow insights from the conventional wisdom jar. So I disagree with Udell's surprise at the blogosphere not bubbling about it all:

[from Jon Udell: Attention economics]

You'd think that Clive Thompson's article Meet the Life Hackers, in this week's New York Times Magazine, would have produced a storm of commentary. After all, it's a major mainstream outing of Linda Stone's evocative phrase "continuous partial attention," Danny O'Brien's seminal talk on the seven habits of highly effective geeks, and Merlin Mann's 43 Folders. Yet the blogosphere has reacted less vigorously than it would have a year ago.

The CPA meme has been around a long time, and despite the recent reappearance of Linda Stone at Supernova, neither Udell nor Thompson comment on the fact that she advanced the concept of continuous partial attention as a disorder, something to be struggled against, not as a workable response to the world. Likewise, 43 Folders and O'Brien's thoughts are not new revelations, and Thompson's piece seems to poke at the issues but not come to any real conclusions.

And Udell sort of trivializes the fact that younger people are more likely to split attention across various media or activities at the same time:

It's often suggested that this [interruptibility] isn't a problem for generation X, Y, or Z, the new breeds of post-humans who've adapted to continuous partial attention. I don't completely buy that argument, and neither does Clive Thompson.

And why don't they buy it? All the recent evidence about concurrent media exposure (see Concurrent Media Exposure: Another Form Of Continuous Partial Attention) demonstrates a strong age polarity in this regard: the younger you are, the more likely you are to split your attention over mutliple forms of media at once. Udell's handwave argument is so anecdotal as to be immaterial: some researchers who had some students reply in an informal discussion that they wanted to be "saved" from interrupts and split attention.

This is another battle in the war against continuous partial attention, which is a culture war. Various forces -- mainstream media, large organizations, and others threatened by a dimuition of their power -- would like us to focus just on one channel at a time, especially when that is their channel. The recent example of the WSJ's D3 conference requiring attendees to not multitask on their laptops while attending is a great case in point:

[from The War On Continuous Partial Attention]

But this is just another attack on continuous partial attention, which is, at its core, an allegiance to broadcast, mediated, unsocialized communications. In this case, the WSJ -- although you can replace it with any institution, such as a corporation laying down rules for behavior in meetings, for example -- wants full attention on the official speakers, and no side channel discussions. But in a many-to-many world, where individuals want to participate in unmediated discussions, and who believe that their social connectedness is more important and strategic than the task at hand, as a general rule, The WSJ's iron-fisted approach to stamping out back channel IMing will anger the most connected and ruin the conference for us.

I am all for being "productive", but I want to be able to define what it means. And any piecework model -- where my productivity is solely measured by the number of pins I crank out every day -- will be a poor picture of productivity. I am open to being distracted by my social universe, and I am willing to accept that interrupt to help them make progress, at the expense of personal productivity. I IM during meetings, because I want to remain in touch with the larger world.

The backchannel may be of the foremost interest to me, and what may appear to be the foreground activity may actually be on the back burner, for me.

These are all indications that the war for attention is a power struggle, and those that couch it in terms of personal productivity and manners are actually trying to slow or counter a revolution in the making. We are rejecting the centralized control of our personal agenda. I am willing to pay the costs of remaining socially engaged -- through continuous partial attention, remaining interruptible, and exchanging social capital with others along the way. Make no mistake about it, it's a struggle for attention freedom.

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

October 20, 2005

Podcasting on Windows: Online Service

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Just a reminder that the next in our Podcasting on Windows webcasts is today at 1pm ET. Joining me will be Rick Klau of Feedburner, and the topic is Online Services for Podcasting.

click for webcast URL
Conference Call: Dial-in #: 563 843 7500
Passcode: 8524544507
Meeting ID: 335-176-717

Podcasting on Windows is sponsored by GoToMeeting.

Comments (45) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Events

October 19, 2005

Get Real Minute: Blogon Highlight

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I went to Blogon this week, and the highlight was... Peter Hirshberg's lunch presentation...

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

Googlemail: I Need Offline Access to Gmail

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have completely gone over to Gmail, Google's online email service. I don't even try to use Apple's Mail app anymore. Principally, I love the tags ("labels") that Gmail provides as a simple technique of organizing, plus the lightning fast search. But, what about offline access?

There are rumors that Google is at work on something more sophisticated than the existing Google Desktop ( a Windows-only app, which is one of the reasons they are in the hall of shame), which would allow offline caching of all sorts of Google related information... in my case, most specifically I want what Kottke called a "Baby step: make Gmail readable offline" -- but I also want to be able to create emails while offline, too.

Why doesn't some enterprising soul build a Mac widget to do this? Isn't the API available? There must be six hundred Gmail notifier apps and widgets, all doing the same thing: why doesn't someone build a mini-tool to do this:

  1. Let me sync the email in my inbox to my Mac before going offline
  2. allow me to read it while offline
  3. let me create replies while offline
  4. let me post the offline replies when I go back online

I would even tolerate someone charging me for the tool, or pushing their ads at me while I am synching up.

Yes, I realize that I could (possibly) configure Apple Mail, or Mozilla, or something to sort of do this. But it seems more attractive to have a small, llightweight, dedicated app to do this, rather than fool around with a big fat app.

[Update 20 Nov: I realized this morning I left out a few things off my wishlist. I'd like the tool to retain Gmail goodies like the 'labels' I use to tag everything. For example, if I am reading an email offline, I would like to tag it as 'Blogon' and then when I later on sync the offline cache back to Google, the label would be applied there. I really don't need the app to act like a mail client -- I don't want it to support posting emails through Comcast or other ISPs, for example -- but just to sync with Gmail. If I create a reply to an email, I want the tool to sync that into the outbox in Gmail when I get back to the Web, not to send it itself.]

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Symposium on Social Architecture: Andrew Rasiej

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Andrew Rasiej, the Founder and Publisher of the Personal Democracy Forum, will be joining us at the Symposium for Social Architecture on Nov 15th at Harvard. Andrew's activities most recently were in the spotlight as a result of his candidacy for Public Advocate of New York City, running in the Democratic primary. Although his bid for that post was unsuccessful, his platform -- which included elements such as municipal wifi -- drew a great deal of attention on a national level. Many writers, including Tom Friedman and me, saw something significant in his orientation to the issues he brought into the debate. Andrew will be participating in our session called "Katrina and Recovery 2.0: A Case Study in Web-based Civics".

Andrew has been deeply involved in the application of technology to politics, and has served as an advisor to Senators and Congressman and political candidates on the use of Information Technology for campaign and policy purposes since 1999. In 2001, he addressed the United States Senate Democratic Caucus in the Capital Building on the "Digital Divides Facing Democratic Party" and has been actively involved in the campaigns of many Senators and Congressmen. For the 2004 Presidential race he served as Chairman of the Howard Dean Technology Advisory Council. An accomplished entrepreneur and media figure, Andrew will be a great addition to our Symposium.

Jeff Jarvis, who was hoping to attend the Symposium, and who has played an invaluable role in its formation, has a insurmountable conflict, and will not be with us at Harvard, alas. But with Andrew and Chris Nolan (and others in the works) the Web-based Civics session is going to be very interesting, nonetheless.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

October 18, 2005

Nicholas Carr and Om Malik on Who Owns The Commons

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Nick Carr wrote a great piece, The Amorality of Web 2.0, intentionally throwing cold water on the Web 2.0 party. His central point, to my mind -- after suggesting that Web 2.0 is a cultish mindset, that Wikipedia is inadequate, and amateurism leads to shoddy products -- is the contention that Web 2.0 is amoral:

Like it or not, Web 2.0, like Web 1.0, is amoral. It's a set of technologies - a machine, not a Machine - that alters the forms and economics of production and consumption. It doesn't care whether its consequences are good or bad. It doesn't care whether it brings us to a higher consciousness or a lower one. It doesn't care whether it burnishes our culture or dulls it. It doesn't care whether it leads us into a golden age or a dark one. So let's can the millenialist rhetoric and see the thing for what it is, not what we wish it would be.

But, here, Carr is really howling at the moon. All technological advances that are driven by individual user adoption are chaotic, and unreflective. Individuals decide to move farther from the center of town, pushing urban sprawl, increasing our collective reliance on fossil fuels, and causing traffic jams. And our society zigs in a direction that some applaud and others lament.

His arguments are true but not helpful. The individual choices that are being made -- for example, individuals opting to upload pictures to Flickr or creating tags in Technorati -- are not explicitly attempting to put librarians or newspapers out of business, and they are not reflecting on the potential long-term impacts that could arise from seemingly modest and personal decisions made to better their own lives in a small way. Not do I think that thundering from the pulpit about the amorality of the eventual impacts -- if indeed they turn out to be so -- will make a whit of a difference.

Om Malik read Nick's piece, and attacked the same issues in a different key, arguing about ownership of all this volunteer effort in enriching the web with web 2.0 gestures:

[from Om Malik’s Broadband Blog — � Web 2.0, Community & the Commerce Conundrum]

if this culture of participation was seemingly help build businesses on our collective backs. So if we tag, bookmark or share, and help or Technorati or Yahoo become better commercial entities, aren’t we seemingly commoditizing our most valuable asset - time. We become the outsourced workforce, the collective, though it is still unclear what is the pay-off. While we may (or may not) gain something from the collective efforts, the odds are whatever “the collective efforts” are, they are going to boost the economic value of those entities. Will they share in their upside? Not likely!

Here, Om gets down to something I think is potentially amoral: the appropriation of the new commons -- our shared space on the web -- by the folks that create the web 2.0 tools that are allowing us to populate it.

