Corante

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"I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.” - Doc Searls
About the Author
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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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December 30, 2005

2006 Prediction #1: The Year Of The Mac

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yet another enormous Windows security mess, just before the New Year:

[from Windows Security Flaw Is 'Severe' by Brian Krebs/Washington Post]

A previously unknown flaw in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system is leaving computer users vulnerable to spyware, viruses and other programs that could overtake their machines and has sent the company scrambling to come up with a fix.

Microsoft said in a statement yesterday that it is investigating the vulnerability and plans to issue a software patch to fix the problem. The company could not say how soon that patch would be available.

Mike Reavey, operations manager for Microsoft's Security Response Center, called the flaw "a very serious issue."

How long will the 1990s positioning of Windows last, given this sort of nonsense? Why do businesses cling to the idea that the Microsoft stack and Outlook/Exchange are essential cornerstones of modern business life?

I predict that 2006 will be a time when it becomes increasingly obvious that businesses are going to move away from Microsoft, and not return. Aside from the missteps and design flaws of Microsoft software itself, here's why:

  • Web 2.0 -- new online applications will provide capabilities that match Office and other Windows apps at a fraction of the price. Expect big announcements in areas like on-line presentation, online web conferencing, CRM, and other traditionally business-oriented sectors.
  • Apple and the Battle for the Living Room -- I am predicting that Apple's Kaliedoscope project, which couples a souped-up Mac Mini with DVR software and iPod docking station, will destroy Microsoft's hopes for living room/entertainment center dominance. This product will be a huge, iPod-sized hit, and all of a sudden millions of American hopes will have a Mac in the living room. Game over.

It will become obvious that Microsoft is a dinosaur, that a better Windows won't be enough, whenever they get around to releasing it, and the company will be looking at a long tail business plan, supporting all those companies too slow to transition to the LAMP stack and Macs.

Comments (78) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Technology

Living In The Shadow Of Clogs

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Chris Andserson has announced an open source project to track corporate blogging in the Fortune 500, arising out of an observation of Doc Searls. Doc suggested that the disparity in blogging activities could be related to the present momentum of the company: companies on the rise might not want to mess with a good thing, while those on a downward slide might want to shake things up. Initial results:

[ from The Long Tail: Announcing the Fortune 500 Business Blog Index]

... they found only 16 members (3%) of the Fortune 500 with business blogs. And, for what it's worth with such a small sample size, the average trailing 12-month share performance of the blogging members was +5.7%, while the non-blogging members was +19%. So although the statistics aren't good enough to confirm Doc's theory, they do point in the right direction.

As long as a lot of human energy is being poured into this project, I'd hope that they'd dig out other information:

  1. How many people are blogging at the company, both in absolute terms and relative to the size of the company?
  2. Do the companies have blogging policies, or are they running free?
  3. Do companies respond to competitors blogging by adopting blogging themselves?
  4. Are the blogs run by the marketing department?
  5. Are the bloggers trained in some way?
  6. How many companies that aren't blogging yet actually prohibiting it?

The last question is actually my biggest concern. While I admire the inherent optimism in Doc's assumption -- that companies in distress will turn to blogging to turn around their fortunes, because of the healing, redemptive power of transparency and openness -- I am worried that the fear factor that forms a penumbra of doubt and uncertainty around blogging will lead to constraints against individual first ammendment rights.

Earlier in 2005, one of my biggest surprises was the Niall Kennedy mess (see Niall Kennedy and the Spectre of Being Dooced, and Poll on the Niall Kennedy Imbloglio), where not-so-subtle pressures on an employee of Technorati led to him self-censoring a personal blog regarding political views. The mess wasn't a surprise, but public opinion about it -- these were my readers, who I thought would be a fairly liberal bunch -- was fairly conservative (see Results of the Niall Kennedy/Technorati Imbloglio Poll: It's A Conservative World):

[from Results of the Niall Kennedy/Technorati Imbloglio Poll: It's A Conservative World ]

So, if this were just a democratic test, we'd see that the great majority -- 67%! -- believe that anyone considered a corporate spokesperson (however defined) must check personal free expression in the off hours at the door. 13% believe in some middle ground, and only 20% stand on the side of the angels in this case: believing that there is always free expression available to individuals on their own time.

This brings to mind a recent survey I saw referenced in the Washington Post this week, where 51% (I believe) of High Schools students polled believed that journalists should clear stories with the government, and that journalists have too much freedom in what they write. Help me! I also read that as many as 25% of Americans believe that the Sun circles the Earth, and more than 50% of Americans are uncertain about the veracity of the Theory of Evolution.

Just because the majority believe something it doesn't mean it's right. At one time, a majority believed in slavery and the divine right of kings.

I interpret this to mean that people are already sensing that they have to keep their heads down, and their personal opinions quiet if they want to get along in an increasingly conservative and conformist climate -- I hesitate to call it a culture; that's too positive sounding. We are increasingly left without a personal life when our employers can implicitly or explicitly threaten us for expressing unpopular opinions. We are silenced before we even try to speak.

This is, alas, what I expect to see with more and more 'clogs' (corporate blogs) are launched. A diminuition of free and open speech, and more companies asserting that their employees must drop any hope of personal opinion or risk the loss of their livelihood. I hate to appear a pessimist, but unless we, the people, stand up for our rights, the corporations will inevitably abridge them. In that regard, more corporations waking up to the power of blogs may not be all sweetness and light, but instead may cast a dark shadow across the blogosphere.

Comments (343) + TrackBacks (2) | Category:

December 29, 2005

Dion Hinchcliffe on Web 2.0 Thread

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Dion Hinchcliffe has an excellent blow-for-blow on the recent 'imbloglio' about the viability of the Web 2.0 term:

[from web2.wsj2.com ]

Web 2.0 has become a polarizing yet strangely magnetic topic du jour.  It's a subject a great many people love to grouse about, even as they spend way too much time thinking about it, all the while hating it, loving it, or just trying to figure it out.  Web 2.0 has waxed and waned and then waxed again over 2005 as the blogosphere hype/anti-hype cycle has whipsawed back and forth. 

If you take the temperature of the status quo, the inestimable Dave Winer currently has the mike with his Busted, Explained article, but numerous others have chimed in recently including quite famously Richard MacManus, who was then called out by Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, then Joshua Porter went on to explained why he still uses the term, ad infinitum. It was Russell Shaw however that was the one who really stirred the pot to considerable effect, but even he was then answered in kind by his very own Joe McKendrick.  Folks like Stowe Boyd have come out about this latest Web 2.0 brouhaha very level headed, as have a number of others who seem to have some perspective including Marc Cantor, Jeneane Sessum, and Frederico Oliveira. Now Shaw has come back swinging and shows no sign of flagging in his attempt to assert that Web 2.0 has no clothes. An attempt almost certain to fail, I might add, though we'll probably make yet another trip around the blogosphere mulberry bush.

 [...]

In more general discussion, the year end prediction lists are making the rounds.  John Battelle's 2006 prediction list includes #7, which says "'Web 2.0' will make the cover of Time Magazine, and thus its moment in the sun will have passed. However, the story that drives 'Web 2.0' will only strengthen, and folks will cast about for the next best name for the phenomenon."  I do note that he has started quoting his use of the term.  Another list making the rounds also weighs in on Web 2.0. Jason Calacanis' 2006 prediction list claims interestingly that the deflation of the housing bubble is going to cool down Web 2.0 investment seriously next year.

[...]

In any case, regardless of what you think of the term, Web 2.0 has been highly effective at making people everywhere think quite differently about the software they create and use.  And because of the interest, buzz, hype, and real-world success, 2006 will only continue to see the forces behind Web 2.0 grow.  Expect major surpises and new highs and lows as the big players in the software business start releasing wave after wave of online, social software next year.

Personally, I think most of the antihype is driven by the endless introspection and inventiveness of leading bloggers. We have a tendency to run out way way ahead of the herd, and we are constantly trying to create neologisms to explain the changes we perceive are happening. As a result, the visionary types like Winer can actually see the day when Web 2.0 has become so mainstream that the term will lose its power. I maintain that we have a lot of cat herding before that day comes, and in the meantime the term is a useful distinction between what is going on today, and the sorts of things that were going on in the past five years, just as Dion states.

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

Jeremy Hermanns' Flight 536

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Alaskan Airlines Flight 536's decompression and subsequent emergency landing has been all over the news, mostly courtesy of Blogebrity's Jeremy Hermanns' pictures from his Treo. In general, this would be a small citizen journalism piece, except that it seems that Alaska Airlines' employees have been posting unflattering comments about Jeremy at his blog.

[from Alaskan Airlines Employees Calling Flight 536 Passenger a Pussy? - Consumerist

Here’s where we come in: Jeremy’s blog has been slammed with comments, some of which appear to be from Alaskan Airlines [Alaska Airlines] employees themselves. While we encourage the Alaskan Airlines [Alaska Airlines] employees to get all PR 2.0 and transparent and stuff, we really don’t think employees should tell a customer who nearly fell out of their airplane at thirty thousand feet that he’s a “pussy.”

Jarvis asks, "When will they ever learn, when will they everrrrr learn?"

Yet another opportunity for a corporation to get it right, but instead? They fumble it. Even imagining for the sake of fairness that these are loose cannons acting on their own, the company should step forward about the incident, and if anything, praise Jeremy. But what did I find in their press room this morning?

[from Alaska Airlines press room] Headlines

Alaska Airlines Is First Carrier To Use RNP Precision Approach Technology At Reagan National Airport
12/20/2005 2:13 p.m.(PT)
Alaska Airlines announced today it is the first U.S. air carrier to use RNP precision approach technology to land aircraft at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Alaska Airlines Signs Long-Term Contract With Athena Bottled Water, Extends Support For Women's Cancer Research
12/19/2005 12:49 p.m.(PT)
Alaska Airlines today named Athena® bottled water, a product whose profits directly benefit women's cancer research, the airline's official bottled water. As part of a new contract with Athena Partners®, Alaska will serve Athena bottled water onboard its flights and in its airport Board Room lounges through October 2006.

Alaska Airlines Resumes Flights To Cancun Following Hurricane Wilma
12/15/2005 11:49 a.m.(PT)
Alaska Airlines today resumed regularly scheduled air service to Cancun International Airport. The airline temporarily suspended its daily nonstop flight between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Cancun on Oct. 19 following Hurricane Wilma.

Alaska Airlines And Horizon Air Introduce New Online Shopping Tool, Announce Non-Web Ticketing Fee
12/14/2005 3:55 p.m.(PT)

In recent presentations on blogging, I have included a slide that states: "Corporate Blogging: Oxymoron?" Basically, the unmediated form of give-and-take of blogging just doesn't gibe with the command-and-control mindset of most corporations. As a result, corporations often get blogging wrong when the do it, and they often respond badly when confronted with outside blogs that point out that they, the corporation's management, do not have control of their messages and positioning anymore.

Today, Jeremy and the rest of the blogosphere are defining what may become the public perception of Alaska Airlines for years to come, and the airlines management is not -- at least not yet -- participating in this discussion. Dumb, and perhaps deadly.

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

Meetro Mac Beta

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I got an email from Paul Bragiel of Meetro inviting me to fool with the new Mac beta of that geo-IM system. They have it in limited beta at this point, but soon hope to open it up:

[via email]

Meetro has now launched its Mac private alpha and is looking for people to participate. We plan on distributing it to the first few hundred people that email us at mac@meetro.com So reserve your spot now! Also, please include the city/state you reside in as well when contacting us.

I have only messed around with the beta a few hours, but it seems solid so far. I encountered one tiny bug when entering my profile -- it didn't save what I have typed -- but other than that, nothing.

Since I live in the technology hinderlands of Reston VA, I have only come across three or four users in my general area, but I am mostly interested in using this sort of solution when I am in dense urban settings, like SF, NYC, or Chicago. More to follow.

meetromacbeta.png


Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

December 28, 2005

David Newberger: 10 Questions With Stowe Boyd

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

David pulled me into his on-going 10 Questions With... series:

[from 10 Questions with Stowe Boyd

How long did it take you to build your base?

Well, I’m 52, so about a half a century.

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Frederico Oliveira on User Experience

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A great post by Frederico Oliveira on user experience being the make or break element of application development:

[from WeBreakStuff » Fewer templates, more user experience]

Remember the rule: “The key to successful web applications is how much it puts the user in the center of the process”.

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

John Cass on Nokia N90 Blogger Campaign

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Thanks to a post by John Cass showing up in the Technorati Cosmos in the right margin, I rediscovered a great comment by Paul Jardine buried in a post here at Get Real. John wrote the following in support of the Nokia N90 Blogger campaign (see my most recent pice on this here: Nokia N90 Blogger Promotion: On Fire and Catching Heat), trying to counter the negative buzz from bloggers like Nobilizer at Clogger:

[from Nokia Blogger Relations Campaign II: Backbone Blogging Survey]

I think the criticism of Nokia on the part of Clogger is helpful but also wrong. Nokia is being completely open about what they are trying to do, get the word out about their product. Just because Nokia sent you a telephone does not mean that a blogger has to write about the telephone. And I suspect that if manufacturers attempt to seed non-gadget bloggers regularly in the future, the luster of receiving a new camera will soon rub off, it will be old news. Bloggers will probably not have time to write about the product and focus on what they really care about, the topic of their blog or current conversation.

Rather criticism should really be directed at bloggers who give a positive review of the product without revealing the origin of the review, its one thing for a blogger to give a positive review of product when a blogger purchased the product themselves and its another to read a review when I as the reader know the blogger just received a phone for free. I don't doubt the sincerity of the blogger, but I do gage the credibility of the writer in assessing cell phones. Sorry Stowe that counts you out on this, and me as well! I am not a very credible authority on cell phone technology.

In addition, we should criticize the reader who fails to consider what they read, and instead advise them to search for expert product comparisons from several sources. The growth of consumer generated media, and corporate blogs is increasing the volume of discussion, that those voices are not all journalists is okay to me, in some ways the world is a little more dangerous because of it, I have to be more careful when reading any source of information today, just as I should have been careful before 1995 and the web. But surely having to think about the credibility of a source of information is a good thing for the reader? I think Paul Jardine of the Produktivity blog said it best in his comment on Stowe Boyd's post,
"His [Cloggers] is the cry of an industry about to be disintermediated (look at the quality of reporting in newspapers and TV today and I don't think the majority would claim it to be any better than the popular blogs) by advertisers. There will always be a place for people who can write, but the model has changed and you don't need a newspaper, or similar, in order to inform and comment on the issues (or products) of the day."
Word.


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December 27, 2005

Plans For 2006 And Beyond

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have often thought how helpful it would be to have a subtitle feature in Movable Type. In this particular case, I would have included the Israel Zangwill quote: "Everything changes but change."

After a year and a half as president and COO of Corante, working closely with Hylton Jolliffe and Francois Gossieaux to grow the business, I have decided to step down from that full-time position into an advisory role with the company, and spend more time with my clients -- particularly various early start-ups -- which are my first and true love. My partners, Hylton and Francois, understand my itchiness to be able to spend more time on my personal projects, and are very supportive of this transition. We have worked together very closely, and we all have the highest regard for each other.

In the past year, Corante has had a lot of firsts. We recently launched the Corante Network, and the initial Hubs have taken off. And the recent Symposium on Social Architecture was a blast, the first Corante Event, one that we hope to repeat in 2006. More events are in the pipeline in areas like marketing, media, and innovation.

Anyone who knows me well will not be surprised to hear that I am following this siren call. Even while we were pushing ahead with all these Corante activities, I continued to write Get Real, as well as leading various closely related media projects such as the Get Real Show and Behind The Scenes (formerly Podcasting on Windows). I recently taped the first six of a new series called The New Visionaries: Rebooting The Web, which will be launched in January. I also have been working with various large companies and small Web 2.0 start-ups, and the demand for my involvement on that side continues to grow. Honestly, that sort of advisory work is just more fun and personally rewarding than acting as a media company executive -- at least for me -- and now it will be easier for me to concentrate on those activities in an undivided fashion.

So, Corante will remain close to my heart. I will continue writing here at Get Real, and to provide whatever advice I can to Hylton and Francois. I will continue on as a shareholder, and I obviously want the company to prosper. In the coming year, I will be continuing on with various media projects with Corante, such as The New Visionaries series.

I also expect that this will free more time for writing, and I am looking around to see what comes from that. One of my goals will be to find a regular column somewhere, along the lines of the columns I used to write for Darwin, Lotus Journal, and other pubs. I have started to think about a book project, perhaps growing from the New Visionaries series, about which more later.

So, I am looking forward to 2006 as a new adventure, not just a continuation of the past. I haven't written my predictions for 2006 post yet -- I'm waiting for New Year's Eve -- but here's one prediction: 2006 will be faster, crazier, and more fun than 2005, and 2005 surpassed 2004 by approximately double in all categories.

Stay tuned!

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life

December 26, 2005

Ray Ozzie on 2006

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Is Microsoft really going to reinvent itself into being a Web 2.0 company, or is it a dinosaur, attempting to get on the good foot but doomed to failure? Well, no monster the size of Microsoft is going to strive for the "less is more" philosophy that animates most of the 2.0 startups, and even having a visionary like Ray Ozzie aboard can't lead to a rewiring of the company's entire DNA, but they can still make changes to their huge installed base. So Ozzie's post about what he is hoping for in 2006 is interesting, in that he talks about having both worlds: the ongoing roll-out of upgrades to existing product lines, like Office 12, and also establishing a 'concept development' group to speed up innovation and experimentation:

[from Looking back, looking forward.]

I look forward to many things in 2006. The response to the ‘disruption’ memo has been frankly overwhelming, in a very positive way. Having worked with Kevin, Jim, Jeff and Robbie this month to finalize ownership of the key services scenarios, I now look forward to engaging these individuals and their teams who will lead this user-focused transformation to service-enhanced software. As a certain core group of people are well aware, we’re now in execution mode; it’s going to be a fascinating year indeed! Separately, I look forward to working with my brother Jack and his nascent “concept development” group to rapidly incubate many ideas that have been spinning around in our minds – some for years. These won’t initially be ‘products’ per se: they’ll range from fun hacks testing out a concept, to highly useful solutions. We’re talking about potentially setting up a website where you can download some of these things as they emerge; stay tuned.

I have argued earlier this year that Microsoft is beleaguered on many fronts, and that it seems to be losing several battles that would lead to the company becoming sidelined. (In particular, I believe that Apple Kaliedoscope -- a retooled Mac mini with DVR capabilities -- poses a real threat as the killer app in the battle for the living room, a battlefield that Microsoft has failed to consolidate despite numerous advantages.)

Ray is trying to reinvent Microsoft virally. Start a small innovation group doing things a different way, and maybe that can percolate out through the Cubeland that Microsoft has become, and change things. Maybe.

I am betting against it. The inertia of enormous success will continue to drag down the company's momentum. We will see lackluster releases of slightly improved products, we will see a migration to web-based apps but little innovation. Microsoft acts as if this is the end game, when its really just the opening moves of a completely different game, although using the same pieces.

Maybe Ray knows that, but I doubt that he can get it across to enough of the fat cats at Microsoft to make a difference. I predict that in 2005, Microsoft will lose on all fronts, and that it will continue along with its Maginot line mentality, waging a defensive war.

The open source stack -- LAMP (Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP/Perl/Python) -- has become the basis of Web 2.0 development, and Microsoft cannot displace that. Web 2.0 apps are a decisive move away from the Wintel desktop, which Microsoft cannot effectively counter. Various web apps are being developed that will break the Office monopoly for the business desktop, and then what? What will be left when those millions of users begin to defect from Office, and move away from the Exchange/Outlook email platform? Microsoft looks likely to become the new IBM, like a boomer slowly turning into her mom as middle age encroaches.

In new areas, Microsoft has fiddled. MSN Spaces was late to the blogging party, Wallop has still not been released, long after social networking was hot. They missed the boat on social search: couldn't they have developed Technorati or Del.icio.us?

It's just one more proof that having money does not necessarily mean that you are smarter than others, or more likely to succeed. It's luck, generally. And it is merely an advantage in the game, not the game itself, and one that can be squandered, as Microsoft is demonstrating.

[pointer from Richard McManus]

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December 24, 2005

Glenn Reynolds on Bottom-up Knowledge

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Glenn Reynolds coins a term as part of a long range prediction:

[from Horizontal Knowledge]

There are two lessons here. One is that the skeptics, despite all their reasonable-sounding objections, would have been utterly wrong about the future of the Web, a mere ten years after it first appeared. And the second is why they would have been wrong: because they didn't appreciate what lots of smart people, loosely coordinating their actions with each other, are capable of accomplishing. It's the power of horizontal, as opposed to vertical knowledge. As the world grows more interconnected, more and more people have access to knowledge and coordination. Yet we continue to underestimate the revolutionary potential of this simple fact.
I think he means bottom-up when he says horizontal: its the aggregated value of the hundreds of millions of individual acts -- creating web pages, linking to others, making comments -- that have build the web and now are creating Universe 2.0. This worldwide activity is not centrally planned or controlled, it is profoundly counter to top-down approaches that in principle could have been directed toward the same aims, and, thankfully, weren't.

But the central thrust of Reynolds obeservation is dead on: we continue to underestimate the potential of a world where we are more interconnected, and hence smarter. The world is getting smarter, as we create these neurons connecting one bit of thought to another. Yes, there are still inequities, disease, poverty, hate, and war. But I believe that the emergence of the web, and its proliferation, is the greatest hope for the planet, and our collective future.

Merry Xmax.

[Pointer from Seth Godin]

Comments (15) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Scoble on Outlook 12 RSS Integration

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Robert writes about the upcoming Outlook12 release, which will incorporate RSS integration. He states that this will be a big breakthough for RSS usage, because...

Outlook is probably the most used application in the world after Internet Explorer (and, on my desktop, is used more often than IE).
Very likely true in the corporate setting, but surely instant messaging clients -- or just AIM clients -- far outnumber Outlook? The real turning point will be when AOL (or now Google with the Gtalk/AIM integration) will realize the obvious: put RSS reader capabilities into the IM client!

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

tech.memeorandum: The Tech Elite's Third Space

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I just wrote a post at Centrality about the impact that tech.memeorandum is having on the community of tech bloggers:

[excerpt]

The end result of adding this technology into the social network of leading bloggers has been a revelation to me and others. It has immediately and dramatically shifted how I read and write, and has led to an amplification of blog attention around interesting and important stories. My sense is that others also feel a pull toward the collective attention to things that are getting a lot of buzz on tech.memeorandum, in a way that is more urgent than how things proceeded prior to its introduction.

The emergence of this tool has also led to a strengthening of the sense of community across those that are among the 2000 blogs being aggregated into the tech.memeorandum meme pool. I have found a greater sense of connectedness with these bloggers than formerly, although the same techniques for linking and commenting are at work at the blog level: trackbacks, URLs, and so on.

Tech.memeorandum has taking a diffuse, implicit social network -- the leading tech bloggers -- and created a agora, a third space, where we can engage in a realtime discussion of the affairs of the day, or monitor others' public discussions.

Read the full article.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

December 23, 2005

Burning Bird on My Poll About "Web 2.0"

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Shelley Powers thinks my poll on whether we should continue to use the "Web 2.0" term is dumb:

[from Burningbird » Web2.0]

This is about a vote on not using this term anymore–which is about the most silly ass thing I’ve heard all month, even if the purpose for the vote is introducing yet another piece of ‘code’ to clutter our pages. We need our terms, Stowe–if we don’t have our terms, how will we separate the cool kids from the hacks with money? So, if Web 2.0 is now contaminated with all the ‘built to flip’ nonsense about, what about another name?

Shelley suggests Web2.0, which is a pain, and doesn't address the basic issue of whether we need to indicate this transition to a new footing for the web with some easily used term.

The poll that she suggests is 'silly ass' is running just about tied, last I looked, so the world of Get Real readers is fairly split between believers and skeptics.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Performancing Blog Editor Plug-in Adds Technorati Tags

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have only been using the Performancing plug-in a day, and they have already released an update:

[from Performancing Firefox Update! Technorati Tags, Bug Fixes, More | Performancing.com]

Technorati Tags Are Here! Yay! One of the more persistent requests, and one which was doable in the short timeframe we had was the addition of Technorati tags. You wont notice anything at all on upgrading, but if you hit the settings tab on the left, and then check "show extra publishing features" and optionally, the "Automatically insert technorati links on publish" you'll find a new button next to the title field in the editor. Click it, it's cool :-)


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

Chris Fralic on What is Web 2.0? A Swarm Of Associations

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Joining the discussion about the definition of Web 2.0, Chris Fralic at the Del.cio,us blog takes look at what taggers have associated with the term "web 2.0:

[from What is Web 2.0]

What we actually did was take a look at all the tag data going back to February 2004 (the month of the first use of Web 2.0 as a tag on del.icio.us), and analyzed all the bookmarks and tags related to the term. We can report that as of October 31, 2005 there have been over 230,000 separate bookmarks and over 7,000 unique tags associated with the term “Web 2.0” by del.icio.us users. So for this exercise, we lopped off the really long tail and normalized some similar terms (e.g. combining blog, blogs, and blogging), and came up with this snapshot of what Web 2.0 REALLY is – at least according to del.icio.us users' most popular tags through the end of October 2005:

ajax9.9%
blog6.1%
social4.2%
tools4.1%
software3.3%
tagging3.3%
javascript2.8%
internet2.6%
programming2.5%
rss2.5%

Other notable tags included rubyonrails (1.8%), del.icio.us (1.6%), folksonomy (1.4%), community (1.1%), wiki (.9%), flickr (.8%), free (.7%), trends (.6%), flock (.4%) and googlemaps (.3%).

An interesting exercise, and one that demonstrates that -- at least among taggers -- there is a stong association in people's minds about the relationship of Web 2.0 with Ajax, and social tools. The "people are the heart of the Universe 2.0" meme is in there. Also, the association with leading technologies -- Flickr, et al -- and various social gestures like tagging seems to indicate the obvious: people may not know what Web 2.0 is, but they know it when they see it.

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

December 22, 2005

First Look: Performancing Blog Editor Plug-in For Firefox

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I installed the Performancing blog editor plugin for Firefox today, and it will likely become my default mechanism for blogging.

The basic idea is very much in line with my rave about RSS Readering: I am reading a web page, and I want to write something about it, but I don't want to shift context. With the Performancing plugin, I don't. I right click the page (which on a Mac means option click) which then brings up various options, including the now plugged-in 'Performancing...' option. Selecting this leads to a full featured WYSIWYG blog editor taking up the bottom half of the Firefox browser window, and the blog entry includes a link to the page I right clicked on.

I haven't had much experience with the editor yet, but will put it through its paces for a few days, and get back to you.

Om Malik seems to suggest that this editor doesn't work with Macs, but it does. He also points out that Performancing's editor provides much of the functionality of Flock, which I have tried but haven't warmed to at all.

And the nice people at Performancing have stated that they will soon be rolling a version that will support the creation of Technorati tags, too. Even better.

performancing2.jpg


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

Richard McManus on Ganging Up Against Google

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Richard posts about a report from Ian McAllister, a Microsoft program manager, that some other "Tier 1" Internet company wants to gang up with Microsoft to counter Google's growing dominance in search and advertising:

[from Ian's post]

He was essentially saying that his company would help Microsoft level the playing field with Google in search and advertising.

Richard wants to know who the company is. Yahoo and eBay are two companies that leap to mind, obviously. AOL is now in cahoots with Google, based on a $1B partnership. Who else might it be?

What about Interactive? They own dozens of leading services -- Ask Jeeves, Match.com, Ticketmaster, LendingTree -- and even though they spun out Expedia, they are formidable: 3rd quarter results were $1.4B, a 55% growth over last year.

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Michael Tanne on Wink

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Wink launched its beta today, entering the increasingly crowded and noisy metasearch/social search arena:

[from Wink Blog by Michael Tanne]

Some people might say “What exactly does Wink search?” Our thinking is that people who are frequent users of del.icio.us, digg and slashdot, who get their information from many sources, and who count on knowing what people are finding interesting right now - those people would like one place to search all those sources. Google and Yahoo are great for the whole Web, and we’ve integrated Google search into our service, but the Wink results - those are a measure of what people are thinking right now, based on their bookmarks and tagging.

I talked with Michael several times recently: at Web 2.0, TagCamp in Palo Alto, and in his office for an interview in the upcoming New Visionaries series (coming in January)! I am one of the people that the new Wink service is targeted toward, since I stay glued to my laptop almost all day, tracking what is happening out there. The beta is open, so it will be interesting to see what happens when a large number of people stream onto the site, and begin to socialize the search results based on their individual notions of what is worthwhile.