It is essential that we devise some point of leverage, perhaps a mechanism something like creative commons or copyleft, for the myriad social gestures we are strewing across the web. Yes, I would like, Technorati, Flickr and others to be able to aggregate my tags, comments, links, and mutterings wherever I leave them on the web. But to the extent that they dream up ways to make money from them, I would like my share. And most important, I don't want to have to pay to gain entry to the world that we all are creating.

Om is dead on: "This is something we need to discuss."

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Meet The Life Hackers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Clive Thompson wrote a good piece at the New York Times on our interrupt-driven world (although there is a leetle too much Microsoft in there). Thompson doesn't provide a pointless list of conventional wisdom how-tos, but instead examines the real imperatives of how we live now, splitting our attention across a bunch of different projects, activities, and goals, and responding all day long to an endless series of interrupts.

[from Meet the Life Hackers - New York Times]

Yet while interruptions are annoying, Mark's study also revealed their flip side: they are often crucial to office work. Sure, the high-tech workers grumbled and moaned about disruptions, and they all claimed that they preferred to work in long, luxurious stretches. But they grudgingly admitted that many of their daily distractions were essential to their jobs. When someone forwards you an urgent e-mail message, it's often something you really do need to see; if a cellphone call breaks through while you're desperately trying to solve a problem, it might be the call that saves your hide. In the language of computer sociology, our jobs today are "interrupt driven." Distractions are not just a plague on our work - sometimes they are our work. To be cut off from other workers is to be cut off from everything.

As we switch to a real-time basis for our work and lives, we will need to adopt new strategies for coping with the disruption this causes. Rejection of real time is not a successful strategy, because business is moving onto a real time footing, and people have to move along, or be bounced. We are all part of a new ethos, rapidly emerging in the world of instant messaging, RSS feeds, VoIP presence, blackberries, and always-on-cellular communication. Finding a balance between complete interruptibility and complete inaccessibility is core to our success in accomodating the new pressures on our time and attention.

Thompson's focus on gizmos -- like bigger computer screens -- as a means to better deal with life's complexities, is interesting but ultimately not relevant. The social aspects of real time life will swamp any specific technology's impacts. I believe in tools, but effective application requires changes in behavior. For example, effective use of IM in groups means people must adopt the five cardinal rules of IM:

  1. Turn on your IM client, and leave it on. (The Turn It On rule).
  2. Change your IM state as your state changes. (The Coffee Break rule.)
  3. It is not impolite to ping people. (The Knock-Knock rule.)
  4. It is not impolite to ignore people. (The I'm Busy rule.)
  5. Try IM first. (The IM First rule.)

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Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin, JD Lasica and Chris Nolan Speaking at The Symposium For Social Architecture

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am glad to say that JD Lasica (New Media Musings) will be leading one of the sessions at the upcoming Symposium for Social Architecture: How Will The Social Web Change Media? JD will do a great job, and is bringing together some great contributors for the session.

Chris Nolan (SpotOn -- note: new domain!), one of the most vocal leaders of the "stand alone journalism" movement, will be joining Jeff Jarvis and others in a session dedicated to what we can learn from the role the web does and does not play in disaster preparedness and response (A Case Study In Web-Based Civics: Katrina and Recovery 2.0).

The conference is shaping into something really fascinating. I spent sometime yesterday, at Blogon, chatting with Kaliya Hamlin, who will be joining me in my session (Is Business Ready For Social Software?). She suggested that we examine the asymmetries in relationships between individuals and businesses, and the likelihood that people will increasingly demand more symmetric relationships. As just one example, Kaliya maintains that people will want to retain information about their purchasing history, and not simply cede it to those businesses that we do business with. And, we may want to invert the normal course of business, based on this information. Imagine that I am traveling to San Francisco, and I could publish some version of my hotel rental history and interests through some as now unavailble solution (a mirror-image of eBay, perhaps?) that would allow hotels to publish bids to me for rooms. This general observation about increasing the symmetry in relationships through social technologies will be a springboard into related within-the-business topics, as well. I believe that social tools are inherently subversive, because they will disrupt established patterns of authority, and naturally push business toward acting as more democratic swarmocracies.

I spoke for a few moments with Mary Hodder, who will be leading a session as well: Engines of Meaning: How Will We Scale Our Understanding? I lifted the "engines of meaning" meme from Bruce Sterling:

Ultimately no human brain, no planet full of human brains, can possibly catalog the dark, expanding ocean of data we spew. In a future of information auto-organized by folksonomy, we may not even have words for the kinds of sorting that will be going on; like mathematical proofs with 30,000 steps, they may be beyond comprehension. But they'll enable searches that are vast and eerily powerful. We won't be surfing with search engines any more. We'll be trawling with engines of meaning.

Mary and others will dig into this critical question: how will be make sense of the expanding blob of human discourse that makes up the Web?

For more information and registration for the Symposium, click here.

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Sean O'Malley on MSN/Yahoo Interoperability Deal

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I emailed Seam O'Malley, director product management, Yahoo messenger, about the MSN/Yahoo deal, trying to get the skinny on what it means:

[via email]

Stowe: Will the interoperability be more than text messaging?

Sean: In addition to exchanging text IM messages, people will be able to see friends' presence, share select emoticons, add new contacts from either service. There are also plans to extend interop. to PC-to-PC calling capabilities. People do not need to have two separate IDs for both services to take advantage of interop. E.g. A Yahoo! Messenger user will be able to log in and take advantage of the above features with MSN Messenger users.

Stowe: Specifically, will voice, video, and multi-user chat be supported?

Sean: There are plans to extend interop. to PC-to-PC calling capabilities.

Stowe: Is there any plan for general interoperability? Namely, interoperability with AIM, Skype, and others?

Stowe: Right now we are focused on the complexities around connecting these two communities - which will take months to implement. This is a non-exclusive deal and we look forward to exploring opportunities to interoperate safely and securely with other IM communities.

Stowe: What about integration with other Yahoo contact list oriented solutions, like Yahoo 360?

Sean: While this will not be a part of the initial launch in Q2 2006, we will continue to evaluate new features and innovate and deliver enhanced services to our users.

So it does look like an attempt to consolidate in response the the Skype/eBay colossus, and the growing threat of Google: Gtalk is just the tip of an iceberg.

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Susan Mernit on Seth Godin's Blogon Keynote

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was dismayed by Seth Godin's kickoff keynote at Blogon yesterday. It was really just the eBook he releases last week as part of the luanch of his new Squidoo venture. It was -- despite his posturing that the keynote was an attempt at motivating more general notions -- just a pitch for the company. Susan does a good job detailing the pitch:

[from Susan Mernit's Blog: BlogOn Kick Off: Seth Godin's Kick Off--AKA Commercial]

Recap: BlogOn?s key note by Seth Godin is a 20minute commercial for his new product, yet another tool set to harness bloggers to generate pages that can make Google Ad Words $$ for someone who has $250,000 to build a platform

AM I jaded, or is this really off focus for a conference kick off?

leaving aside Seth's motivations for the talk, which really runs against the grain of my personal expectations for a conference keynote, the Squidoo concept is interesting, although small. It's a simple premise: search a la Google yeilds too much. People need guidance rather than 100 million hits. So why not contrive authoritative guides to the inifinity of areas people might be interested in?

Jarvis seems to be taken with the idea, at least in a small way.

I think static "lenses" of the sort that Seth has envisioned are the wrong approach however. I have written a bunch about search as a shared space: new approaches to search (the primary way that people find stuff) where an individual or a group of people can augment the mechanized results of a Google-like search with reorganization of the contents, filtering out junk, adding comments and new links, and making sense of the chaos in general. Products like JetEye and Rollyo are examples. These are persistent, and growing search spaces. Instead of a static Squidoo lens on some topic I am arguably expert in, like Web 2.0 Apps, I might create a search space of this sort, leveraging key words, tags, specific sources, and the like.

So, Squidoo faces competition from the traditional search engines, but in the long run, it will be running up against the proliferation of these value-added search-as-shared-space offerings. And my bet is on the latter, especially as those features emerge in the majors. I anticipate social, shared search any time in the My Search History feature set at Google, for example. Yahoo and Microsoft are likely to follow.

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Tom Coates Joining Yahoo

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yahoo seems to be sucking up a lot of good people recently, like Ian Kennedy (who I bumped into yesterday at BlogOn) and now, Tom Coates:

[from Farewell BBC - and hello Yahoo! (]

I'm leaving the BBC to go and work for Bradley Horowitz in the Tech Development Group at Yahoo! (alongside Simon Willison and Jeremy Zawodny among others). My particular special skill - I gather - is going to be the power of my social media mojo, undercut with my feral design instincts. I'll be based in London but out in the States pretty regularly - and here's the best bit - playing with the Flickr team and the Upcoming crew and all the folks over at Yahoo Research Berkeley (among others). Anyway, as is probably fairly evident, this is not the kind of opportunity you turn down without a very good reason, and I've wracked my brains and I sure as hell can't think of one. So wish me luck!

So, now that Yahoo is amassing all this talent in one group, what can we expect to see bubbling out in the next little while? I have to get in there and find out.

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Chris Pirillo on Blogspot Spamalanche

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Chris does a good job of recommending simple policies to help decrease spam blogs from taking over the universe:

[from Ten Suggestions for Google's Blogspot (Chris Pirillo)]

Probationary Period. Only allow new users to create a limited amount of blogs. Say, only one for the first three months. Then, if that goes well, let 'em create six. Then, if THAT goes well, let 'em create six more.

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October 17, 2005

The Week Ahead

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am attending BlogOn today, in New York. Mike Sigal of Guidewire told me last night that the conference is going to be packed -- good for the hosts, but less so for attendees struggling to get an IP address on the conference wifi router. I may be out of touch most of the day.

A reminder: Thursday at 1pm, Greg Narain and I are co-hosting the next Podcasting on Windows show, and we will be joined by Rick Klau of Feedburner. The topic is Online Services -- a fast run through the many solutions out there to help podcasters, like blogging systems, RSS services, and podcasting directories.

URL for webcast:
Conference Call: Dial-in #: 563 843 7500
Passcode: 8524544507
Meeting ID: 335-176-717

Podcasting on Windows is sponsored by GoToMeeting.

Comments (82) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Corante

October 16, 2005

Topical versus Personal Focus: The Existential Challenge Of Blogging Over Time

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at Many-2-Many, danah boyd discusses what may be the central challenge to group blogs' continued existence: they are usually oriented toward a topical focus, like "public relations" or "social software." Some topics, like sex and politics, will never be played out, it seems, while others can be. Coupled with the human tendancy to shift focus, group blogs tend to fall apart.

But, as cousin danah points out, personal blogs are different:

[from Web 2.0 and Many-To-Many]

The thing about a personal blog is that it changes with you because you don’t feel so compelled to stick with a topic (much to the chagrin of some readers).


Herein lies the problem with all of this… Our lives have started to escape categories. And topical blogs are categories. Hmmm…

I think that the replacement for this is coming. Rather than create topical group blogs, people will simply coallesce around the same (or very similar) tags, which will define a topicspace, a tagspace. Today, we don't actually do much with those spaces: for example, all the posts tagged "PR" at Technorati don't amount to a real destination, like a group blog does, but is just a luanching pad for people to go elsewhere. However, if someone -- like Corante, perhaps -- were to aggregate the writings of people -- like the individual contributors to Many-2-Many, and let's say another leading 100 writers on things related to the huiman use of the Web -- tagspaces would emerge. "Web 2.0" would explode, for example. A company like Corante could direct some editorial digest on what the most interesting pieces are for any day, and that tagspace could become a real meeting point for people interested in the topic. Years later (perhaps) if the topic cools, readers and contributors would wander off, just like people looking for the cool new cafe, or the trendiest nightspot. The individuals would still be blogging, just touching on new topics. To some extent, that's why I shifted this back to a solo project: then I can touch on anything that interests me. I can grow in whatever direction, not hemmed in by the topic of the blog.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Media

October 15, 2005

First Look: Blinklist

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A comment in a recent post alerted me to YAW2.0A (Yet-Another-Web-2.0-App -- yes, it was bound to happen) called Blinklist. At first glance, it looks like meets Ajax, with a number of cool tag cloud options.

I imported my bookmarks with no hiccups, although the default is to make all bookmarks private. There is a 'powertool' to turn them all public, which I did. Then I hit a snag that stopped me in my tracks. While all my tags were imported without a warning, all the compound tags I have created with a "+" in them, like "Fred+Wilson", don't work. If you click on one you get a "can't find 'Fred Wilson'" messgae, where the "+" has been turned into a " ". That's a show stopper for me. I am not going to manually hack all those plus signs into something else, and I hate the wikiword style of mushing words together.

Other things look good, like RSS export, sharing with people, organizing bookmarks into groups, and more.

I hope they fix this so I can try a real experiment for a week or so.

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XFN: Bottom-up Social Networks

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at Centrality, I posted a new piece about XFN:

[from Centrality]

I spent some time last week at the Web 2.0 conference chatting with Tantek Celik, of Technorati, about microformats, the XHTML approach to adding more sorts of information into HTML URIs: the hyperlinks that weave the Web together. I wrote a longish post at Get Real about the use of microformats for providing various sorts of personal or corporate information, like event and contact information. But one of the standards being developed under the microformats banner is XFN, or XHTML Friends Network, which provides a means to denote the nature of social relationships within hyperlinks in a way that could be automatically accessed by XFN-knowledgeable tools.

Read the rest...

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October 14, 2005


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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I installed Feedblitz at Get Real yesterday to get away from the flood of spurious, spammer email addresses. Since yesterday afternoon, I have accumulated 5 valid and 20+ bogus emails. Definitely a great set up, where Feedblitz confirms the email addresses on your behalf.

[Update: really long and detailed review of Feedblitz at Improbulus, here].

[tags: , ]

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Jeremy Zawodny and Podcasts Plugin

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jeremy goes nuts for how great plugins are in general, and specifically the new plugin for listening to Yahoo Podcasts (see Yahoo! Podcasts Plugin for Yahoo! Music Engine) but never mentions its a Windows executable. I guess it's not so awesome for Mac users, eh, Jeremy?

What I am getting is a big barf from iTunes on all Yahoo podcasts: "playlist format is not recognized." I'm sure I'll discover this requires an upgrade of something, but isn't it just supposed to work?

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Michael Graves on Pingwidth

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Michael Graves at Verisign has immediately picked up on the "pingwidth" term I introduced the other day, and more importantly, chimes in on the likely demand for fatter and fatter pings:

[from Welcome to the Infrablog: Word of the Day: Pingwidth]

As Stowe Boyd suggests in his reply, there is demand and usefulness for fat pings. Pings that come not just with the URL-based information contained in the basic ping above, but also metadata like:

  • geo-location (where the blogger is posting from)
  • geo-referencing (places mentioned in content)
  • people names
  • author’s tags
  • trackbacks/pingbacks
  • comment notification
  • digital signatures & trust assertions
  • media/attachment metadata

That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea – much more pingwidth. All of this information is useful in some consumption context, and much more efficient if submitted with a ping rather than having to be discovered by URL dereferencing and crawling.

‘Pingwidth’. Wish I’d thought of that…

Well, people like Verisign are in a much better position to benefit from the new ping economics. All I am going to get is a footnote for coiing the term. Grumble.

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Basecamp Gets Writeboards

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I pinged Jason Fried of 37Signals about including Writeboards into Basecamp, and (d'uh) he told me they are already integrated.

[from Everything Basecamp: NEW FEATURE: Writeboards]

Last week we released a new product called Writeboard. Writeboard is a simple collaborative (or solo) text editor with simple revision history and change comparisons. It lets you write, share, revise, and compare. Writeboards are great for drafting and collaborating on text with clients or your own internal team.

We spent the week after launch integrating Writeboards into Basecamp. And now they're live. Look for the Writeboards tab in any project.

Free Basecamp accounts are allowed to create 2 Writeboards. Paying accounts (all levels) can create unlimited Writeboards.

Candidly, one of my surly, uncooperative partners (just kidding, Francois!) started to move us away from Basecamp -- which I had been using to manage everything at Corante -- because it lacked a collaborative document capability. We have been trying to use wikis instead (Jotspot).

I think that the inclusion of Writeboards may swing us back (I hope).

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Google Gets Tagging

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Google has quietly enabled tags to My Search History, as reported by Inside Google.

I guess what I need is more like functionality, though. The current mechanism does support bookmarking and tagging of Google search results, like this:


The tagging is ok, but using the mouse click of the star to denote bookmarking is kind of off. I would rather have a more obvious "bookmark" text field to click on, or an icon that looks like a bookmark. The editing in place is interesting, but obviously Ajax hasn't been used throughout, because there are various points when screen refresh takes place.

Most obviously missing: integration with groups or the public. I want to share my bookmarks, and search is destined to be a shared space. Integration with Google contacts and groups should be next. And I need a bookmarklet so I can bookmark random locations, not just those I have found through Google. Is that hiding somewhere that I can't see?

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Technology

October 13, 2005

Meebo Supports Jabber/Gtalk

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Eric Cogan informed me that Meebo, the web-based multi-headed IM client now supports Jabber and Gtalk, along with AIM, MSN, and Yahoo.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (79) | Category: Technology

Get Real Minute: Video iPod

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Big (long rumored) announcement from Apple's Steve Jobs on the Video iPod: an experiment with big impact:

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Add Swagroll To The Apps 2.0 Roll

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Got an email from Peter Frietag, alerting me to SwagRoll, which is a neat-looking service that allows to accumulate directories of stuff -- books, music, DVDs, kitchen junk -- that we own or want to own.

I created an account, and the whole thing, including tagging entries, is amazingly easy. Looks like their aren't many users yet, so the whole social side -- meeting people with similar taste in movies, for example -- is only implied at the moment.


I would like one of these gear-ownership sites to provide a way for people to actually indicate that they are buying something from your wishlist. Last year I had three people by me the same CD, since it was first on my Amazon wishlist.

Also, it appears that the developers of Swagroll want us to use tags: tisk, tisk, indeed:


I am not certain that there is enough there for me to undertake the work involved at Swagroll. Why can't they capture my iTunes directory, and what I have rented trhough NetFlix, to prepopulate my world?

[By the way, I am starting a tagspace called to denote all the reviews of Web 2.0 Apps. ]

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

October 12, 2005

A Get Real Minute: Wall Street Journal To Trim Pages

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The WSJ will be going tabloid to cut newsprint expenses, as reported in the New York Times (see Wall St. Journal to Shrink Page Size, Joining Trend to Cut Newsprint Costs - New York Times)...

Clck here for the Get Real Minute...

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Microsoft and Yahoo To Connect Instant Messaging Platforms

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a move that was certainly not anticipated, Microsoft and Yahoo have announced
an agreement to connect users of Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger.

My take -- prior to talking to any of the players -- is that this is an effort to counter the presence of AIM, the established leader in the space, and the threat posed by Google, whose Gtalk solution was only recently announced. [Update: oh, and Skype! I was running out the door when I wrote the earlier paragraphs.]