The "answers" feature -- where people can add comments to the result of a search -- is a new twist on the idea of "search as shared space" and if it catches on can create real value. The two-way synchronization with Del.icio.us tags and Wink tags will certainly help lower the barrier to adoption.

Looks cool!

[pointer from Steve Rubel and Michael Arrington]

Comments (40) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Technology

December 21, 2005

First Look: Quimble

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I just created my first online poll in Quimble, on the subject of the W word: see Should we drop the term "Web 2.0"?, or the javascript version embedded in this post (and in the margin):

It was an amazingly simple activity, and the service supports RSS feeds and email notification as alerting techniques, as well as open comments and trackbacks. A very well-done blog polling solution.

[Pointer from eHub]
[Update: I found a Social Bookmarks poll there, I think started by Chris Messina of Flock. Check it.]

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The Winter Solstice: Merry Xmax!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

According to Fact Monster [and Zephyr Teachout], "The precise moment of the 2005 solstice will be December 21, 2005 at 1:35 P.M. EST (18:35 UT)."

Merry Xmax!

Xmax is my new, completely secularized replacement of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever. We celebrate the winter solstice, which I refer to as Xmax. We eat too much, drink too much, give presents, and break most of the major commandments.

The summer solstice is Ymax, in case you're wondering. Same sort of celebrating. Ditto for the Equinoxes.

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Google Talk To Interoperate With AIM

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As one element of the finalized deal between Google and AOL. the Google talk (gtalk) instant messaging solution will become interoperable with AIM:

[from AOL and Google Formalize Partnership to Include Shared Selling of Ads - New York Times by Saul Hansell

Notably, AOL will allow users of Google's new Google Talk instant messaging system to chat with users of AOL's messaging network, the largest in the country. Until now, AOL has resisted linking its system with those run by its major rivals - including Yahoo and Microsoft, which recently agreed to link their own. It does connect to Apple Computer's message system and several services aimed at corporate users.

There will be a somewhat complex procedure to link the two systems, however. Google Talk users will need to add an AOL screen name to communicate with other AOL users.

Bah, that's not complicated. That's what we do already with iChat.

This will open the door to all sorts of interesting cross-pollination, like the IM presence of the senders of Gmail. Sure, Google could have tried innovating these sorts of things with Gtalk, prior to the integration, but the user base is infinitesimal. All of a sudden, logging into Gtalk or other services in Google -- for email, search history, or any thing else -- could lead to all sorts of presence information about the millions of AIM users out there.

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Dan Gillmor on Center for Citizen Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Dan Gillmor, one of the good guys, is starting a non-profit Center for Citizen Media, in cooperation with the Berkman Center and the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism:

[from Coming Soon: Center for Citizen Media | Bayosphere]

Why do this? We need a thriving media and journalism ecosystem. We need what big institutions do so well, but we also need the bottom-up -- or, more accurately, edge-in -- knowledge and ideas of what I've called the "former audience" that has become a vital part of the system. I'm also anxious to see that it's done honorably and in a way that helps foster a truly informed citizenry. I think I can help.

This is a nonpartisan initative. I aim to help anyone, regardless of political views, who has a constructive project and who is interested in expanding the reach of citizen media in an principled way.

Sounds great, although I have reservations about "Citizen Journalism" which sounds like it is limited to policy and politics. I favor "Artisan Journalism" which still indicates that these are individual, as opposed to institutional journalists, but carries more of a creative flair and is not limited to the politics beat.


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Traitors in our Midst: Web 2.0 Antihype

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Michael calls Dave Winer, Richard McManus and Russell Shaw traitors for coming out against the concept of Web 2.0, although he moderates that with a smiley:

[from CrunchNotes � Traitors in our Midst]

Web 2.0 is not a marketing slogan. It is the slogan of a people’s army. Our army. They are words that help us explain the explosion of conversations on the web, and justify our enthusiasm for innovation. Web 2.0 is why I came back from my exodus at the fringes of technology, to explore the frontier of the new consumer web.

What did these "traitors" say?

Russell Shaw [not a member of the workgroup] seems to have been the initial source of this Web 2.0 backlash. He argues that Web 2.0 doesn't exist:

[from � Web 2.0? It doesn't exist | IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband | ZDNet.com

The problem I have with this "Web 2.0" slogan is that it is a contrivance, meant to imply a unified movement or wave toward a better Web. Just the very numbering of the thing brings out my moo-goo detector: 1.0 sounds like a beginning. 2.0 (as opposed to a tenth-decimal, such as 1.7 or a 2.4 implies - by its very roundness, a coordinated, standards-based, like-minded rebirth, reconstruction, renaissance, resurrection, whatever you want to call it. 2.0 is the ideal number for such an impression: it implies a concerted, noble effort at refreshing an inspired, but now aging, creation. even "3.0" implies, well, we didn't get it right the first time, 2.0 was transitory and is getting long in the tooth, so here we are transitioning to 3.0. But 2.0 sounds good.

Well, Web 2.0 is bunk. Not that the elements of this rebirth aren't there. I write about some of them, and Richard has them nailed. It's just that they cannot be classified under a common umbrella. They are forward lurches of various standards and technologies, some compatible, some not. Some revolutionary, some evolutionary, some impractical. Some are collaborative, others are highly competitive with each other.

Baloney. Web 2.0 has become widely used as an indicator that something different is going on with recent innovations on the web. It is being adopted by a wide range of people, including marketing weasels and earnest technologists, each of whom have their own reasons for adopting the term.

Russell looks to a Wikipedia definition for the term as justification for the notion that it was created by marketing propagandists to advance their evil goals: specifically, to create a series of profitable conferences, by which I guess he means John Battelle and Medialive, the folks behind the Web 2.0 conference. Wikipedia as a proof of something? Come on.

Appending a "2.0" to a term does not imply -- at least to me -- that some sort of consensus has been reached about the meaning of the term, or even less that its based on some colleciton of standards. It originally meant a new rev of a product, which implies a redesign and the rollout of new features. And "2.0" has become a useful suffix (like "gate" in the political sphere) to indicate a revolution, where the mistakes and bad design choices of an initial release are fixed, or at least countered. Media products -- such as Business 2.0 and Release 2.0 -- have fixed that notion into the zeitgeist. And Web 2.0 is so widely used that ascribing it to Battelle & Co. is really silly.

But their is a movement, of sorts, toward a different model of web-based applications, and Russell's dissmissive comments are simply wrong.

The treason begins with Dave Winer, who lauds Russell's antihype:

[He's exactly right, and what he says is kind of obvious.

Web 2.0 is a way for certain marketing people to claim they invented stuff that they didn't invent, without actually claiming they invented it. It's the kind of double-talk marketing guys love.

In a sense people are right when they say it's another bubble. It's dishonest like the bubble was. Yet the technologies they're hyping are honest.

Yeah, we're getting fleeced again. It sucks.

And Richard McManus jumps in with both feet, saying that Russell is 100% correct, and more or less promising to never say the W word again:

I've had enough of the hype. I've had enough of cynicism. I've had enough of hate blogs. The nail in the coffin was this post on ZDNet, by Russell Shaw. The thing is, I agree with Russell. The term 'Web 2.0' is distracting from the real value going on in the Web right now.

Read/WriteWeb will be focusing on more media-related web technology in 2006. Enough Web 2.0.

Yikes. My experience -- particularly talking with innovators in the past few months for the upcoming New Visionaries video series (see The New Visionaries: Rebooting The Web) -- has led to the exact opposite insight: there is a new sensibility about web applications -- how they are conceived, designed, built, marketed and sold -- that in aggregate is truly different that what preceded it. Note that Dave at least concedes that the technologies being "hyped" are honest, which means that maybe the technologists are too? Maybe it's just those evil marketing guys again.

This antihype is directed, implicitly, against the advocacy for Web 2.0 by people like, well, me, as well as more well-known figure like John Battelle (I wrote about his recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Building A Better Boom), and Tim O'Reilly (see Web 2.0: Compact Definition).

I am not prepared to pen a magisterial debunking of the Web 2.0 antihype that is growing, but I am committed to chip away at it, day by day. Here's a few observations as to why Web 2.0 is real:

  • Web 1.0, and its bubble, have come and gone. Many of the innovators in Web 2.0 are young folks who either observed the Bubble from afar or as newly minted hirelings in Web 1.0 companies. Their aspirations and thinking have been strongly influenced by the debacle. As I recently wrote, about the frugality of Web 2.0 companies, a real shift from Bubble excesses:
    I was just on a tour, talking with a handful of Web 2.0 tech start-up founders, and the tendency is to stay small, almost humorously small. At Mary Hodder's Bloqx, for example, three developers were crammed into a room no larger than a large closet. Jason Fried of 37 Signals advocates keeping teams small, not just from a desire to reduce the burn, but to increase the likelihood of less features creeping into products. This week, I saw the same reflected in the jampacked three-room office of Podcast.com, where Scott Beatty, the CEO, described the company's plans to the 'rolling beta' model of developing more and more rich services, which rely on small, agile development coupled with an obsession with end-user experience.

    It's an austere and highly philosophical era -- which John only tangentially touches on -- but one that is likely to lead to very different outcomes that Web 1.0. I believe that it's also a generational thing. These are either young veterans of the Web 1.0 mess, or those that witnessed the fall out of "irrational exuberance" from afar. And they are at least going to make new mistakes, if mistakes are to be made.


  • While by no means universal, and by no means a standard, there are general principles that reappear over and over again in discussions with Web 2.0 application developers. I recently referred to these as "central tendencies":
    • Users First -- The user experience is a proxy for the user, and all of the folks I touched base with so far agree that user experience is the pivot point of everything. That means that the norms of human expectations, social interaction, and interface goals become the central motif of these apps. For example, sharing with others becomes a basic principle, not something tacked on later.

    • Build from personal need -- In every case, these visionaries have decided to build something because they wanted to exist for their own personal use.

    • Build small, fast, and iteratively -- The nature of Web 2.0 app frameworks, and why they have evolved, is to support a extremely agile development mantra. But across the board, I have seen very small teams building the core functionality of some potentially larger product, and rolling it out to real users to see how it works. And then respond to feedback, and roll out the next version. This is not just a technique for the initial development stage of these products: its here forever.

    • Build small, focused apps, that could serve as building blocks in larger assemblages -- All these folks are resisting the tempation to bloat apps with more and more features, opting instead to build small, highly focused apps that could be integrated (though APIs) into larger assemblages (mash-ups).

As the world speeds up, the gap between any action and it's inevitable reaction seems to have closed, almost to nothingness. Ideas that have promise, technologies with the power to change the world, products that offer productivity boost, almost anything new -- and therefore threatening -- attracts nay-sayers just as quickly as adherents. The antihype almost arrives before the promise of the innovation can even be experienced by the early adopters. The Spanish have a saying, "May no new thing arise," that suggests the comfort that comes from resisting innovation, or the promise of change. Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions observed that those in established roles in a scientific community will resist new paradigms that emerge -- even if they better explain dispartities in observed reality -- because it threatens the cultural and social foundations of the community, and the established scientists' roles within it.

I don't think Russell, Dave, and Richard are evil, just because they aren't swayed by the observations of Battelle, O'Reilly, or me. But I think they are missing the opportunity to learn what the new visionaries out there think, those that do believe they are onto something different, building something different, onto a different era. And the A-Listers of the preceding era may find their influence waning in this new era, especially if they don't perceive the things that make it new.

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December 20, 2005

Web 2.0 Workgroup

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am glad to say that I am the newest fire-breathing, card-carrying member of the Web 2.0 Workgroup. I have been reading Michael Arrington, Richard McManus, and Susan Mernit religiously for a good while, and look forward to figuring out ways to work with them and the other folks in the group. Although I often quote Groucho Marx -- "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member." -- I certainly don't mean it, at least in this case!

web20logog.gif

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Web Two Point Oh!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I went to check out the Web 2.0 satire site Web Two Point Oh! and found my "pre-created VC friendly Web 2.0 company" was called Blinkomojo, and the product? Cellphone-based invites via microformats.

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December 19, 2005

First Look: Zoho Websheet

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I received an email recently from Ramesh Sripathy of Zoho, a company I have somehow missed even though they offer a collection of web apps: an online word processor, a CRM app, and a virtual office with tasks, file sharing, calendar, and so on.

Ramesh was responding to the Office? What's An Office? post, where I suggested that someone, somewhere must be building a web-based spreadsheet, and it turns out that Zoho is that someone... or at least one of them.

websheet2.jpg

The 'websheet' as they have dubbed it seems a good attempt to simply knock off Excel:

[from email]

Zoho Websheet
- Create web spreadsheet (websheet)
- Export websheet as excel / html
- Import any excel spreadsheet and use it online as websheet
- Use any excel functions (sum, avg, etc)
- Feel the same user experience as using excel

This is not yet ready for public, but will be out soon. More features
such as sharing, tagging, etc are in the works.

Zoho Websheet is definately pre-beta -- various functions don't work, it barfed on dollar signs, server errors pop up -- but considering the maturity of the other Zoho tools I expect that they will soon meet their ambitious goals, and then the last thread tieing me to Microsoft Office -- Excel -- can be cut.

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December 18, 2005

Marc Canter and Bob Wyman on Lazyness, Messiness and Structure

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Marc is willing to concede that I am making intellingent arguments against Structured Blogging, although he is not so sure about Paul Kedrovsky:

[from Lazyness, messiness and structure]

I’m happy to see Stowe use intelligent,well thought out reasoning in being skeptical about Structured Blogging.

It makes allot more sense than Paul Kedrovsky’s almost hysterical rantings. I guess Paul has an investment in some company that claims they can automate ‘finding structure meaning’ in content - so having humans index their own content doesn’t help them.

I find I am having a hard time trying to clearly articulate my concerns about SB in a way that people get what I mean. Bob Wyman, in a comment at Marc's post, doesn't buy what I say:

Stowe’s reasoning may not be as well thought out as you suggest. At times, he really seems to be reaching for reasons not to like SB. For instance, he writes: “Personally, I think it will fail because people don’t want their music review to look like everybody else’s…”

Well, it is unquestionable that not everyone will want their content to look like everyone else’s. That would be *very* boring. This is precisely why we’ve seen so many people modify the output templates used by the Structured Blogging extensions. They adjust the templates to conform to the styles of their own blogs. But, what is curious is that even though many folk have customized the visual appearance generated by the SB templates, we don’t see as many people changing the data structures used by the extensions under the cover. Clearly, what we’re seeing is presentation matters much more to people than data encoding formats do… Many people are skilled enough to change the templates while recognizing that there is value in keeping the underlying data structures standardized. This is one of the reasons why Structured Blogging will succeed. It is possible for many people to be creative in presentation while still keeping enough commonality in data storage so that the machines can provide common services.

Yeah, yeah. The superfical look and feel of SB output is not central to my concerns. Its not just that people want their blogs to appear distinctive, but they actually attack issues like classification and ratings differently. Its not a pure mathematical exercise, like converting one person's "three out of four" into another's "7.5 out of 10". People really look at things that they write about and review very differently, and SB's cookie cutterish approach to these sorts of blog writings will tend to overemphasize the value of ratings and other easily extracted metadata relative to the more nuanced thinking buried in text.

And my biggest concerns are the uses that will be made of the metadata. Firms like Pubsub and other aggregregators like the potential of all that metadata, which can be mined in various ways, yeilding all sorts of market information, product and brand indicators, and so on. Mass market thinking.

My paean to messiness is not just about look-and-feel, either. Its really about the effort involved with poking aorund, reading what people are saying, and trying to grasp their point of view and perspective. It's a messy business, messing around with blogs. And I welcome all sorts of widgets and gadgets and even metadata to festoon our blogs with, to help make sense of what's going on. But for some reason, the notion of standardizing the metadata around blog posts, making their context in the world in some way generic, seems to me to devalues the work of being an active reader of blogs. I am supposed to provide my context, or to help create it.

Bob and Marc may be right, and I may be an unreconstructed obstructionist to what will prove to be a great boon for everyone, everywhere. But for the moment, I will continue to dissent on Structured Blogging.

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December 17, 2005

Google Buying Stake in AOL: A Step Closer To Nerdvana?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have running around in Boston, offline almost all of Friday, so I missed the news breaking about Google's move to acquire a 5% stake in AOL. Obviously, as have widely reported, Google is interested in stalling competitors from grabbing its search services within AOL as a defensive strategy. But I am more interested in the possible synergies of the two Giant's social and collaborative tools activities:

[from BBC NEWS | Business | Google 'in exclusive AOL talks']

For its part, Google may be interested in getting access to AOL's e-mail and instant messaging service.

It would strengthen Google's hand against rivals Yahoo and Microsoft, who have well-established webmail and instant messaging services. Google is a relative newcomer to this area with Gmail and Googletalk.

A deal would also allow Google to reach AOL's well-established online communities and benefit from the sale of adverts.

As I have harped on a lot recently, AOL's recent efforts in IM and email have been lackluster, to say the least: more oriented toward increasing user annoyance by installing unwanted browsers and increased billboard space on every interface than innovation.

Google is a hotbed of innovation, tossing out phenomenal products -- like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Desktop-- regularly.

I hope to see the intersection of AOL's enormous AIM user base with a dramatically expanded Gtalk, and another go at Desktop, heading in the direction of (and please don't forget the Mac client, guys).

Only a few companies have all the bits and pieces to actually develop the Nervana client I have been pontificating about for the past year: Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. The notion is to cement the concept that the buddylist is the center of the Universe 2.0, and to have all manner of things hanging off that representation of our connections to the world, through all sorts of indications of

  • Email from a partner? It would be indicated in the buddylist entry next to her name.
  • New post on a friend's blog? RSS feeds would not be sequestered off in some disconnected reader, but instead would be integrated into the same Nerdvana buddylist as IM.
  • Ditto email. Instead of a completely different interface to alert you to new email, that information would show up associated with your buddylist, where it would automatically be organized by identity.

At any rate, I can hope that one of the areas that Google will focus its considerable capacity to innovate would be this this one, leveraging the AIM user community. Because, after the AIm Triton release (see Steve Case on Its Time To Take It Apart) it's obvious that AOL isn't innovating enough to hold onto its leadership in instant messaging.

Yahoo's recent efforts are intended as an attempt to out-Skype Skype, and Microsoft also has aspirations to become the 21st Ma Bell.

But Google could have completely shifted the dynamics of the future battle for the control of communications in the future, by tapping into the AIM userbase, and launching some truly innovative attacks on what has become increasingly a ho-hum battle. Sure, I want to be able to talk -- voice talk, not just text -- with people on phones, but I don't think that should mean that instant messaging needs to be as tired as the cell phone companies have made the software for cell phones.

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December 15, 2005

Des Paroz's Del.icio.us Comment Hack

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Buried in the comments of a Micropersuasion post about using Del.icio.us to keep track of all the comments we leave behind us in the blogosphere -- a nod to Elisa Camahort -- I found the perfect solution to this issue, courtesy of Des Paroz:

[from Micro Persuasion: Using del.icio.us to Track Blog Comments]

1. Add to your del.icio.us account, and tag with "mycomments" (or similar).
2. Then go to the page for that tag.
3. Right click on the RSS button to get the feed for that tag
4. Go to the RSS-to-Javascript converter (http://www.rss-to-javascript.com/) and input your address, and set the paramaters you want.
5. Copy the code returned
6. Paste this into your site's page source somewhere

I intend to start tagging my comments this way, and as soon as I have enough amassed that it makes sense to do so, I will follow the recipe -- using FeedDigest instead of rss-to-javascript -- and yet another cool widget will grace the pages of Get Real.

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Paul Kedrosky on Structured Blogging Will Flop

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Paul wades into the structured blogging discussion, arguing that people will stay away in droves, and for reasons other than my post (see Structured Blogging versus Messy, Messy, Messy), other perhaps similar at core. He's says people are too lazy to take on even another step in the blogging process:

[from Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed: Structured Blogging Will Flop]

There is simply not enough benefit to the average blogger to compensate for the added irritation of having to pull up a separate form for each type of content you post. It’s a little like the reason why the average Outlook user has around 2,000 emails in their inbox at any time: The cognitive effort of classification is enough to keep people from bothering. The same logic holds for structured blogging.

I worry that paul and his many supporters (read the comments) believe that even one more step is too much work. Personally, I think it will fail because people don't want their music review to look like everybody else's... they want the variablility of the Web that we have come to expect. But I expect we will accumulate dozens of reasons why not in the upcoming months.

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Google Blog Comments Extension For Firefox

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

So it looks like Google is provding one of the plugins I was hoping for when I wrote the first RSS Readering piece.. They have released a Firefox Plugin that displays a list of blogs in a hovering tombstone that reference the page you are currently viewing. The tombstone rolls up form the bottom right of the Firefox window, and has a few controls: scroll, close, expand/contract. There doesn't seem to be a way to fiddle with where it pops, etc., but who cares?

googleplugin.jpg

This is going to be an enormous boon to me, and I bet to other bloggers or active readers. And it encroaches on the territory that I have really been relying on Technorati for. Now, if they will add any blogs llinks that I click on to my Google Search History... that would be something.

They have also added a button -- "add a comment" -- at the bottom, that allows you to create a post at a Blogger blog, if you have one, referencing the page you are viewing, too.

This is the sort of thing that supports my RSS Readering style -- wandering around and finding new things to read.

[pointer from Steve Rubel]

[Update: Kevin Lim argrees about the plugin's potential: "Overall, I’d rate this Firefox extension as having a disruptive potential as an awareness application for businesses." Note that I discovered his post because of the plugin!]

]

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Basecamp Offers New Features

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Just in time for Xmax, Basecamp has added two new features:

  1. File uploading without FTP redirect -- if you have configured Basecamp in the past you will undoubtedly recall the issues involved with getting the file repository set up. You needed an external server configured to allow FTP access. For some people that was a showstopper. But now 37 Signals allows -- for all but the free plan -- file uploading built in, with limits of course.
  2. An affiliate program (see the ad over in the right margin):
    [from Basecamp Forum / NEW FEATURE: Basecamp Affiliate Program]

    The Basecamp Affiliate Program allows you to earn credits that are applied towards your Basecamp account. These credits reduce your subscriptions fees and allow you to earn free service. It's your reward for helping us spread the word about Basecamp. EVERYONE who has a Basecamp account is eligible!

Perfect gift for anyone! Pretty under the tree!

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Jabber.org Releases Open VoIP and Multimedia Protocols

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am in transit, in Boston, so I haven't had a chance to talk to any other folks involved in this effort, but I will do so next week, but I got a pointer to this info from Peter Saint-Andre emailed the link to me:

[from Jabber Press]

The Jabber Software Foundation (JSF) today published initial documentation of Jingle, a set of extensions to the IETF's Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) for use in voice over IP (VoIP), video, and other peer-to-peer multimedia sessions. The Jingle technology represents an open version of the protocols used in the popular Google Talk application released in August 2005, and Google is supporting the standardization and evolution of these protocols through the JSF's community standards process. The specifications published today are:

  • JEP-0166: Jingle Signalling -- The core technology for peer-to-peer session management, which enables communication through existing firewalls and can be extended to support a wide range of session types. (Authored by Scott Ludwig and Joe Beda of Google, Peter Saint-Andre of the JSF, and Joe Hildebrand of Jabber Inc.)
  • JEP-0167: Jingle Audio -- The session description format for Jingle audio sessions, enabling seamless one-to-one voice over IP (VoIP) between Jabber/XMPP users. (Authored by Scott Ludwig of Google and Peter Saint-Andre of the JSF.)

Follow-on specifications will be published in the near future for additional session types (e.g., video) as well as to document interoperability with the IETF's Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the ITU's H.323 technology, and the IAX protocol used natively in the popular Asterisk open-source PBX application.

Comments (0) | Category: Telecommunications

Office? What's An Office?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Steve Gillmor is sharpening his old, old ax: Office is Dead, he says, long live... what, exactly?

[from � Now that we've got your attention | Steve Gillmor's InfoRouter | ZDNet.com]

I was in a conversation last night where the subject turned to Office and whether it's dead or not. You know, the good old Notes is Dead micromeme that I pushed out into the world way back when Ray Ozzie was not the Prince of Redmond. Back before Ray rewrote the Microsoft playbook to stand at the doorway of attention. Back before Bill Gates told the Indian subcontinent that maybe just maybe it was time to cut a deal with–yes, us. Free stuff for attention. And what free stuff might that be? Credits for software! And what software might that be? ooh ooh I know… pick me, pick me.

Office. The Wall Street wisdom is that Google is a media company, their business model is advertising, and they have no business or gain in undermining Office. Right. Gmail, Gtalk, Gcal, Gbase, Gdesk. If you believe that, I've got a Gbridge to sell you.

OK, so of course Google is building the new microOffice. And this gives Ray the opening he needs to neutralize all the heavy hitters back at the ranch. Surely Ray remembered the moment at Web 2.0 when someone asked how many people had Gmail accounts and 80% of the room went up. Who are those hands? Thought leaders, influencers, enthusiasts, PR, media, so-called early adopters. And what did they pay for the right to use the software? No, not nothing. Their attention.

So if the war is already over, then what more does Microsoft have to lose? Only time. Time in which to make the switch to services. But can they just clone search and win share? Entropy rules.

He is characterizing this as a war with two belligerents: Microsoft and Google. And Scoble doesn't seem to argue about the card, settling for a recitation of the stuff that is cool in Office:

[from Scobleizer - Microsoft Geek Blogger � 837 words about how Office is dead (from Steve Gillmor)

But, Office still has some kick left in it. I’ve been using Office 12 for the past few days and, I can’t go back. The Excel pivot table feature alone is worth paying hundreds of dollars. Alone.

And tables are finally really cool. PowerPoint is actually something I’ll use again. Creating a chart there is sure a lot nicer than I’ve been able to do on any Web site.

Steve also hasn’t been paying attention to our secret weapon: workflow. Try to stick that in your Linux server and smoke it!

And now I see there’s new extensibility in OneNote 12.

I’m a card-carrying member of the Web 2.0 Working Group, but there isn’t anything as cool as OneNote coming out yet. Sorry. Not even close.

**Ray Ozzie slaps Scoble**

Oh, Ray, knock it off! We all know Gillmor’s favorite toy is Groove. We’re keeping that hidden away here until we need to use that to get Steve to attend another conference. Why? Cause it’s always fun arguing with Steve about whether or not Office is dead. Hell, according to my Word Counter (in the dead Office 2003) we just killed another 258 words doing just that. Heheh.

I think the metaphor of the Office is dead, although the inside-the-walls, enterprise-centric value proposition of Microsoft Office still will find its adherents in the corporate sphere.

But the dominance of Microsoft on the "desktop" (another office metaphor) is over, done, finito. Microsoft Word is being deposed by various RTF and PDF spewing document tools (like Writely and innumerable others) where there is no "document" on your harddrive, but instead a shared space that feels like a memo, or an invoice, or an expense report. [By the way, how come no one has developed a Web 2.0 expense reporting app?]

There are a few niches where the superiority of Microsoft Office tools has not been overcome by the value of collaborative, social architecture:

  • Excel: Yes, no one has developed a web-based solution to replace the venerable spreadsheet. Although I bet there are a clutch of start-ups out there working on it.
  • One Note: it is a cool tool, because it breaks the Windows "desktop" paradigm of folder and documents, and replaces it with a webbish collection of pages and links: sort of a mini-web, or a wysiwyg wiki on your PC. Very cool. If fact, I recommend that Microsoft built a web version of it ASAP.
  • Powerpoint: I am over PPT. I am temporarily happy with Keynote, but expect that web-based presentation systems -- perhaps with a small client for display -- will put an end to the PPT dominance in this sector. Especially since sharing of decks is central to the whole idea of presentation. [I envision a new dynamic, where online presentation systems allow you to edit and share presentations, incorporating materials from other web apps -- Google Maps, Flickr, AudioBlog, etc. -- and also to support real-time webcasting integrated with low-cost VoIP telephony for a much needed revolution. Watch out Webex!]

Google may in fact be the source of many of these tools, or the acquirier of them, at any rate. But I expect that we will see a widespread explosion of new approaches, and not just a knocking off of the core 20% ot Office apps functionality in web apps. And in this setting, we will see the displacement of models of use, not just a shift to the web.