I personally have given up on IMing by MSN or Yahoo, so if I am any indicator, this will be a good idea: once they interoperate, I might be willing to put one of them back on my desktop, although both companies are in the for their policies regarding Macintosh.

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Michael Graves Responds To Questions About Ping Economics

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In response to my recent comments about ping economics at Verisign:

Slowing down “ping cycles” or otherwise degrading the performance of the service isn’t appealing to me at all. The goal is for all pings to circulate through the system quickly and accurately. Rather than thinking about changes in latency or timing, I’m thinking the “value-add” here will pivot around the depth or richness of the ping itself.

For example: if a blog submits a “full content ping” – a ping that is much more than just the URL notification of new post, but the full content of the post itself, the infrastructure layer, either as an extension of the ping server itself, or perhaps in conjunction with a partner, can skip the URL dereferencing and crawling process, provided it establishes nominal trust with the submitter. So, if the whole post is attached with the ping – including really useful metadata like that addressed in the Atom 1.0 spec – the post can be processed and indexed, and therefore surfaced to the user much more quickly, and cost effectively than the “basic ping”.

On the outbound side, if a service is offered that not only provides ping signals, but attaches a rich set of metadata along with it – tags, keywords, place names, geo-references, etc. – that would be a highly useful upgrade from the information provided right now, which is basically a title and a URL for the source content. That may be an area where service and application builders will find a fee for developing and delivering the needed metadata on pinged content is easily worth the fee charged by the service.

So, think about pings becoming more deep and rich as a way to add value that can be charged for, rather than “dumbing down”, or “slowing down” the existing basic pings so that what is now considered a basic ping can be monetized as a “premium”. That’s not what I'm talking about at all. That’s bad mojo, IMHO.

I agree. It is very bad mojo. But we still are going to wind up with a 'pro' version -- for extra cash -- with all the fancy bells and whistles (geolocation, etc.) and more 'pingwidth' than the basic stuff. (Yes, I did say 'pingwidth'. You heard it here first.)

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Trying Feedburner Feedblitz For Email Updates

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I saw that Feedburner, who handles the feeds across Corante, are providing an intergrated email service from Feedblitz (see Back to the Future: Introducing Email Subscriptions). Looked like a way to avoid the spammers' email addresses that have accumulated in Get Real's guts (2800+ at this point). But then, of course, looks like Feedblitz has been hammered by all the Feedburner users signing up, and the system is down.

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Qumana 2.0 Released, Includes Adgenta Ad Network

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

So I am experimenting with the new Qumana blog editor release, and it seems workable, although they join the hall+of+shame by making me use Windows. I am mostly fiddling with it for the integrated post-centric ad solution from Adgenta. See the embedded ad, below. The idea of post-centric ads has real appeal for those bloggers who don't have access to their underlying blog templates or who don't want to mess with them even if they do. It remains to be seen whether Adgenta has a large enough selection of ads to compete, or if the keyword based matching works. I will try some tags before embedding the ad to try to help out.
Even with the tags and the many keywords sprinkled around (blog, Windows, ad network) I still wind up with a mortgage ad. Doesn't look too promising on that score. Oh, and when I tried to bring up the blog editor help file, the link was broken, so I couldn't confirm how to separate Technorati tags, and, of course, my guess was wrong, which meant I had to edit them here, in this post. But the editor seems to work well, although I have migrated away from blog editors: too much unnecessary html generated in general.

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October 11, 2005

Ross Mayfield on Email 2.0

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ross make a great point on Email 2.0:

The reason we are building Web 2.0 is because we were not able to build Email 2.0. The first web didn’t support our social needs, so we used email for everything. But we couldn’t really hack it. Most social software has by now adapted to email, but email could never have adapted to it.


Speaking of email's inadequacies, it was only a year ago, more or less, that I led the ill-fated panel on The Future of Email at Supernova. Several folks mentioned that flare-up out at the Web 2.0 conference, and how antique the whole controversy seems now. I basically stated that email blows, and that other forms of communication were going to replace it, until nothing was left but the stuff that looks suspiciously like spam. Man! that seems so ten years ago.

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Tristan Louis on What A Link's Worth

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I found a post by Tristan Louis, entitled Doing the numbers on the AOL-WeblogsInc deal, that does just that, and establishes a baseline valuation per link tracked in Technorati of $564.64 at a $25M valuation on the deal.

With today's 1,223 links, that would value Get Real at $690,554.74! Now we're getting somewhere!

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Technology Blog Master Class

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Applications are now being accepted for my first Master Class on Technology Blog Writing. I am hoping to get 8-12 folks who have these characteristics for participate in the program:

  1. Have been writing on technology for a year or more
  2. Have been blogging for a year or more
  3. Are dedicated to blogging -- post frequently, read a lot of bloggers, etc.
  4. Have the time to spend on the Master Class: 1.5 hours class time each session, 2-3 hours of work time each session, every other week for a twelve week period.

I will be leading the class, and working with the participants in group and individually. I am applying the two decades of writing I have been involved in, and specifically what I have learned blogging about technology since 1999.

The course will dig into topics such as these:

  1. What's Your Beat? Developing a focus area.
  2. Who's Who? Who are the importante voices and players in your area, and getting involved with them.
  3. What's Hot? What are the themes and memes bubbling in your space, and how to approach.
  4. What's Your Story? Making your personal story unversal: are you a guru, everyman/woman, or champion?
  5. Come Again? Engaging in conversation.
  6. Voice, Lines, Purpose: write it like you mean it.
  7. Tech for Technology Blogs: nuts and bolts below the hood.

The classes will be 1.5hrs long, schedule is (in principle, every Tue at 4pm ET), starting 22 November, running for twelve weeks. Fee is $500.

Please contact me via stowe -at- I already have one applicant, so hurry.

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Web 2.0 Email

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

From an email today:

Hope you have recovered from the reality distortion field of the web2.0 conference ;)

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Recovery 2.0: Or Maybe Disaster 2.0?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am a great believer in the power of technology to transform business and society. However, the manner in which this transformation works is emergence: a gazillion small decisions by millions of individuals making personal choices translates into a world reworked by wholesale technological changes. The same, however, is decidely not the case with the centralized, bureaucratic planning that seems to pervade the discussion around disaster preparation and recovery. This seems to be true even of the digerati seeking to figure out how the web and its denizens might help in the next disaster.

Jeff Jarvis, a man for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration, held a meeting at the Web 2.0 conference last week, entitled Recovery 2.0. A bunch of folks showed, like Evelyn Rodriguez (who was washed into prominence by the tsunami), Michael Powell (former head of the FCC), and Craig Newmark (of Craig's List), to name only a few of the two dozen or so folks there. Oh, and me. Jeff started by making the joke that he had almost called the activity "Disaster 2.0" but thought better of it. But as the evening wore on, I began to wonder.

Other disasters are inevitable. Witness what has occured just since Katrina: Rita, mudslides in Guatemala, the earthquake in Kashmir, and a flood in New Hampshire. This is, of course, ignoring the endemic privations in the Third World which we have grown inured to. However, when disasters strike the heart of developed countries, and we are unable to do much, it shatters many of our preconceptions about our capacity to control events, and we are undone by that paralyzing awareness.

We -- despite the cultural folklore of omnipotence -- are living on a faultline. I am not specifcally alluding to the recent 25% estimate of a Richter 7 earthquake hitting the Bay Area in the next 20 years, but to the fabric of our society. We are not actually applying either market forces (for the free market types out there) or government control (for those who believe the public sector should be calling the shots) to really organize ourselves to survive these disasters, and as a direct consequence, when these disasters occur we can expect the results to be worse, not better, than in the past.

I will avoid a long polemic about the nuttiness of the status quo regarding disasters, which can be summarized in this way:

  1. Disaster strikes
  2. We are unprepared
  3. Devastation demonstrates how unprepared we are, and everyone wrings hands, points fingers, etc.
  4. Large upwelling of charitible response
  5. The dispossessed try to get on with their lives, and are soon forgotten
  6. Infrastructure is rebuilt at public expense
  7. People put head back into sand

I will also avoid a jeremiad on the increasing likelihood of ever more large scale disasters: hurricanes of greater length and severity (how about a thirty foot surge hitting Manhattan?), the imminent avian flu pandemic (and we are using the wrong approach to doling out the vaccine) , or terrorist dirty bomb at the Super Bowl. Even with the same old disasters we grew up with, why are we so unprepared, and why do we follow these patterns?

The web is a place where ideas can catch on, and infect the world. I would like to throw an idea out there, and see if it can catch.

First, we are culturally unwilling to accept the need for collective preparedness, even in the face of monumental disasters. Technology -- even the Web -- will not allow us to collectively leap into action and save the day with three days prior notice of a hurricane touching shore. Given the certainty of other disasters, you think we would move to a new footing, culturally. But the reality in that most people just want to get back to business as usual.

Until we have a cultural revolution, or a complete revamping of the models of civil authority, when a disaster strikes you are going to be completely and profoundly on your own. We will fall back to friends, family, neighbors, and the kindness of strangers. That collection may include people far away, connected to you by the Web, but we can't expect those who are supposed to be reponsible for our safety and welfare to be able to do very much, because the role of civil authority has eroded. People today are profoundly ambivalent of the role of government, even local government, even during emergencies. And that clock won't be turned back.

The transition we are going through, ushered in by technologies like the Web, is bringing people back together after decades of the unraveling of civic involvement. Participation in groups like the Kiwanis and the Rotary, even the PTA, is at a low ebb. The rise of the exurb has let people self-affiliate to the point that cultural divides are more deep and entrenched than ever before. The Web may be a real hope in this regard, unless it just winds up being a place for us to self-affiliate, again. And even if it offers a way to reboot civic involvement, it may take decades before that impact percolates through, and this quiet revolution reaches out past the early adopters. In the meantime, we are in a shadow zone, where the Web acts as a secondary means to organize and respond, but not yet the primary solution. And the primary mechanisms are failing -- radio systems don't intercommunicate, civic organizations and governmental agencies have little or adversarial interactions, special interests push back hall deals with politicos, and the poor are moved into trailer parks and disenfranchised. The Web hasn't transformed that. Not yet, anyway.

We can't look to government or other large organizations, per se, to help the revolution along. They are directly threatened by a new notion of civil authority, one that is distributed, and out-of-control, in the Kevin Kelly sense. And we are so divided in our worldviews that it is impossible to imagine getting consensus on a national or international level as to how we should move forward to diminish the impact of disasters. All we can expect -- again -- is the intensification on the status quo: more planning commissions, more reports, more white guys in dark suits speaking earnestly into the microphones on Sunday policy shows, more layers of bureaucracy, more moving of the chairs around the conference room table.

Here are the preconditions for the new model of civil authority, and what we should be doing to get there:

  1. Push hard for municipal/local wifi in every location. Push for political candidates who favor this. Push for a wifi mesh in your area that is disaster capable: where there are enough wifi nodes to continue to cover the area even in the face of disaster, where long-lived battery systems are in place, and the wifi elements are safe from the elements.
  2. Get civic organizations onto the Web, courtesy of the municial/local wifi. Work to get them intercommunicating using web-based solutions.
  3. Indoctrinate the children in the schools on how to use Web-based solutions in emergenices. They can teach their parents when the time comes.
  4. Municipal/local wifi -- when widely available -- will lead to an explosion in wifi capable devices, specifically, a next generation of wifi-capable cell phones. We can expect low-cost offgrid rechargers to become available -- solar, hand cracked, whatever -- so that individuals can actually remain online during disasters in this era: Disaster 2.0.

I think it will take years to get to Disaster 2.0, but it's coming. It won't make the storms blow less hard, and -- human stupidity being what it is -- it won't stop people from rebuilding homes on the side of the volcano, eroding the barrier islands and marshes, or living among millions of others on an island that cannot be evacuated in the face of any of the predictable disasters likely to strike. But Disaster 2.0 infrastructure can provide a new means of civil control -- and potentially a bottom-up, flexible, and adaptive one -- when disasters do strike: unlike today, where top-down, bureaucratic approaches are simply incapable of keeping up with the world in which we live.

That is the key meme that needs to be spread: today's techniques for responding to disasters are release 1.0, and totally obsolete. So obsolete that they will not work, and will actually cause more problems than they solve, and partly because people expect them to work. We need a pervasive investment -- at the local or municipal level -- in disaster-resistent wifi mesh technologies. Once that is in place, the rest will follow -- organizations and individuals will be able to tap into and participate in organic civil response to disaster, and a bottom-up, adaptive, and flexible response will be possible. Without Disaster 2.0, we will continue to fumble, flounder, and fail.

But don't look to the Feds, or even regional government. Do it locally. Get your homeowners association to do it. Or the Neighborhood Watch. Or The Kiwanis. Or elect new folks into onto the school board who roll it out as an educational tool -- with disaster preparedness as a secondary goal. Or build it into the libraries. Whatever. Just get on it. Act like the next one is only a week away.

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October 10, 2005

Hall of Shame: KnowNow RSS eLerts

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

It's only Windows and IE, no Mac!

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A Get Real Minute: Let's Party Like It's 1998

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Out at the Web 2.0 conference, there was a strange undertone...

party1998.jpegclick to listen.

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Microformats v Structured Blogging: A Small War With Big Consequences

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

At the web 2.0 conference. I was able to sit down with the leading advocates for two very different advocates for two very different approaches to enriching the information embedded in blogs. The two were Tantek Çelik, of Technorati and Bob Wyman, of PubSub.

Let me explain what I mean with an example. Say you write a blog entry with information related to an upcoming event, like this:

Symposium on Social Architecture

Just a reminder that space is limited at the upcoming Symposium on Social Architecture scheduled for 14-15 November 2005 at the Harvard Law School, Cambridge MA, held in collaboration with the Berkman Center.

In this example, I have provided certain information -- name of the event, date and location -- but if readers want to use that information they would have to cut and paste it, for example, if they want to add the event to their personal calendar. Imagine if there were some way for the author of the post to add some additional information, meta-information, about the content of the post, so that the information embedded can be extracted automatically by tools, and/or presented in a distinctive way. In this case, the appropriate tool would 'know' about embedded calendar information, and the display might somehow indicate that the post held calendar information. The same arguments hold if the post was a movie review, or contact information.

I first sat down with Tantek, who walked me through the microformat approach to this problem. This approach is based on adding specific CSS classes to URLs associated with the embedded information, and using an XHTML (extended HTML) approach. In the case of adding event info to the post, it would be annotated like so:

<span class="vevent">Symposium on Social Architecture

Just a reminder that space is limited at the upcoming <a class=""><span class="summary">Symposium on Social Architecture</span></a> scheduled for <abbr class="dtstart" title="2005-11-14">14</abbr>-<abbr class="dtend" title="2005-11-16">15 November 2005</abbr> at the <span class="location">Harvard Law School, Cambridge MA</span>, held in collaboration with the Berkman Center.</span>

The class names are derived from the attributes associated with iCalendar format, so class="summary" indicates the name of the event, class="dtstart" the starting date, and class="location" the location.

Once posted on my blog for example, this information could be extracted by microformat knowledgeable tools. Some of these tools are avaiilable at the site, such as a javascript "add to Calendar" button (or favelet) that you can drag to your browser's toolbar to extract calendar information from microformatted web pages.

(Note: I tried to create a calendar of events in the left margin using this approach, and I have a few problems in importing the entities into my iCal. They import, but the dates don't always seem to work. The culprit may be the the specific XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) file that is being used to convert the XHTML encoded calendar information into an iCal file. This is not a flaw of the specification, or the approach, but the particular implementation available at this point. Update: Turns out I just had a conceptual problem: I was thinking that dtend worked differently. If an event is intended to run on 15 Nov, without a tipulated hour of ending, then you should encode dtend as 16 Nov!)

My natural inclination is to adopt the microformat model, perhaps because I have already delved deep into hacking my MT templates, and manually encoding Technorati tags on posts. Those who are less handy with the technical feel of xhtml may find this microformatting intimidating, however. In the future, blog tools that either create microformatted information using forms or other user-friendly approaches will decrease the complexities involved in microformats, and some of these are now becoming available.

Bob Wyman wants us to go a different way, avoiding the microformat embedding of information into xhtml classes, and instead relying on an XML-based approach called Structured Blogging. Unlike microformats, structured blogging relies on blog plugins, which makes it easier to use, but limits its application to things that blogging tools support, like the creation of blog posts.

I don't use Wordpress -- the only platform for which a structured blogging plugin is available -- but the website demonstrates the neat look of book and music reviews encoded by structured blogging. Note the 'four out of five" graphics.


Structured blogging relies on the specification of an XML layout for each of the associated forms of posts: reviews, calendar entries, and the like. These correspond, more or less, to the reapplication of calendar and address book standards in the microformats approach.

Tantek's arguments for microformats include the adoption of the approach by a bunch of different companies and individuals: an argument for openness. Bob suggests that structured blogging is just as open, since others can collaborate in the process. My viewpoint is that it is almost impossible to disassociate the interests of these individuals and their respective companies from the discussion of the pros and cons of these approaches. Tantek and Technorati have been very successful in getting adoption of the Technorati tag format, which is a microformat based on the use of the 'rel="tag"' attribute as a means to indicate that a URI is a tag reference. Technorati now has one of the largest tagspaces in the world, if not the largest. Perhaps they would like in the future to develop databases bursting with contact and event information, too. Bob and Pubsub would like to get people creating structured blog posts so that Pubsub can more easily make sense of reviews: for example, determining the average review of "Understanding Comics". As a result of this conflict of interest, we need to discount the arguments of the proponents.

My gut feel is that structured blogging requires too much formalization of what people do on their blogs, and microformatting tools are more likely to be adopted in a dynamic, bottom-up, changing, and innovative environment. However, adoption of structured blogging will certainly be accelerated by the roll-out of other blogging tools plugins, which are in the works. It may come down to a battle of the tools -- who creates a better set of tools for authors -- rather than the pros and cons of the models themselves. My bet is on microformats, but there is definitely an important footrace going on in this corner of the blogosphere.

Update: I just noted that provides microformatted calendar information for all its events.

Comments (135) + TrackBacks (4) | Category: Technology

October 07, 2005

Seth Godin on Squidoo

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I bumped into Seth Godin yesterday at the Web 2.0 conference. It was a great show for that... I bumped into a long list of great peopl, including Evelyn Rodriguez, Michael Powell, Craig Newmark, John Battelle (his show), Jason Calacanis (I gave him a cigar to celebrate his sale of Weblosginc to AOL), Jeff Clavier, Joshua Schachter, and others too random to mention, here.

Seth complimented me on the investigative deductions I wrote about last week, guessing about Squidoo, his new venture. He has released an ebook, today, that tells all:

[from SquidBlog]

“For a long time, the web has been about more. More links, more traffic, more hits, more choices. In the face of all that more, many sites (and most surfers) are not getting what they want. This free ebook, from bestselling author and founder Seth Godin, proposes a different way of achieving your goals: less.”