Basecamp is a drastically different metaphor for project management, and has displaced the Microsoft Project model. Its a social media model, based on communication and coordination rather than micro-analytical management of time and resources. Basecamp is the product a small startup, 37 Signals, not Google or any other giant competitor of Microsoft.

So, while I believe that Microsoft and Google are in deadly conflict for the well-defined battlezones like email, blogging, browsers, and the like, in the area of social tools we should look to small innovators to upset the Office metaphor, with tightly focused and easily used web apps that do specific things well. That's why I expect an expense reporting app (perhaps one similar the the way Blinksale works for invoices) to come out and become widely used before seeing a complete and general spreadsheet tool.

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

Shelley Powers on The Meta Wars

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Burningbird is dead on when she writes

[Burningbird � The Meta Wars

She who controls the metadata rules the world [...].

But when I suggested (see Stuctured Blogging versus Messy, Messy, Messy) that there is a choice to be made between the use of Structured Blogging and Microformats -- and note that advocates of both positioned the comparison between the two as a choice (see Microformats v Structutred Blogging: A Small War With Big Consequences) -- Shelly goes on to say

My first reaction was to say that Stow Boyd [sic] wouldn’t be able to find a leafy, green vegetable in a field of lettuce, but that wouldn’t be civil and god knows, we all need to be civil.

So instead what I’ll say is that microformats, which are adding tags to existing elements such as links, and Structured Blogging are not an either/or; same as neither is incompatible with my own RDF efforts. All efforts are bottom up; all efforts are top down; all support a semantic web because at some point, someone has to make a decision to attach a bit of metadata to a chunk of web space. How you do so is irrelevant.

Ouch. Yes, Shelley, let's try to have a kinder, gentler blogosphere.

Rather than arguing from first principles at length, I think I will wait and comment on the first actual uses of these various approaches, and we'll see what the adoption is, and so on. And we'll see, then, who is trying to capture the high ground in the Meta Wars.

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December 14, 2005

Structured Blogging versus Messy, Messy, Messy

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Richard MacManus (see Read/WriteWeb: Structured blogging is here) and a long list of others are heralding the announcement about Structured Blogging at the Syndicate conference as something like the second coming.

But I don't buy it, as I said in this recent post (see Microformats v Structured Blogging: A Small War With Big Consequences ). My bet is that Structured Blogging will fail, not because people wouldn't like some of the consequences -- such as an easy way to compare blog posts about concrete things like record reviews, and so on -- but because of the inherent, and wonderful messiness of the world of blogging.

Because blog posts don't have to conform to any structural standards, they can be used to do anything: nothing is out of bounds, because we haven't created the boundaries. The messiness of the world we are living in is one of the reasons that it is such a rich and rewarding experience.

I am not sure who is benefitted if everyone falling into line and adopting consistent standards for the structure of blog posts. Perhaps companies like PubSub -- one of the driving force behind all this -- who would like to be able to sort out all the blog posts about hotels, gadgets, and wine out there, and aggregate the results in some algorithmic fashion, and then make money from the resulting ratings and reviews. But I am not sure that it would be a better world for bloggers, or even blog readers.

So I favor the microformat approach, which is messy, puts more of a burden on the blogger, and will require a host of tools to be built to make it all work. But microformats will work bottom-up -- tiny little tagged bits of information buried in the blog posts -- as opposed to structurally. And I am betting -- as always -- on bottom-up.

Comments (49) + TrackBacks (3) | Category: Technology

Top Ten Buzzwords: Puggle, Ubersexual, Playlistism

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

[from Tegic Reveals the Year's Most Buzzworthy Additions to T9 Dictionary: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

The top ten "buzz words" to be added to the T9� dictionary for 2005 include:

* Lifehack - a tool or technique that makes some aspect of one's life easier or more efficient
* Mashup - new information created by combining data from two different sources
* Placeshift - to redirect a TV signal so the viewer can watch a show on a device other than his or her television
* Playlistism - judging a person based on what songs are on the playlist of his or her digital music player
* Podjack - to plug the cord of one's digital music player into the jack of another person's player to hear what the person is listening to
* Puggle - a dog bred from a pug and a beagle
* Sideload - to transfer music or other content to a cell phone using the cell phone provider's network
* Vlog - a blog that contains mostly video content
* Vodcast - a video podcast
* Ubersexual - a heterosexual man who is masculine, confident, compassionate and stylish

I dare you to come up with a coherent sentence using all ten words.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Culture

Technorati Explore: The Tagspace As The Future of Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I guess I knew something like Technorati Explore was in the wind, based on informal and irritatingly obscure discussions with Dave Sifry and Peter Hirshberg in recent months. In particular, the interview I had with Dave a few weeks ago, for the New Visionaries video series that will debut in January, raised some tantalizing points regarding the convergence of blog search and new media.

Explore allows a user to see the most recent posts from blogs about any subject, such as "social media" as shown in this screen shot (hey, that's me!):

explore1.jpg

The unveiling of Technorati Explore lays to rest any questions I may have had. This is the first glimpse of Technorati 2.0: the media company.

Michael Arrington [thanks for the pointer!] compares it to the upstart Memeorandum, but doesn't generalize much beyond praising Gabe Rivera for what he's done:

[from TechCrunch � Technorati Explore Smells Like Memeorandum]

Here’s what Explore doesn’t do as well as Memeorandum: It’s nowhere near as real-time as Memeorandum (although Technorati is indexing the entire blogosphere whereas Memeorandum only indexes a few thousand blogs). Also, Memeorandum is advanced enough to cluster related items even when they don’t necessarily link to eachother - Technorati doesn’t do this. Finally, Memeorandum includes news items (NYT, etc.) and press releases as headlines, which Technorati isn’t doing.

Here’s what it does better than Memeorandum: It works for any tag - just search on http://kitchen.technorati.com/explore/[TAGNAME], whereas Memeorandum today only has sites for politics and technology. Also, Technorati automatically includes all blogs in the conversaiton, whereas Memeorandum only includes its few thousand indexed blogs. With Technorati, even the smaller bloggers can get in on the conversation.

And more importantly, Technorati can scale to support as many conversations as there are topics, or tags. Gabe is working harder than a one-armed paperhanger just dealing with Tech and Politics as subdomains. And this is exactly what we are trying to do at Corante's Hubs, like the ones we have launched for Web, Media, and Marketing (see web.corante.com, media.corante.com, and marketing.corante.com). And like Memeorandum, we are aggregating the insights and thoughts of pre-selected group of contributors.

And Michael is right, there is tremendous value in the real-time updating and graphical agggregation that human editors can do in almost real-time, none of which is in evidence here. But I predict that Technorati -- and its inevitable competitors -- will begin to roll more of that out.

Certainly, discovering the blogmobbing that goes on around a hot story should be possible for smart search engine technology? So at least some of what makes human-edited services like the Corante Hubs and Memeorandum interesting to return to during the course of the day can be automated, and will be, in the future.

But I also think that Technorati will have to add editorial capabilities, to actually become more of a newspaper than an encyclopedia. There is a hint of what might be coming. In the screenshot above, notice the small area that says, "What’s this? This page shows what blogs about social media are talking about right now." Imagine that replaced with a running commentary from a human editor, in this case knowledgeable about what's happening in the social media space, commenting and calling out the coolest stuff.

Imagine the opportunity: Technorati has the world's largest tagspace, and all of a sudden all those hot tags -- that we have lovingly created for them -- now become communities where people come to exchange views and learn. I predict that T'rati will start bringing more social tools into the mix: why not let people comment directly in the tagspace, for example?

And if taggregations can become destinations, like Memeorandum and the Corante Hubs are, then the one with the most destinations can become very big.

So this is an important threshold we are passing over, where the companies -- because Technorati is just the first in this frontier -- that are providing the search tools to find blog writing by topic, authority, and timestamps, now will become the context in which such blog writing is experienced.

And how -- if at all -- will they share the revenue with the authors? Do they envision setting up some sort of royalty scheme like that used in radio for music? Like we have done with the Corante Network? Because right now, whatever revenue is gained from those Google ads is not being divided with me.

You can argue that one hand is washing the other, since they are presenting only the smallest of excerpts [and, oh by the way, it would be smart to filter out those "[IMG ]" fields, guys] and therefore leading more traffic back to my blog. But I am starting to believe that whatever agreement I am making with Technorati when I agreed to have my blog indexed by them needs as radical a revamp as their aspirations seem to have had.

At the same time, it is a compelling vision: every interesting tag serving as the nexus for a community, and the largest and most active served by human editors. Imagine a Gabe Rivera equivalent for every one of 100 or 1000 of the most popular tags, laboring daily to help us make sense of the deluge of information being generated by literally millions of bloggers.

That should sell some ads.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Technology

Social Media: The Future -- Or The End -- For Time Warner?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Michael O'Connor Clark is at the Syndicate conference this week, and notes that Time Inc is laying about with a sharp blade:

[from I Love Me, vol. I]

[...] Time Inc. has put out news that they're laying off some of their most senior, long-serving publishing executives.

Included in the end-of-year axe job are Jack Haire, EVP in charge of corporate advertising sales, Richard Atkinson, former EVP of the news and information group, and Eileen Naughton, president of Time magazine.

The New York Times weighs in, noting that on one hand Time Warner is resisting Steve Case and Carl Icahn's recommnedations about rethinking the media giant reformulated into a set of more focused companies, and on the other is faced with an elevator shaft in its shrinking revenues and readership:

[from Time Inc. Lays Off 105, Including Top Executives - New York Times]

"This new alignment is the result of a very thoughtful and thorough process to de-layer our management structure, speed decision-making, simplify communications and reduce costs," Ms. Moore said. [chairwoman and chief executive of Time Inc.]

Many of Time Inc.'s top publications have suffered losses of advertising pages in the last year. Fortune magazine and Sports Illustrated each lost about 20 percent of their ad pages from November 2004 to November 2005.

The round of cuts at Time Inc. comes amid intense year-end cost reviews among the business units of the parent company, Time Warner. The Warner Brothers film and television operation has reduced staff by roughly 300 in recent weeks in what company executives have described as a realignment of the business as it positions itself for new digital business models and responds to a slowdown in growth of DVD sales.

Layoffs last week at Warner's WB television network also came in the wake of the disappointing debut of several new shows and a repositioning of the network for older viewers.

But the Time Inc. move is especially jarring because of the position it has held as the journalistic core of Time Warner, which today is skewed far more heavily toward providing entertainment products than information.

In recent days, Carl C. Icahn, the dissident investor, and Stephen M. Case, the former Time Warner chairman, have called for Time Warner to break itself up as a way to increase its languishing stock price. They have questioned Time Inc.'s role in an increasingly digital media world and wondered how much it has in common with its sibling divisions.

Case wrote a reasoned argument for the spin-out of AOL this week in the New York Times (see Steve Case on It's Time To Take It Apart ), and considering how fast Time is falling, the timing of such a course of action -- if indeed Parsons can come to his senses in time -- become more critical.

I have wondered for some time how media brands like Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated will fare in the world of Media 2.0, but its obvious that the media moguls guiding these creaking, antique media machines refuse to snap into reality. They have to stop printing the stupid paper mags, and get with what is happening in social media -- if it isn't already too late.

Time could try to do something really innovative, but instead these dinosaurs will, ineveitably, beat a slow retreat from their former dominant position, denying meanwhile that anything structural has taken place. They shuffle the deckchairs, find some new old media types to line up for the next round of cuts -- oh yes, they are coming -- but they never, never, never actually try a radical alternative. Excepting, of course, the AOL purchase of Weblogsinc -- shouldn't that have been Time Inc.? Are they planning to simply ride the long tail to extinction, until their only readership are octogenarian luddites?

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Text Message Stock Scams: How Dumb Can People Be?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The Feds are worried about a spate of text messaging stock scammers:

[from SignOnSanDiego.com > News > AP News

Securities regulators are warning investors about a new twist on the "pump and dump" stock-fraud scam that uses text messaging on cell phones to tout stocks.

The National Association of Securities Dealers, the brokerage industry's self-policing organization, issued an "investor alert" Tuesday advising people to ignore such messages with "hot" stock tips on their cell phones.

In so-called "pump and dump" schemes, the perpetrators tout small, thinly traded stocks to investors to inflate the prices and then sell their own shares at a profit. Ordinary investors can suffer losses when the stock prices tank during the share dumping.

During the stock market boom of the late 1990s, the touting often was done by posting e-mails about companies on Internet message boards or with write-ups in financial publications. In recent years, telephones and faxes also have been used.

And I bet that in small newspapers across the country, staff writers are using this as grist for yet another foray into how dangerous text messaging, instant messaging, and the Internet are, while in fact it is merely a testament to human stupidity.

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December 13, 2005

Om Malik on Tagspace Takes on MySpace: He's Nuts

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I love Om, and he's right about so many things, but I just don't see any compelling reason why Tagworld should displace MySpace, despite what Om has written here.

I went and looked. Tagspace does not offer some order-of-magnitude improvement of user experience, or some radical level of integration with video, or any other breakthrough that would depose MySpace from the top of the heap.

On the other hand, if they got wise to the whole "buddylist as the center of the Universe 2.0" meme, that would be something.

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FeedFlare: Feedback Through The Feed

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The nice folks at Feedburner have added a new capability called Feedflare, which basically allows you to instrument your RSS with all sorts of feedback widgets that front for various web services:

[from Burning Questions - The Official FeedBurner Weblog: No Feed is an Island: Introducing FeedFlare]

FeedFlare is initially launching today with seven simple options, including:

* most popular tags for this item via del.icio.us
* tag this item at del.icio.us
* Technorati cosmos: number of links to this post
* Creative Commons license for this specific item. This works even if you are splicing, say, a Flickr photo feed into a blog feed and the two parent feeds have different licenses associated with them.
* number of comments on this post (currently only for feeds created by Wordpress)
* email this item
* email the author of this item (particularly helpful if the item ends up spliced into another feed or repurposed on a site).

Shortly after this launch, we'll also integrate a "more like this" option from Sphere which will link to a list of related posts at Sphere.

So I have turned on just about everything available in the Get Real feed. (While I was there I noticed that Get Real has climbed above 1000 RSS subscribers!)