The key idea is that individuals are experts on the topics that they care about, and Squidoo will allow anyone to create a specialized webpage in which this expertise can be served up to help others. He calls these lenses, which he suggests can be used to help others make sense of the world.

I was struck by the similarity with one of the sessions we are holding at the Symposium on Social Architecture next month at the Berkman Center, entitled "Is Social Software a Mirror or a Lens?"

The 'secretbeta' is still closed, but you can submit your name for consideration.

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Corante Business Model

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was asked one question over and over again at the Web 2.0 conference: what is Corante's business model?

Not that I expected everyone to know what we are up to, and the conference was defitinitely the sort of setting where asking people for their elevator pitch is what passes for polite conversation. Still, it was interesting that so many people -- two or three dozen, at least -- even those who professed to read Get Real or other Corante blogs, would just not know what we are up to.

Here's the elevator pitch, whittled down over a busy few days:

Corante Elevator Pitch
Corante is a small media company. If you ignore the web aspect, we are a lot like other, more traditional media companies. We make money from advertising and other sponsorships on our publications, which are (at the moment) exclusively blogs. We are launching seminar and conference businesses at the present time.

Our focus is to seek out the best writers in every area we enter. We view our contributors as artists: artisan journalists. They are not employees, just as Dave Matthews and Alicia Keys are not employees of their record labels. We work to promote the written works that our contributors create. (I personally believe that this viewpoint is revolutionary, a step beyond the model of twentieth century "journalism".)

We are involved in rolling out what we are calling Corante 2.0, which will change a lot of what we do and how we do it. At its core, Corante 2.0 will allow us to grow from the 100 contributors we have today to 1000 or 5000 over the next year or so. I don't wanjt to preannounce the details of this push, but they obviously involve a lot of recruiting, which we are spending a great deal of time on.

On a personal level, I am working to decrease the consulting work I have been involved in over the past few years at Corante, which was a temporary expedient to pay the bills. While I have enjoyed working with clients like Businessweek, in the future I plan to limit my for-fee work to activities that are much more media-like: speaking engagements, seminars, and the like. I will be spending a lot of time getting the Corante seminars business humming in the next few months. I plan, for example, to start a master class in technology blogging starting in the next few weeks, where I will work with a small class of aspiring bloggers to hone their skills. I will continue my advisory work with start-ups, because I love that sort of innovative and entrepreneurial frenzy, but that is a special sort of involvement, and allows me to stay close to the edge, where all the heat is. And I am always open to weird and wonderful ideas, although I am trying hard to decrease the burden of travel that is the necessary curse of the life I am leading.

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

How had completely missed the emergence of this term?

[from Splog - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Spam blogs, sometimes referred to by the Neologism splogs, are Web Log (or "blog") sites which the author uses only for promoting affiliated websites. The purpose is to increase the PageRank of the affiliated sites and/or get ad impressions from visitors. Content is often nonsense or text stolen from other websites with an unusually high number of links to sites associated with the splog creator which are often disreputable or otherwise useless Web sites.

[tags: ]

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Winer Sells: What Economics Are At Work?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I read that Dave Winer was selling to Verisign, which was not a tremndous surprise, considering the size of the competitors he is confronted with, and the investments necessary to scale with the blogosphere these days.

What did catch my eye was on of the pledges that the Verisign people are making:

[from Welcome to the Infrablog: Weblogs 2.0]

1. Free

Basic pings, the messages processed by, will remain free to submit, and free to retrieve from the service. Over time, we plan to offer value-added services to publishers and consumers that we can charge a fee for, in much the same way companies like Yahoo! provide basic email services for free, and offer premium “upgrades” for a fee (e.g. extra storage, domain hosting, integrated website, etc.) But pings will remain free; our goal is to make the best, most widely used ping server available.


I guess I am a bit slow on these developments, but the notion that pings could be separately from the service as a whole and discussed like an additional element of the service -- kind of like call forwarding for your cell phone -- seemed strange. I mean, aren't pings just an essential? But then I noticed the subtly important word "basic" that precedes ping in th efirst sentence. Basic pings will remain free, so I am intuiting that non-basic pings are going to cost. So if you need a quicker ping cycle, or if your blog receives more than some basic number of pings, you are going to pay. Perhaps you will purchase a basic plan with so many pings in it, and you will pay for extra pings. Especially during peak hours.

A new economics is appearing before our eyes.

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October 06, 2005

Going Solo

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have turned Get Real back into a solo project, with me as the only contributor. All of the Get Real alums will continue to be affiliated with Corante, as members of the soon-to-be-announced Corante Network, and working in various special projects. But all of the three other contributors were stretched too thin to really keep up with Get Real project: Arienanna is writing at 16 blogs, Marc is doing a dozen projects at the Open University, and Greg is up to his neck in a huge development effort. At any rate, its going to be just me, which might make the voice here more defined, anyway.

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October 05, 2005

Launchpad at Web 2.0: PubSub - Bob Wyman

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

PubSub is proposing a structured blogging model, which is now implemented as a Wordpress plugin, but could be more broadly used. They demoed Joe Reger's blogging solution, which incorporates the Wordpress plugin, and shows the combination of traditinal blogging plus structured data, such as a rating for a restaurant, abook, or a piece of music.

They have hired Marc Canter's Broadband Mecahnics to build equivalent plugins for MT, and other blog technologies, so that these microformats can be widely used.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: AllPeers - Matthew Gertner

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Nice synopsis of the issues associated with web 2.0 Ajax apps:

Challenging programming model
+ asynch
+ ad hoc protocols
+ structured storage of unstrcutured data

Apparently building into Firefox the things that are msissing to make it, the browser itself, the place where web apps run natively, and peer-to-peer. Six minutes is really too short, considering there wasn't a real demo.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Flock - Bart Decrem

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

"The social browser."

The web is not a library, but interactions bewteen people.

Open source, on top of Mozilla. Few weeks away from public release of alpha.

Initial focus: social browsing. Favorites/history & blogging.

Treats 'favoriting' as the same as 'subscribing' to a feed.

'Blogging topbar' -- a region above the browser page. Incorporates a blog editor, that interoperates with various blog solutions. Also a Flickr topbar, where you can just drag Flickr photos into the blog editor.

Very intriguing: basically a browser for bloggers, which may be all of us, relatively soon. A fuller review once I get access to the promised Alpha in the next week or so.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Wink - Michael Tanne

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Another social search solution - "people-powered search."

Tag aggregation -- from various other sources -- using "tagRank(tm)". Users can also create shared spaces.

Looks great.

[Great rumor in the middle of the demo about video iPod to be released next week?]

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Orb Networks - Ian McCarthy

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Streaming media from an always on PC to any internet connected device: music, TV shows, photos, whatever. Access your file system, directly, too (although all they support is (hiss) Windows).

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: KnowNow - Ron Rasmussen

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

eLerts is an free RSS alerting service. You can be alerted whenever any new RSS updates take place. This is anonymous - requires no login. Just a toolbar in the browser, which returns you to the specific location where the RSS update occurred: looks like a candidate for the new category of "RSS non-reader". I am definitely going to install this baby.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Zvents - Ethan Stock

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

"The best events solution."

Looks like a massive events database with integration into maps (google maps mashup), and calendars.

Provides blogging widgets: neat mechanism to a/ create events, and b/ paste a javascript into the blog, which enables a scrollable calendar of those events selected. Very cool.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Zimbra - Satish Dharmaraj

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Open source enterprise collaboration suite (looks mostly like email), ajax client open source software.

Supports an api for mashups in email -- examples included maps, browser, and a test of calendar availability (that one got a lot of appreciative groans).

Full indexes of all email and calendar entries. Extensive search capabilities.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: RealTravel - Ken Leeder

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

"Real Travel is all about real people, real advice, real experiences."

A travel information site -- combines travel blogging and social networking. Internet is the primary channel for travel. Share all elements of experience -- maps, thoughts, venues -- in the site. Online today.

Looks like a mash-up version of TravelPod, plus various social architecture elements: tags are extensively used, exploits the travel domain schema -- geography, hotels, museums, etc. Leverages Google maps extensively.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Bunchball - Rajat Paharia

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

"Do things with people you know." I got this demo a few days ago, and found it interesting, although the games that dominate this social application platform (think Ning writ small) seem only moderately interesting to me, personally. That doesn't mean that more serious apps can't be built on Bunchball, but (unlike Ning) they didn't populate the beta with two dozen serious apps.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Joyent - David Young

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A web office application with mail, contacts, folders, files, calendars, binders, tagging, etc. Completely open - RSS, XML, etc.

Focus is small groups: 2- 20 people.

A unified tagspace across email, calendar entries, and all other objects.

"True group collaboration in the calendar."

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Rollyo - Dave Pell

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Social search tool, which ties a search with a specific information. Roll-your-own search engine.

Got a bunch of celebs -- Arianna Huffingon, Debra Messing, etc -- to create their own search results.

Can select sources, categorize, tag it -- create your own search "roll".

I have written before about search as a shared space (Jeteye) and this is another example of that trend.

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Launchpad at Web 2.0: Socialtext - Ross Mayfield

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I had a glimmering about Ross' big news, which is that Socialtext -- the wiki company -- is going open source. They will be phasing out UI in open source, and then, gradually, everything. -- an open source synchronous editor for the web. Also supporting offline editing with Ecto.

One year free 5 person wiki at socialtext by mentioning "web20".

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Jeff Clavier on Ning

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jeff Clavier and I seemed to come to very similar conclusions about Ning:

[from Software Only: The 24 Hour Laundry has closed, and is replaced by Ning]

So after being offered a large number of social media applications, we are now into the meta-framework to build social media applications. The notion is interesting: as we have come to expect that any consumer application will include some element of social networking, collaborative filtering, tagging, etc., Ning has the first shot at claiming platform status in the social phenomena by offering building consistent building blocks (though wikis could probably claim anteriority).

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Web 2.0 - First Take

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I walked into the Web 2.0 conference, and immediately realized that the hotel was too small, or at least the rooms are. Hanging in the corridor with danah boyd, Peter Kaminski, Kaliya Hamlin, Marc Canter, Ross Mayfiled, and two dozen other old friends, I discovered that the sessions are so packed that I couldn't even get in.

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Rick Short Three Minutes

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I recently met Rick Short in Atlanta, doing an AMA Blog conference. Rick does an endless series of short, short interviews: here's three minutes of me on the counterintuitive fear that marketeers have for blogging.

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Migration Off The Desktop: Federated Web Apps and The Office Of Tomorrow!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The monolithic office suite -- typified by Microsoft Office -- represents the evolutionary peak of a certain value proposition, rooted in the sensibilities of the 90s. Adoption of proprietary, de facto standards for document format (Word, Powerpoint, Excel) and various conventions around coordination and communication (like Outlook and Exchange) led to a monopoly for Microsoft, and the extinction of any serious alternatives. Even on the Macintosh platform, Microsoft apps enjoyed a comfortable dominance.

But the advent of web based applications, like Gmail, blogs, and the explosion of new social apps -- Flickr, MySpace, and the ten zilllion others now coming on line -- suggest a new paradigm is here, and that people will be spending less time working "in" the desktop office and much, much more time using a broad collection of web apps.

Unlike the desktop office suite, this new web office will be a loosely connected and constantly growing collection of social tools:

  • Spaces, not Documents -- We are moving past the document metaphor: a computer file, saved locally on a PC or LAN, usually being accessed and edited by one person at a time, and routed around as an email attachment. While various collaboration models emerged prior to today's web app renaissance -- like Lotus Notes and Groove -- none of these actually displaced the now familiar notion of editing a document and circulating it for review in email.

    Today, however, the ubiquity and speed of web connections have made it possible for us to move onto the web, and into realtime shared space with our collaborators, and leave behind the era of communicating islands connected by slow, asynchronous email connections.

  • Publish/Subscribe, not Edit/Route -- As we leave behind the email and doc metaphor, we are adopting a publish/subscribe mentality. I create a post at Basecamp or on a Wiki to communicate with my partners, and they are pinged by an RSS reader.

  • Aggregation, not Embedding -- Instead of collating a bunch of relevant information into a document, I collect various sources of information into a shared location -- a calendar of events from one service, recent blog posts from another, and a web-based spreadsheet from a third -- aggregated into a fourth service, designed for the purpose of rendering (like NetVibes). This is going to build on the glue that makes these web apps connect: RSS, javascript, and various XML standards that will emerge to support microformats (so that one tool can emit an RSS entry marked as a calendar event, for example, and it can be received by another app that can use it appropriately).
  • Persistent Participation, not Review/Edit Cycles -- Individuals, in this federated model of collaboration, are more likely to be participants in an on-going process, not just reviewing documents in a workflow.

In effect, this migration of people onto the web and off their desktops is the end of the information age model of files and point-to-point communication. We are moving into a social age, where there are no 'files' -- except when they are created to hand off to those who still have not made the move to the social web, those who still want 'files' to store on their hard drive. Don't misunderstand me: obviously, their are still computer files being managed somewhere by these web apps: but people will not be directly accessing them, or conceiving of 'editing a file' and 'attaching the file to an email' and so on. Instead, we will be focused on the social context -- a shared space with a collection of individuals working on a project, for example -- not a collection of documents being manipulated by team members and routed around.

Again, this is similar to the ideals that motivated the groupware movement in the mid 90s, but today's web environment, and the advent of the unifying elements of web app architecture, have eliminated the barriers to adoption that dogged groupware solutions: everyone can be invited, there is no steep cost or technological threshold to bring individuals into a shared space, and widespread adoption of standards -- RSS, XML, etc. -- break up the monopolistic, fragmented market that we had in the 90s (Lotus Notes v Microsoft Exchange v eRoom v Novell v ...).

The confluence of these changes will be reflected in new patterns of interaction and collaboration in the workplace:

  • Augmented meetings -- where participants remain connected to the web, even when meeting face to face -- will become the norm, since individuals will come to rely on web tools as their primary medium for interaction. Everything needed for the meeting -- the agenda, not taking, supporting information, presentations -- will reside in shared space on the web, so meeting participants will stay in the shared web space even while sitting in a shared physical space.
  • Federated work -- Organizations are shaped by the communication models in place. Top-down communication of the industrial era led to hierarchical forms, with clear lines of authority and responsibility. Information age communication was dominated by lateral flows, from person to person, and this led to a trimming of many layers of the industrial hierarchy, and a distribution of authority and responsibility into a tree-structured network: a modification of the hierarchy, but one in which authority is associated with controlling the workflows: sign-off, approval, and go/no go decisions at key points in workflows. In this social web era, communication takes place in shared space, and authority is derived from reputation and social trust. Organizations will become more fluid, and individuals will increasingly affiliate with those that they want to work with, rather than being 'assigned' to specific departments (industrial era) or project teams (information era).

Email was the killer meme of the industrial era, and the emerging, composite infrastructure that will support a federation of web apps to be the new office (in several meanings of the term "office") will be the killer meme of the post-everything era we are now trailblazing.

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October 04, 2005

NewsGator Acquires NetNewsWire

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I must have been dozing, but others have caught the news that NewsGator has Acquired NetNewsWire, which is the sign of the rapid overmaturation of the 'RSS reader' metaphor of user experience in the blogosphere.

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Ning Goes Live

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The people at 24 Hour Laundry have launched what appears to be a complete platform for social architecture, called Ning, with dozens of social apps already installed:

[from Ning Blog]

For the four out of five of you who don't know what Ning is and came here because you are related to a member of the team, we've built an online service (or Playground, as we like to call it) for building and using social applications. Social "apps" are web applications that enable people to match, transact, and communicate with other people.

With Ning, you can become a Beta Developer and build apps or just enjoy the benefits of using what other people come up with.

In either case, we are just happy you decided to check us out.

I haven't fooled with the developer interface, but it seems that they are trying to make it possible for people to create new app by copying an existing one, and hacking it into something new. I have seen a few random comments that suggest this is a non-programming model. More to follow on that.

I did fiddle with various applications -- a bunch were down for maintenance -- and it seems obvious to me that Ning provides a really deep capacity to leverage the core elements of social architecture -- user identity, social gestures (tags, comments, etc.), and authoring tools -- to support potentially thousands of tools, sharing a common platform and leveraging each other's capabilities.


The Restaurant app is so similar to the Dinnerbuzz solution that I discussed here (Jeff Jarvis on Made For A Distributed World), that it struck me like deja vu.

At any rate: a first look suggests that Ning might accelerate the explosion of serious social tools: not the trivial, implemented-in-an-hour examples that seem to dominate the site, but deep and complex implementations that benefit from the core elements being inherited from Ning's base.

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No Google Office Today

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The much-rumored Google Office announcement between Google and Sun is not happening today, after all. [pointer from PC World.]

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Carl Zimmer: Another Icon Of Semi-Respectability

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Corante's own Carl Zimmer notes at The Loom that he has received another accolade for his writing here and elsewhere:

[from Blogs: Another Sign of Semi-Respectability]

The National Academy of Sciences just announced its 2005 Communications Awards. Gareth Cook, Pulitzer prizewinner from the Boston Globe, won the Newspaper/Magazine/Internet category for his must-read series of articles on stem cells. I was named one of two finalists, for a group of pieces about evolution that appeared during 2005 in Discover, The New York Times, and right here. I knew I might be taking a risk by including some posts from The Loom, but I was very proud of them. It's nice to see that blogs are taking seriously by the likes of the National Academy of Sciences.

It will take a few years, but I am willing to bet that all the finalists will be bloggers within five years time. Carl is just a man at the edge, like the rest of the Coranters.

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Get Real Minute: Web 2.0 Conference

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A few words about the upcoming Web 2.0 conference: yes, I'll be there. With all the meetings, how will I ever get to the actual conference?

Click to hear The Get Real Minute for 3 October 2005: Web 2.0 Conference Thoughts.

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October 03, 2005

Podcasting on Windows: Audio Editing

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Just a reminder: Greg Narain will be hosting a episode of Podcasting on Windows this week, and the topic is Audio Editing. Greg is deeply knowledgeable on this subject, based on his Beercasting project. He will also be pulling in a mystery guest.

Thursday, 6 October 2005: 1:00pm ET - 1:45pm ET.

Podcasting on Windows is a production of Corante, and is sponsored by GoToMeeting.

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Web 2.0: Bigger Than A Breadbox

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The Web 2.0 Conference this week has engendered a huge spike in posts attempting to define Web 2.0. They range from the brief to the preposterously long. So, here's my sound bite, since I am trying to remain reasonably brief, and also because I believe that an operational definition of anything has to small enough to scribble on one page of college-ruled note paper, even if the thing itself is bigger than a breadbox:

Web 2.0 is the term that we are coming to use to represent the convergence of technology and thought around an emerging paradigm for computing and social interaction. The driver of this paradigm shift is Mazlowian: we have achieved a certain level on the hierarchy of computing and social needs, and now are redefining a new set of goals that are driving us forward. In essence, we have established a computing and social architecture based on information needs -- moving bits around efficiently, and supporting various sorts of communication based on the the social dynamics of the 90s. Meanwhile, we have actually moved onto this platform -- we are living there, denizens of the Web 1.X -- and that shift has had profound consequences: not the least of which is, having made that move, we find the platform, and the thinking that devised it, inadequate for our new needs.