Feedflare3.jpg

Pretty cool. Rejiggering the paradigm of RSS as a feedback system -- thanks to interlacing these widgets into the mix -- holds some interesting issues. Just like advertising in the RSS stream, the blogger immediately asks "can I use the same widgets on my blog, and have a single mechanism to manage these sorts of interaction?" As soon as Feedburner offered Feedblitz -- the email notification service -- integrated with their feed management, I immediately dropped using the MT embedded solution for email notification. So, I can extrapolate: as soon as Feedburner stabilizes the implementation of FeedFlare, I would likely want to use the same stuff on my blog, so that the user experience -- wherever -- is as similar and rich as possible.

Played out to a logical conclusion, Feedburner and its competitors might be taking a new role as the medium through which not only is RSS streaming out to the readers, but all manner of social gestures -- clicks, views, tags, ratings, rankings, comments, tags, and links -- might be streaming back. And not just streaming back to be statically analyzed, but to be displayed and reincorporated into the user experience: rewiring the social architecture.

It looks like a small feature, but it's secretly huge.

[pointer from Michael Arrington, TechCrunch, who thinks the big deal here is opening up the solution so that any company can be offering a competitive solution to Del.icio.us. Yes, I likt that too, but the "feedback through the feed" -- capturing social responses that have been entered on the other end of an RSS pipe -- is going to be bigger, still.]

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The Bubble Project

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ji Lee of Pleaseenjoy.com is running a fun and potentially illegal project: The Bubble Project. The goal is to have people download various templates he's created in the shape of cartoon talking balloons, and paste them onto street advertising and to put provocative, funny, or ironic content in them.

bubblemanifesto.jpg

Lee plans to collate images that people take of these tags into a book.

His idea is that we need to take back public space from the corporations. Remember, though, that the well known graffitti artist John Tsombikos, known as "Borf," just pleaded guilty to felony destruction of property, and will be doing hundreds of hours of graffitti clean-up, even if he avoids jail.

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Writely: Adds New Features

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Since Basecamp has added writeboards, I haven't been using Writely much. That is not at all a knock against the app, but since I am so invested in Basecamp for managing projects I tend to use the features there if possible.

However, Writely is moving ahead with lots of new features which makes the offering more attractive. In particular, they have added PDF support:

[from Writely Blog

# Save as PDF.
Look for 'Save as PDF' on the Action menu in the editor. Note: this is our first to-be-premium feature, meaning it will be part of a paid subsription service once we come out of beta.

# MUCH better collaboration collision handling.
We've fixed some problems and added a pop-up that lets you retrieve your lost changes.

# More bug fixes.
Find & replace, the @ sign for Int'l keyboards.

# More localized FAQs.
These are now available as a drop-down from the Help Center and FAQ page. We've added Traditional Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese. Thank you, fabulous volunteer translators!

# The beta meter.
Help us decide when we're ready to come out of beta!

As Michael Arrignton points out, creating PDFs is of high value, and, on Windows, cannot be done in Word unless you've purchased the Adobe PDF software. On my Mac, that's built into the operating system.

As soon as someone creates a replacement for Excel, I can drop Microsoft Office altogether. The Numsum experiment is too weak, and Jotspot Tracker is really just a way to display spreadsheets. I hope Writely (or someone) is working on this.

[tags : , ]

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Mark Cuban and Universal Release

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a strange convergence, Mark Cuban has been linked to three of the 91 Ideas of 2005 that were featured in Sunday's New York Times Magazine:

[from Who needs an entirely satisfying explanation ?? :) by Mark Cuban]

[...] I was just as shocked as the New York Times Magazine to find myself the originator of, or involved with 3 of their 91 ideas for 2005.

Or as they put it

”For instance, we do not yet have an entirely satisfying explanation for how Mark Cuban, the outspoken Internet mogul and N.B.A. owner, came to be connected with three of the year’s most notable ideas (”Collapsing the Distribution Window,” ”Scientific Free-Throw Distraction” and ”Splogs”). That was just one surprising discovery we made in the course of assembling the issue”

Collapsing the Distribution window -- which in the entertainment world as Universal Release -- is perhaps the most notable of these three, basically throwing out the traditional delay between the release of a movie into domestic theatres and the subsequent release on DVD, VHS, and internationally. As the Times' Clay Risen wrote,

With box-office revenue slumping and DVD sales skyrocketing, it's not surprising that moviemakers are looking for ways to collapse the period of time it takes for a film to make its way from the multiplex to home video - in industry-speak, the "distribution window." The universal-release strategy has a lot of appeal for moviemakers: in addition to taking better advantage of the red-hot home-video sector, it's also more cost-effective - instead of requiring separate marketing efforts for theater and video releases, universal release requires just one. Plus, the strategy undercuts film pirates, who sometimes offer knockoff DVD's of films before they even hit the big screen.

Of course, the middlemen who have enjoyed a temporal protectionism -- the moviehouse owners -- are howling. Honestly, in a fully timeshifted world it would take a very rare movie to get me to go to the movies. I could save all those $7.50 ticket fees and buy a bigger screen instead. And I bet that many others would make the same analysis.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

RSS Readering: Part II

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The response to my recent piece on RSS 'readering' (see RSS Readering: Why RSS Readers Are No Good For Me (And You, Too, I Bet)) has been really overwhelming. I thought I would wander through some of the comments and recommendations that folks sent along, as well as describing some new tools that have cropped up that I am trying out.

  • Todd Tweedy pointed out that the recent release of AIM supports media bots pushed into the buddylist, without any opt-in by the user. He suggests that in the future AOL may not let you delete these bots, and that's bad, if it turns out to be true. Note: despite for my calls of an integration between RSS readering and the buddylist, I have had no response from anyone working on IM for one of the major IM players. Sigh.
  • Anil Bawa responded with a description of some of the things he has implemented in Clippr which was his master's thesis project at Imperial University. Clippr is a really cool prototype, but not open for general use:

    [from the Clippr.]
    Show me the money

    Here's the feature list:

    • OPML import/export of feed subscriptions. Folders are flattened to tags and imported automatically into Clippr.
    • Firefox plug-in and bookmarklet to facilitate clipping stuff from your web browser.
    • Tag clippings, tag feeds, tag like a demon.
    • A community oriented article base formed through user subscriptions, refreshed periodically. Full text RSS/RDF/ATOM formatted feeds are supported.
    • Text analysis (article clustering) on incoming articles, in order to extract Top Stories and article keywords.
    • Context analysis (tag clustering) used to recognise related tags.
    • Change your tags whenever you want. Clippr handles merging/splitting of tag-spaces.
    • Power editing using batch actions thanks to a gmail style dynamic dropdown.
    • Tagging combined with keyword extraction to produce automated classification of articles. Text analysis and folksonomy reconciled.
    • A search engine supporting a query syntax for folksonomy - search by tag (intersection/union), feed, keyword or any combination of these. Implemented as Live Search for desktop style responsiveness (it behaves like Apple Mail search - wipe the search field and return to where you were)
    • RIS export for using web references in bibliographies
    • RSS export of your Clippings archive.
    • Mail an article to a friend or recommend it to a fellow Clippr user.

    Hot damn, I thought. So I contacted Anil, and we spoke this last weekend. He is interested in pursuing the ideas in Clippr, but the system isn't really scaled to handle more than maybe a dozen users at the moment, so he'd have to rethink it and reimplement if he wants to go forward with it. But he is plotting doing something in this area, so I have dubbed him a new voice, and plan to keep my eyes on him. I also plan to meet him when I jump to Europe in the new year.

  • Danzigstorer turned me on to the Maxthon browser, which I had never heard about even though it has had 30 million downloads. I haven't had a chance to fiddle with it, or review its many plugins, but there may be something there. More to follow. He also mentioned Sharpreader, a Windows only RSS reader tool that plays nice with W.bloggar, apparently.
  • Ian Kennedy of Yahoo pointed out that the announced Yahoo Alerts integration with Yahoo Messenger is now working. I will look into that later today.
  • Dylan mentioned both You Control for the Mac, which basically allows the user to put all sorts of controls into the menu bar, like being able to open folders, recent documents, iCal events, and this includes a small RSS reader. Looks interesting, but I stumbled across RSS Menu first, so You Control loses out.

    RSS Menu is a simple program that allows you to display RSS feeds from a menu on the Mac menu bar. The tool supports folders, so that feeds can be logically aggregated. And when you mouse over a specific post, there is a hover display of the story excerpt. The feeds and folders display unread items. Its a very minimal but usable RSS jumping-off point, which is what I really want. As I said in the earlier piece, I don't really want to park in a reader, and have posts pushed at me one by one. I usually jump to a post, then from there to other things linked, and so on.



    This would be reason enough for me to adopt RSS Menu. Having the RSS feeds always available in the Mac menu is a huge advantage -- I don't have to switch from email to a newsreader, for example. I just reach up, scroll down the list and see if there is something I want to read. If so, I click on the item, and there I am.

    Even more importantly, relative to my desire to be alerted about new stuff, RSS Menu is integrated with Growl, another Mac program that I knew nothing about until the past week. Growl's creators call it a "global notification system for Mac" -- and the product can be used to notify Mac users about all sorts of system and application activities. In my case, I have turned on notifications for new RSS feeds and Gmail.

    Growl%2BRSSMenu.jpg

    Now, whenever someone I read posts something new, I get a floating, transient tombstone in the upper right corner of my desktop, indicating the name of the feed. I can -- if I want -- pull down the RSS Menu and slide over to see what it is without having to change context from one program to another. I emphasize that last point because it's very big for me.

    So, that's a big digression in response to Dylan's recommendation about You Control -- perhaps should have been a post all on its own -- but needless to say, one piece of the puzzle that I wrote about in RSS Readering Part I has been mostly satisfied.

  • Just Mohit and Pablo Ibarrolaza suggested I try Bloglines, but that's the inward looking sort of RSS reader experience I don't want. I have already tried Bloglines.
  • Michael suggests using email alerts, and use the standard email filtering/foldering approach. Gack. I don't want to spend more time in email, I want support for an active, blogging-by-wandering-around style of RSS readering.
  • Greg Cangiolosi pointed me toward immedi.at, which is an RSS-to_IM alert solution. More to follow, once I test drive it.

  • Julian Ellison says that his group is going to take at least some of my recommendations to heart:
    Seriously, we're digging into this in our Tablane browser. Won't help you yet because we're based on the IE engine in our current incarnation (sorry), but in our next beta release due out before the end of the month we are adapting our (bookmark) Collections XML framework to comply with the RSS XML standard. This should give us a platform to pursue some of these ideas.
    Another browser I had never heard of! Yikes.
  • Mark Wilson suggests that a website might be a better place for dealing with RSS feeds than a reader, and he and his (unnamed) group are apparently at work on something like that. He points to Microsoft.com as his website in the comment, so...

A number of folks referenced the piece and extended the ideas. Here's a sampling (see Technorati, or the trackbacks on the post):

  • Jack Vinson picked up the thread and wrote:
    Why RSS Readers Are No Good For Stowe

    Stowe doesn't want the email-like interface of Outlook plugins, nor does he want the "Pez dispenser feel" of many of the browser-based aggregators (click to read). He goes on to describe a set of features that describes a more natural way of reading the wide array of web feeds that are available today. Such a tool will let him say "this is interesting" and immediately research other materials: trace through links, read comments (and visit commenters), browse through tags, and even find people in my network who know something about the topic. And one might even want to write about the topic in question.

    One can almost see pieces of this in the various blog and web search feeds that are available. But they mostly require that I wait to see how the search develops over time. I wonder if what Findory is doing with monitoring my clicks might help over the long haul.

    Here's an example: While I am reading, I would like to have a "more like this" option that pulls together materials in my existing feeds that are related to "this." It also goes out to the web and brings back other related materials, maybe via a gada.be-like tool that fires off multiple searches for me. And it should be smart enough to ignore things I have already seen or that I already know about (one of my frustrations with blog search feeds).

  • Ian Kennedy said that I laid down
    a challenge for RSS readers to do better with some suggestions for improvement which I think make sense.

    I think that's the attraction of Memeorandum - we're usually lazy and want to give over control to someone else to sort out the top news of the day. In Memorandum if a story is really talked about, it'll remain the top story all day, there's no worry in missing that one post, it'll remain pegged up there until you're ready for it. Reading your feeds (forgive me, I'm going to take a shot at my own analogy) should be more like taking in an expansive view of the landscape and not like weeding a garden. As Yahoo continues to think about how best to bring RSS to the masses, this is something we continue to think about.

  • Scoble commented on my post, which I talked about at length, here, but the real difference is, as I said, "My process of reading stuff is not random, but it is not assembly-line, industrial-strength blog reading like Robert is into. I find that I need to tag, comment, post, and so on, to make sense of the stream. Otherwise, nothing sticks with me."

  • Andy Lark said he shares my feelings, which I already noted.
  • Paolo Valdemarin says that I am a mutant, but I may be a precursor of what others will do in the future: "I don't know how many users in the world wild web would actually be using an approach similar to Stowe's to dig information today, but I think his list of features could be an interesting foundation to improve tools for intranet-level applications."

Whew. A lot of discussion, a lot of tools to try out, and some measurable success -- specifically with the combination of Growl and RSS Menu -- getting toward what I want. But I still haven't uncovered the various modules that I talked about in RSS Readering Part I, and most of what people seem to be building are new applications that are trying to impose a different context on my RSS readering activities instead of supporting me where I am now: in the browser looking at some post. Tool builders need to drop the premise that we want to sit in a tiny little room (the app) and read snippets of text in an assembly-line fashion. I favor a pre-industrial, hunter-gatherer model of web reading: I wander around, looking under rocks and finding new trails all the time. And telling stories about my travels so that I, and others, can find the way back, and, just as important: to learn from the experience.

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Peter Cooper on People use FeedDigest because other things suck

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Peter Cooper of FeedDigest picked up on my recent comments (see Remember The Milk) about using FeedDigest to pipe my Remember The Milk to-do list into the left margin of Get Real. Peter is right when he worries that people are only using FeedDigest because other services don't provide RSS-to-javascript gaskets, and that FeedDigest has to aspire to do more:

[from PeterCooper.co.uk: People use FeedDigest because other things suck]

You might think that people using FeedDigest because other services suck is a good thing for FeedDigest. I'm not so sure.

Take what Stowe Boyd just wrote. He's using a new to-do list system which he loves to bits, but which lacks "a neato-keeno javascript to let me directly post a public to-do list on my blog, so if I want to do that I have to resort to an RSS-to-javascript gasket like Feeddigest." FeedDigest is a 'resort'. This is true in many cases. A lot of users only use FeedDigest because their existing tools are lacking.