In particular, there is now an abundance of information and communication channels. But we are not searching for better bandwidth, or more streamlined business processes: what we are after is meaning. We are dreaming up a shell of social gestures surrounding and repurposing Web 1.X information, and inventing a new generation of software to capture, render, and remix it. This is how we plan to make sense of the world: not through number crunching, or being told by established organizations, but through the connected conversations of people.

The explosion in new technologies and forms -- tags, RSS, Ajax and so on -- is another effort in democratizing this process, putting more control of our Web experience in the hands of dreamers and fringe innovators, and taking it out of the hands of those with the most investment in existing Web 1.X models.

Like other revolutions, this is both an attempt at changing the place of the individual in social context, and a redefinition of that context itself. This means it is at the same time an intensely personal and societal shift: a bottom-up rethinking of self-identity and a simultaneous, wholesale power shift in technology, media, entertainment, and ultimately, politics. Everything, really.

We will continue to struggle with the specification of what this Web 2.0 thing is, because, even as we are struggling to explain it, the very meaning of the words is changing, the scope of the discussion is spreading, and the stakes are increasing.

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Richard McManus on Bloglines (or Off Bloglines)

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Richard McManus is among the growing number of people leaving Bloglines, based on their slow innovation:

[from Read/Write Web: Has Bloglines dropped the ball?]

While I have no issue with Bloglines focusing on the backend, the lack of new functionality and features does leave them vulnerable to losing a lot of their core readers and champions. They're already no longer the market darling amongst bloggers. For example I've now switched to Rojo and am pretty much championing them now, rather than Bloglines (although I still have a picture of me wearing a Bloglines tee-shirt on my About page!). And if you look at the comments in Russ' post, you'll see there are other people who have become just as frustrated with Bloglines' lack of progress.

In times of great innovation, where dozens of competitors are springing into existence, trying out new paradigms for remaining connected through blogs (or reading them, if that's the metaphor that makes you happy), Bloglines has settled on the "RSS reader" model, which is likely to be eclipsed by many others.

Richard favors the Rojo take, which is a social one, at least.

I am dreaming of some arrogant startup that focuses on the individuals behind the writing, rather than channeling feeds.

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Anne Galloway on Community, Trust, And Social Software

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Anne Galloway debunks conventional thinking about the center of gravity in online community, and does so in a hypnotically reasoned fashion. As part of this seance, Anne has channeled a group of thinkers that I have somehow completely missed:

[from Anne Galloway | Purse Lip Square Jaw -- On community, trust and social software]

I've also been re-reading Alphonso Lingis' The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common. I'm most interested in the idea that real value is found not in what we have in common, but in what makes us different. I like his discussions around being bound to someone - or something - that offers us no truth.

Anne's thinking has been formed by such different processes that it seems exotic, but a welcome shift of emphasis and purpose.

In Lingis' book Trust, he argues that the trust inherent in travel can show us how its value is found in experiences such as bravery, lust and joy. Contrary to the familiar trust between friends and family, on which most social software is modelled, Lingis passionately evokes this notion:

"Trust laughs at danger and leaps into the unknown."

Again, what makes this interesting is how much it differs from the idea that we form community along lines of similar or shared efforts. Instead, these kinds of community and trust revel in the unpredictable, the unexpected, the unknown, the irreconcilable. Their value is in what they teach us about things falling apart, about encountering and negotiating difference, about existence as difference and repetition, where repetition implies multiplication rather than preservation, about change. In these communities the sensual life prevails--and it is gloriously risky and difficult to control.

By defining community as something that requires we already know each other (by either one or six degrees of separation) and that we share interests, efforts or goals in common, and by committing these assumptions to architecture and code, we effectively deny people using these applications the ability to find community and trust in 'others,' and ultimately discourage people from changing, or becoming 'other' themselves. In this scenario, the radical promise of connection and cooperation between different people is undermined by conservative notions of connecting and cooperating only with people like us or, in some twisted expression of personal freedom, only with the people we choose.

Many have argued that this very tendency Anne is positioning against -- people's seemingly natural drift toward socializing with those they know, or those they have very strong affiliation already -- imbues the Internet with a profoundly conservative character. But the entropy of social stability and conservatism is countered by the wellsprings of spirit, that lead to almost irrational, impulsive interactions with those who are different, who are not the known, who are other than us. Anne suggests that any truly powerful social platform will have to allow us chance connections, random interactions, if it is to have any hope of matching the pulse and power of the larger, richer world. The alternative is to be blocked in by the dangerous simplicity of our tools.

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Emily Chang and Max Kiesler Launching eHub Interviews This Week

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Emily Chang let me know that she and Max Kiesler are doing something interesting to usher in the 'unofficial' Web 2.0 week:

[from eHub Interviews to Launch the Week of Web 2.0]

eHub Interviews, a series of email interviews with the creators of Web 2.0 applications and services, will launch this week (October 3-8, 2005) as part of the unofficial Web 2.0 week here in San Francisco.1 With over 150 web applications and services in eHub (and growing every day), we felt it was time to hear about Web 2.0 from the people making it.

I guess that is intended to stand in distinction to the Web 2.0 conference, which is the official Web 2.0 event that Emily is niddling about. I managed to snag one of the almost-impossible-to-get press passes, and will be one of the myriad non-implementers trying to make sense of this phenomenon -- which seems to be coming together so fast! -- so track me down if you are going to be there. I hope to hook up with Emily, too.

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October 02, 2005

Get Real Minute: Writeboard

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Initiating a new series today called The Get Real Minute, a daily, one minute podcast. Thanks to Steve Rubel, I stumbled on Writeboard, an ajax collaborative document web app from the folks at 37signals: here's my initial response, prior to fiddling with it at greater length.

Click to hear The Get Real Minute for 2 October 2005: First Look at Writeboard.

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October 01, 2005

C/Net Beta: Superficially Interesting, But Shallow

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I heard about the new C/Net beta with all sorts of new reliance on bloggish ideas and technology: see Media | | CNET, for example.

It looks like a blog, and smells like a blog, so, yes, it is a blog. But it falls short of actually being interesting. On a week in media where many people where writing about the layoffs at the New York Times, the Media mastermind was writing about Dot-com millionaire auctioning home on eBay and Kentucky town to get $100k to change name?.

And the writing is reportage, not blogging. But the experiment suggests where this grand experiment is heading: If C/Net can pay journalists to write blogs instead of writing more conventional journalism, wouldn't it be better to aggregate the writing of the best bloggers out there, instead of retread reporters? More to follow on that topic...

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Jay Rosen (and others) on Blogs Meet The Mainstream

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Tim Porter channels the conversation at yesterday's Museum of Television and Radio meeting on blogging as media in his A New York State of Mind, and led me to -- once again -- realize that no one gets what is happening in media today like Jay Rosen (although Tim is close):

Jay Rosen: The production model of doing the news - still operative in most news organizations - worked but it is an "intellectual disaster." Two years ago I wrote:
"To produce newspapers in this manner requires efficient, repetitive action - papers are scripted in advance, before the news happens; reporters are told how long to write, before they cover the stories; photographers are given dimensions of an illustration, before they take the pictures. This way of working discourages innovation and encourages rote behavior. At a time when journalists are better educated than ever before, it is ironic how many of them still work on the factory floor." [Read: Shutting Down the News Factory.]

Another pointer provided by Tim led to Terry Heaton's blog, where another Jay Rosen quote struck me:

[from Terry Heaton's Pomo blog]

Jay Rosen said something terribly important that (imo) went over the heads of most people in the room. He said the nature of authority is changing in our culture, and that this directly impacts all media. He used the example of a person who goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an ailment. The doctor explains how the medication will work. The patient then proceeds to the drugstore and receives the medicine, along with (perhaps) an explanation from the pharmacist about how the medicine will work. But then the patient goes home and gets on the internet to research the thoughts of others who've used the medicine to discover what THEY think about how it works, and this impacts the doctor's authority. The doctor is still the doctor, but gone is the automatic acceptance of his or her words as gospel. This is new in our world, and I couldn't agree more. It's the major challenge of all institutional authority, and it's one of the truly fascinating things about a culture drifting into postmodernism.

This is perhaps the best thumbnail characterization of the impact of social media on society I have read. People are looking for authoritative perspectives on issues of importance to them, and the large, established institutions -- like the medical system, capital M media, governments, and so on -- have become suspect. We look to ourselves, through the Internet, our third space, to find the answers to our questions. Individuals, through first person perspective, command authority in such a context, not large organizations. It is the organizations, and their chronic failures of trust, that have led people to look elsewhere. As a result, the trappings of old style authority -- association with a national newspaper or media network, government agency, or other professional associations -- does not confer trust or credibility as it once did: on the contraray, it may arouse distrust and even contempt. In the postmodern era, it is the individual, true voice that is trusted, and that trust is the result of hard won respect arising from a long period of open public discourse. The best bloggers exemplify this trend, like Jay, for example.

Tim made a seemingly offhand observation, that really underscores the subtext of the meeting:

There are a lot of scarily smart people in the world thinking about how use technology to keep journalism intact as a business.

Even as wholesale changes sweep through mainstream media -- like the fall of "production journalism" -- entrenched players will try to retain as much as they can of the trappings and legacy of journalism. Even if media becomes completely reformulated by the impact of the Internet and social media, they will try to retain as much control as possible, even in a world where the context of authority and legitimacy have been completely upended.

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