FeedDigest can do more. For example, the service has very limited options for reformatting feeds. And they offer no capability to filter feeds based on keywords or tags, which would be very helpful. But with the attitude he is expressing in this post, I am sure that Peter will be working on it.

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Trip Hawkins: The Social Side Of Games

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yesterday's USA Today had a piece about Trip Hawkins, the founder of Elctronic Arts and now Digital Chocolate, who has had something akin to a religious conversion. As he puts it, "I realized I had been doing the wrong thing for 30 years." He now thinks the pivotal element of games' attracting and holding onto users is not fidelity to the real-world -- great graphics and so on -- but their support for the social dimension. Aha! People are the heart of the Universe 2.0!

[from USATODAY.com - Tech guru dials into gaming's social side by Kevin Maney]

Hawkins started to feel that something about video games was lacking. Madden Football might be astoundingly realistic, yet it's played by only about 5% of the people who watch the Super Bowl, Hawkins says. Participants in fantasy leagues — a very low-fidelity activity based on statistics from real football games — outnumber video game football players 3 to 1.

[...]

So, Hawkins spent time thinking about what people need, not just want. As we become more mobile, "There's a loneliness we feel in our society," Hawkins says. "We want to grab onto what we've lost."

And that's connection and community. People want to go to Super Bowl parties or interact while playing fantasy football, Hawkins concludes. Fidelity is important to an elite segment of the market, but social connection is important to just about everyone.

"I took the wrong branch," he says. "I thought it was all about fidelity, but what people want is the social aspect."

[...]

In this nascent segment, Digital Chocolate ranks in the top 10 gamemakers, according to research firm M:Metrics. The company has sold about 8 million of its early games. Prices vary, but subscription games can cost $2.99 a month.

Yet Hawkins' big bet is on the low-fi social games, and that's just beginning. MLSN only launched on Cingular and Sprint Nextel subsidiary Boost Mobile this fall. This month, MLSN will launch on Verizon and Sprint. AvaFlirting and a sibling game, AvaCars, won't come out until 2006.

I haven't played these games -- in fact, I don't play video games or phone games, in general -- so I can't comment on the play aspects of what Digital Chocolate is up to. But the basic philosophy is dead on. People want to connect with people, and games are just another means to do that.

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December 12, 2005

Abby Christopher on Games Tackle Disaster Planning

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

When the next enormous disaster hits, you can be sure of one thing: relying on the regional or federal government to respond is stupid. But how can we train local people to be first, and maybe final, responders? Abby Christopher writes at Wired about video games that help people learn what to do in various disasters:

[from Wired News: Games Tackle Disaster Training




Don't worry about bird flu -- video games will come to the rescue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding a series of computer games to help prepare health workers and other first responders facing bioterror attacks, nuclear accidents and pandemics.

Backed also by Chicago's Department of Public Health, a University of Illinois at Chicago research team is developing a series of games that simulate health-related emergencies as well as biological, chemical, radiological and natural disasters.

The new approach is expected to save money -- but it can also prepare many professionals and volunteers quickly in the event of a health emergency, like the potential bird-flu pandemic.

This is the sort of thing that I think is essential for preparing for the inevitable Disaster 2.0, like a bird flu pandemic, biological terrorism, or a 100 year storm hitting Manhattan. Instead of overbred bureaucrats holding endless planning sessions and writing voluminous reports about our lack of preparedness, the US Government or Bill Gates should throw a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into a massively parallel online game system where those who get to level 100 will get their college paid for, or $50,000/year, or some other NBA-level inducements. We could have millions of people learning what to do in an emergency, and the top 10% or 15% could make serioius coin.

And in the case of an emergency, when you are standing knee deep in the rising water in a New York City subway, and someone starts telling everyone what to do, you'd be much happier knowing that she is a level 100 adept of the Disaster 2.0 game instead of some political appointee with a flair for office politics.

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Joi Ito Is Bored

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Joi Ito writes that bloom is off the rose as far as conventional blogging goes, at least for him: blog fatigue has set in. The light at the end of the tunnel? Moblogging!

[from Joi Ito's Web: Will more moblog help?]

It dawned on me that what I really want is better moblogging. Now, when I am in front of a computer connected to the Internet, I'm mostly immersed in IM for business or Warcraft for fun. When I am mobile, I have idle time that I could spend reading blogs and writing to my blog. I guess this is a sign that, at least for me, blogging has moved from my primary online activity to my idle time filler. However, considering how much idle time I have with my phone, I think I could still blog at a relatively consistent rate. Also, I wish there were better ways to read and write when I am with my computer without a connection.

Anyway, I'm going to have to think about how I can have more moblog... Also, maybe my site needs a redesign too.

I think Joi is facing what we all feel, when blogging becomes just the daily grind. And second, I have great hopes for moving into video blogging and moblogging, to rethink the entire experience of blogging.

Once I get over issues involved with downloading Nokia Lifeblog software to my loaner N90 (requires a Windows box -- hiss), I will be trying to expand my blogging to include a completely different use of Flickr -- not as a periodic uploading of pictures from my cell phone, via the computer, but a real stream of pictures and posts daily. By the way, when is Flickr going to support video?

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Steve Case Online Live at 11am Today

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

To discuss his Break AOL Apart article (see Outlook: Time to Undo the Merger?)

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Steve Case on It's Time to Take It Apart

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Steve Case has a piece in today's Washington Post where makes a case (haha) for breaking up Time Warner, and in particular, taking AOL in a new direction.

I am not persuaded by Case's spin on the history of the Time/Warner AOL merger: neither is Om Malik. But his three reasons why an unfettered AOL could do better than a captive one are worth thinking about:

[from It's Time to Take It Apart]

Three initiatives, each grounded in AOL's storied past, could be the basis of the company's resurgence.

First, there is no firm better positioned to become the preeminent Internet-based phone company of the 21st century. With nearly 100 million instant messaging users, sending billions of messages each day, AOL is already one of the nation's leading communications companies. While I have respect for the talented entrepreneurs at Internet phone companies like Skype and Vonage, an independent AOL should be able to have many times the number of Internet phone customers as these upstarts (neither of which even existed when we announced the merger of AOL and Time Warner). While AOL is now, at long last, finally getting an Internet phone service off the ground, a spun-off AOL could make this its highest priority, without any anxiety about conflicts with Time Warner Cable (which offers competing services).

Second, given that AOL has always fostered a sense of community and encouraged interaction between like-minded people, it is well positioned to lead in the booming field known as social networking. Indeed, AOL was facilitating social networking before anybody called it that; now this is one of the fastest growing segments of the Internet, as shown by the surging interest in (and valuations of) companies such as MySpace and Facebook. There's no reason why AOL should be falling behind these new entrants -- except that, within a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, emerging opportunities are often ignored until it's too late.

And third, the current drive to make AOL.com a general interest portal is great, but the value of general interest Web sites may have already peaked. The bigger opportunities are likely in the area of vertical portals, Web sites that draw people into specialized channels about things like sports or health, and that host multimedia content as well as video search tools, which blur the lines between the Internet and television. AOL's huge audience gives it a tremendous advantage here, not just to sell ads, but also to build valuable, durable interactive media brands and franchises.

It is true that in each of these three areas, and many others, there are initiatives already underway at AOL. My point, however, is that AOL must go beyond merely "doing" these things; it must reach for leadership in each area. And to do that, it must be freed from its corporate shackles and return to its entrepreneurial roots, identifying ideas early and promoting their widespread acceptance.

Regarding AOL's instant messaging opportunities, I agree that the company could make a credible VoIP run against Skype/eBay, Yahoo, MSN, Vonage, and Google, based on the penetration of AIM. And Case is right, that AOL needs to focus on that right now, or the tide will have turned. The presumed internal conflicts with other arms of the media giant could in fact hold back necessary focus or resources. Given the innovation going on at the competitors and the ho-hum stuff being done in AIM today, something needs to happen.

Here's what I was writing two weeks ago in a review of AIM Triton, their newest version of AIM, that I never finished:

Until today, I had only peeked at the AOL Triton project from afar, but because of my increasing hostility to apps that only run on Windows, I still haven't really fooled with it. I did post Stewart Henshall's comments here, where he basically states that they failed to do very much that's innovative. A complete "lack of vision," he said.

So, after reading a lukewarm review in the Washington Post this morning, I fired up Virtual PC and downloaded the thing. (And, oh, by the way, reclaimed my longlost "stoweboyd" screenname! Years ago, when I dropped my AOL account, they appropriated my login and told me -- in various tech support interactions -- that I would never be able to regain it. This was a policy based (supposedly) on protecting people from others spoofing their identities after releasing screennames or login names. "But," I protested, "I am me. I am not spoofing." Tough luck. However, today, I was able to generate the "stoweboyd" screenname. Hmmm. Maybe its the statue of limitations has elapsed... whatever. But I am glad to regain it, and I plan to switch over to using it.)

My expectations were low, despite the hoopla about the new video capabilities being a Skype killer. Sure they are. What I expect is the increased commercialization of the AIM experience. More ads, more real estate devoted to pushing AOL services, and during the download and installation, all sorts of attempts to own my desktop. And they did not disappoint.

Couple that with the ongoing brain drain at AOL, there are obviously systemic problems, there:

[from WSJ.com - AOL Loses Executive Who Led Instant-Message Unit's Revival

The America Online executive who led a turnaround at the online company's Instant Messenger division has quit a week after AOL introduced its latest version of the product. Chamath Palihapitiya, 29 years old, plans to join a venture capital firm next year.

Mr. Palihapitiya's departure comes as AOL parent Time Warner Inc. is in the midst of negotiations to sell a minority AOL stake to either Google Inc. or Microsoft Corp. Those negotiations have been dragging on for months, leading to a sense of uncertainty among many AOL staffers. In August, Neil Smit, who was head of AOL's subscription business, became chief executive of Charter Communications Inc.

AOL hasn't named a successor to Mr. Palihapitiya, who plans to leave at the end of the year. He will join Mayfield Fund, one of Silicon Valley's most established venture firms, with $2.3 billion under management, as a principal in January.

Good news for Mayfield, perhaps, but another question mark about the future direction of AIM.

Case's arguments about social networking, or perhaps to generalize, the emergence of social architecture upon which interesting new apps will be built, are convincing to me. With gazillions of AIM and AOL users, AOL should be better positioned than they are today in that arena. And, despite the buzz around MySpace and Facebook, I think we are only seeing the start of a social application explosion. These are SNA 1.0 companies, and there really aren't any SNA 2.0 companies out there, unless you blur your focus and look at Flickr or Last.fm (obvious candidate to be acquired, soon, btw), where people are sharing their obsessions with media. AOL should be doing more, here.

And finally, the argument that AOL could become a leader in social media is a real possibility. It's a wide open marketplace, and the company recently acquired Weblogs, Inc., which is a serious step in that direction.

So, leaving aside the "who struck John?" arguments about how AOL got mixed up with Time Warner in the first place, and not even trying to dig into whether its good for the other parts of Time Warner to be divorced from AOL, I am willing to nod along with Steve's message. Whether he can make it happen, or happen quickly enough, I have no idea. But there is no doubt in my mind that a smaller, more focused AOL, capitalizing on AIM, and perhaps adopting my mantra -- The Buddylist Is The Center of the Universe 2.0 -- is a better play than whatever it is Time Warner thinks it is doing with AOL right now.

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Yahoo To Offer Movable Type

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yahoo has announced that it will be hosting MT for small businesses. Kind of wild, considering they acquired Blogger, but I guess MT has such a big lead in the powerblogger end of the spectrum that they just had to... or is it a stalking horse? [correction: Adrian Holovaty points out that it was Google that bought Blogger. Duh. I guess my coffee hasn't hit yet.] Considering their acquisitiveness, why didn't they just buy Six Apart? Maybe the price couldn't be hammered out.

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Joseph Nocera on The Twilight Of The Gatekeepers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a recent New York Times column, Joseph Nocera ponders the rise of time-shifted media a la iPod, and shrugs. But then, he discusses this phenomenon with James Chanos, the hedge fund manager -- the guy that bet that Enron would collapse, and was proven monumentally right:

[from A La Carte? Nah, Hand Me The Remote]

For months now, Mr. Chanos, a well-known hedge fund manager who specializes in short selling -- that is, betting against companies -- has been articulating an investment theory that he calls, rather poetically, the The Twilight Of The Gatekeepers. The Internet he believes, is going to erode the value of -- if not destroy completely -- virtually all the companies that serve as intermediaries between the big content providers like Disney and your and me.

Chanos' theory suggests that Comcast, Blockbuster, and others that act as middle men in the media bazaar are dodos. And Apple's introduction of the Video iPod is a turning point, perhaps the inflection point where this die off becomes inescapable. Time to sell them short.

As Mr. Chanos sees it, the iPod deal is the next wrinkle in the assault on cable. "The important thing isn't the device," he told me recently. "It's the fact that iTunes is a software program that allows you to download video content." Which means that, in time, we'll download all our television programs, via the Internet, through some piece of software. Perhaps we'll have a box on our TV that looks like a cable box that resembles a cable box but is actually a wireless modem made by Cisco.

Or more sensibly, a wifi connector that pulls stored or streaming media from a PC. This is dead on, I think, although Nocera argues that the intermediaries -- like local cable companies -- will fight this tooth and claw. Let them. His arguments never dig very deeply into the reasons that individuals might want this revolution to happen, like time shifting, removing ads, and so on. He only mentions the fact that people will have to pay more for a la carte as opposed to bundled cable service. Gee. But in the unbundled world I have access to limitless channels, not the 500 Comcast offers. And if I don't watch, I don't pay anything.

And his final argument that this way to experience video is complicated compared to sitting down and watching TV is just dumb. The iPod/iTunes experience is amazingly simple and intuitive, and what we are going to see coming out in this battle for the living room will likely involve the best user interface designs in the world, as opposed to the bad, bad, bad stuff that monopolistic cable companies develop. Have you seen the Comcast email client, for example?

And, in the final analysis he goes on to suggest that the whole scenario is too far out:

Will there eventually be broadly available video-on-demand? Of course. Will people use media devices to watch news clips or NBA highlights -- or even "Desperate Housewives?" Undoubtedly. But does it mean that television as we know it is coming to an end? Not likely.

Once again, don't look to an aging member of the mainstream media to look in the crystal ball and foretell a revolution. Portable media players like the iPod did not exist a decade ago, and that, along with the Internet, has completely remade the music industry. Portable video players, including cell phones, connected to the Internet, will rewire the entire television/movie marketplace, and in a shorter time this time around.

So I am betting with Chanos, at least philosphically, if not with coin, and Nocera I relegate to the list of shortsighted mavens who fail to see the evidence before their eyes, or at the least, fail to come to the final conclusion.

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Improbulus on Technorati Tags

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Improbulus seems to be having problems simialr to mine re: Technorati tags getting lost, stolen, or strayed:

[from A Consuming Experience: Technorati: how to check when Technorati last indexed your blog]

And while it's good that they are regularly indexing, I wish they would fix the problems with their tag pages (or maybe tags indexing or tags database), which clearly people are still experiencing - I've found myself that my post on how to offer different lengths of feed to your subscribers isn't showing up on their tag pages though it's clearly on their index. I don't know if it's because I included code in that post, but some guidance as to what can break their system would be helpful so we know what to avoid.

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Loic Le Meur on I Wonder Why Stowe Does Not Answer Me

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am working through the monumental batch of comments that people have been kind enough to leave on Get Real in the past few weeks, and I have been remiss in repsonding to many of them, such as Loic's posts and comments (seeLoic Le Meur Blog: I wonder why Stowe does not answer me) regarding some things I said about Les Blogs.

I am totally bored with blog conferences, as I said in several posts over the past months.

Specifically regarding Les Blogs, I had not planned to attend. Then, when I was at Web 2.0, I was talking to a certain someone (I will withhold his name, since I feel he is an innocent in this situation), and he asked me if I would like to speak at Les Blogs again this December -- note that I had spoken there in the spring. At the time, I was contemplating a trip to Europe for my new series, The New Visionaries. So I said, ok, if you'd like me to speak, I will arrange my travel around that. I had also thought that at least one or two of the European visionaries I want to interview for the series might be attending. Would have been a nice hat trick.

On returning from Web 2.0 I did not hear from Loic, and I expected him to follow up on the invitation from Mr. Anonymous, since I presumed that the invitation was just that: an invitation. Not an invitation to put my name in the hat. But, nothing. So, wanting to resolve travel and to coordinate meetings with various people, I sent an email to Loic, asking what's the story? And Loic's response was this:

Hi Stowe thanks for your interest ! I am thinking about how to finalize the program and it is difficult to have the same speakers list of course as this was only 6 months ago

Thanks, let me come back to you asap !

Loic

Which was the last I heard from him. So I took that as a no.

But it's alright, since the launch of the series has been pushed to January, and I still have an additional 5 or 6 Americans queued up for interviews in the Bay Area in January. My plan now is to head to Europe in late January or early February.

Regarding my first post about the recent Les Blogs, I couldn't resist the picture of Marc Canter snoozing. I love Marc, but it was impossible not to post it as an emblem of my ennui regarding blog conferences. And it is initial post that I made the comment about being bored, and not the subsequent post. I didn't delete that statement from the later post. But if I had done so, what are you implying? That I am trying to cover up the fact that I am bored with blog conferences? I don't think that's a secret.

And Loic doesn't mention the second post I wrote with Loic showing off his N90 cell phone.

Third Les Blogs post: Mena's meltdown was being widely discussed, and I joined in (see A Kinder, Gentler Blogosphere), but I didn't think of that as a dig against the conference per se, just coming in on the side of the angels in this "imbloglio".

Although, come to think of it, I am not a big fan of displaying the backchannel at conferences. So I can level that criticism to Loic and the conference organizers, since it was the conspicuous nuisance that led to the eruption of ill will, hostility, and incivility, there.

I like backchannel discussion, but nearly everytime I have participated in an event where the backchannel was displayed behind the podium has led to -- at the least -- confusion and interruptions, and -- at the worst -- some sort of acrimonious flareup like the Mena meltdown.

At the recent Symposium on Social Architecture, where I was chair, we had decided not to display the backchannel. In one session, Mary Hodder and Kevin Marks were showing some materials from a laptop, and in the display was the backchannel: which led to a spontaneous discussion of the pros and cons of displaying the backchannel. And that really was just another of the interruptions that displaying backchannels can cause, since their topic was really about something else altogether.

Anyway, Loic, I hope that clears up all your comments and questions.

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Umair Haque on MySpace: Corporate and Lame?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A fascinating riff on the economic transitions in the media industry (based on "coordination asymmetries") comes to a dead stop with an offhand comment about MySpace that reminds me that we are in the very earliest days of where social tools are heading:

[from Bubblegeneration Strategy Lab

My kid sister is young enough to think that MySpace is corporate and lame. How do you think her generation is going to express and define itself?

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December 11, 2005

Remember The Milk

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am endlessly fascintated with organizing my digital life (or is it digitally organizing my life?), and so when I bumped into Remember The Milk I signed up for an account.

RTM1.jpg

At core, RTM is a to-do list manager: a basic coordination tool. But the thought that has gone into it is captivating. RTM provides the core capablities that you might expect of a to-do list tool: creation of tasks, with deadlines, and so on, but it supports a wide range of sharing options. RTM is a social tool, supporting groups and the delegation of tasks to individuals -- through an "inbox/outbox" metaphor -- and the opportunity to publish to-do lists via URL, RSS, or iCal mechanisms.

I like being able to assign a time to a to do, not just a date, and a time estimate -- although much of that information is not exported via iCal or RSS, alas. The system supports mutiple timestamped notes associated with a task, which provides almost a mini-blog feel: imagine a shared task, where various individuals can post notes re: the status of the activity, for example.

But best of all, from my viewpoint, is alerts mechanism, which includes email, text messaging to your phone, and (yay!) instant messaging.

The only negative about RTM is that they don't provide a neato-keeno javascript to let me directly post a public to-do list on my blog, so if I want to do that I have to resort to an RSS-to-javascript gasket like Feeddigest (see left margin).

So, now I have tried to switch over. I am creating to-do lists in RTM rather than in iCal, and I have subscribed to those lists. iCal is becoming more and more a display for stuff I am creating elsewhere (like my public travel calendar in Eventful (see the left margin)).

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December 10, 2005

Steve Rubel's IM Interview With Joshua Schachter/Del.icio.us

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Steve interviews Josh via IM (see Micro Persuasion: Yahoo Buys del.icio.us).



Josh says Del.icio.us and MyWeb won't be integrated for the near term, but that obviously has to change.

It might have been better to publish the whole chat log, but its nice to see the iChat client being used with Yahoo's newest employee.

[Aside: I published a bunch of IM interviews a year or so ago, using Gush. They had worked out a contraption that allowed the chat to be scrollable, which was cool. But is was a pain to use. What I would like, I guess, is some way to take the transcript and make it scrollable in place, so it looks like the chat client. Ideas?]

Comments (33) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Internet Identity Workshop 12 Dec 2005

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Mary Hodder wrote to alert me (and you) to this upcoming workshop. Alas, I can't be there.

[via email]

The Internet Identity Workshop presents an
Informational Morningfor Developers
Hosted by Doc Searls, Mary Hodder and Identity Woman Kaliya

Monday, December 12, 2005 9-12 noon, with lunch from 12-1
Canton Dim Sum 655 Folsom
Cost $20 for lunch (PLEASE RSVP HERE:
http://www.socialtext.net/iiw2005/index.cgi?rsvp
Canton Restaurant has been kind enough to give us the space if we all have lunch there, but we need an accurate count by Sunday at noon.

If you are a developer working on a application that has folks login - this is a morning for you.

Doc Searls will begin the day giving an overview of the identity landscape. He and others will answer the question:

* Why do identity systems matter when building new systems and tools?

We are bringing together a spectrum of folks who have been working on developing identity systems and tools. Identity Developers will share their work, basics and best practices to date to get started exploring
integrating identity into these applications. These include YADIS, LID, Open ID, i-names/XRI, SXIP,among others.

Developers ofapplications who have included identity into their services and tools will sharebriefly how they've done it. Application developers will hear from and meet with identity developers to ask questions.

Event Info: http://www.socialtext.net/iiw2005/index.cgi?identity_workshop_wiki
Detailed Agenda: http://www.socialtext.net/iiw2005/index.cgi?developer_meeting_agenda

RSVP: http://www.socialtext.net/iiw2005/index.cgi?rsvp

Comments (33) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

December 09, 2005

Del.icio.us Acquired by Yahoo

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Techcrunch (Michael Arrington) reports that Del.icio.us has been acquired by Yahoo (see TechCrunch � Yalicious? - Yahoo Acquires Del.icio.us). No other news seems to be available.


[Update: 2:52pm -- Joshua Schachter confirms, and pointed out this entry at the delicio.us blo:

[from http://blog.del.icio.us/blog/2005/12/yahoo.html">Y.ah.oo]

y.ah.oo!

We're proud to announce that del.icio.us has joined the Yahoo! family. Together we'll continue to improve how people discover, remember and share on the Internet, with a big emphasis on the power of community. We're excited to be working with the Yahoo! Search team - they definitely get social systems and their potential to change the web. (We're also excited to be joining our fraternal twin Flickr!)

We want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way - our employees, our great investors and advisors, and especially our users. We still want to get your feedback, and we look forward to bringing you new features and more servers in the future.

I look forward to continuing my vision of social and community memory, and taking it to the next level with the del.icio.us community and Yahoo!

]

[Update: 3:00pm -- Here's Jeremy Zawodny's take on the acquisition.]

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Technorati Ping Page Update

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I noticed that the Technorati ping page has been updated, so that it knows who I am, and let's me know the last time it updated its information about my blogs:

tratipingpage.jpg

Until today, I would have to type in the URL of the blog to send the ping. [Note: I seem to have some ping bug, so I find I need to ping T'rati manually, despite having it set in the blog configuration for Get Real.]

[tags: , ]

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Heather Green: New York Times Sort Of Gets It, Part 2

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I agree with Heather Green at Businessweek's Blogwatching that Steve Rubel's highlighting the single quote from the Jonathan Landman memo on blogging is unfair, if his intention was to make them look unclueful, as I said yesterday:

[from New York Times Is Getting Clueful About Blogging, Sort Of]

And, despite sounding relatively clueful, his statement -- "The point is, a blog is nothing more than a piece of technology." -- is likely to be taken out of context, and misconstrued as yet-another-mainstream-media guy who just doesn't get it.

But, they still don't buy all the way in.

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December 08, 2005

New York Times Is Getting Clueful About Blogging, Sort Of

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The New York Times Deputy Managing Editor, Jonathan Landman, recently sent out a memo to the staff about blogging (as reported by LA Observed), and some of it suggests real insight into what's going on:

[from CyberJournalist.net - New York Times memo on blogging]

But our new blogs are more than running commentary. Look at Carr’s. It’s full of links to film publications and blogs and web sites. It encourages responses from readers and hopes to start a lively conversation. Nothing is more important to the future of our web ambitions than to engage our sophisticated readers. Blogs are one way to do it.

It’s worth spending a little time thinking about blogs, and about ourselves. Blogs make some newspaper people nuts; they’re partisan, the thinking goes, and unfair and mean-spirited and sloppy about facts. Newspapers make some bloggers nuts; they think we’re dull and slow and pompous and jealous guardians of unearned “authority.”

It’s a pretty dopey argument. Indeed, some blogs are lousy. So are some newspapers. Some blogs reject journalism. Some practice it.

The point is, a blog is nothing more than a piece of technology. It allows people to compile thoughts, connect with others and interact quickly with readers. People can use it any way they want to. It has no inherent ethical or moral quality, though it does have its own special power.

We’ll use the technology our way. Our bloggers will have editors. They will observe our normal standards of fairness and care. They won’t float rumors or take journalistic shortcuts. Critics and opinion columnists can have opinion blogs; reporters can’t. (To quote Carr: “If the Carpetbagger delved into plot or relative quality – they didn’t turn me loose for my refined cinematic taste � flying monkeys would come out of the ceiling here at headquarters and behead him.”) We’ll encourage readers to post their thoughts, but we’ll screen them first to make sure the conversation is civil. Some bloggers will accuse us of violating blogospheric standards of openness and spontaneity. That’s life in the big city.

We will use blogs to convey information, sometimes in conventional ways, sometimes not-so. Our notions of journalistic responsibility are perfectly compatible with spirited fun. Do we put David Carr online to be witless? Um, no. Actually, we think he’s pretty witty in the newspaper.

Blogging does impose obligations. Blogs have to be updated frequently. They have to be carefully tended. There are costs; David Carr and Damon Darlin will be spending time they could be using to write newspaper articles. Their bosses have decided that’s an advantageous tradeoff. I agree.

So he, and the NYT editors, by extension, are getting wise to the blog phenomenon. They are trying to use the elements of blogging that appeal to them -- like high involvement with sophisticated readers, and the ease with which you can reference other things in the web -- but they are rejecting certain notions that have become pillars of the blogosphere. It's the New York Times, and they aren't going to walk away from the whole editor/reporter mumbo jumbo, and the myth of objectivity and all that.

And, despite sounding relatively clueful, his statement -- "The point is, a blog is nothing more than a piece of technology." -- is likely to be taken out of context, and misconstrued as yet-another-mainstream-media guy who just doesn't get it.

In fairness, I think he gets a lot of it, but in the final analysis, I think he falls short of getting it all. He is still framing the discussion, implicitly, as mass publishing news and opinion to relatively passive readers. He believes that 90% or more of the value in the relationship is being created by the New York Times, and as a result, he is not really concerned with the opportunity for the actively-engaged reader to create any serious amount of value. He is missing the social media part: it's merely a publishing tool to him.

So these guys will be "blogging" but they won't be joining the blogosphere, at least not officially. We'll see what actually happens, when specific individuals are in the mix, day in and day out. We'll see.

[Pointer from Steve Rubel]

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Media

The Buddylist Is The Center of The Universe 2.0: A Call For Interoperability

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The recent announcement by Yahoo regarding their entry into the increasingly busy VoIP marketspace -- and the rapid commoditization of that market because of the battle that is shaping up between Yahoo, eBay, Microsoft, AOL, and soon, I expect, Google -- is just one puzzle piece clicking together in what promises to be the realignment of the central communication metaphor of the online universe, or what I hereby dub as Universe 2.0.

The instant messaging model of communication, based on synchronous messaging and continuous presence status, is displacing the store-and-forward, asynchronous email model, at long, long last.

I have argued for the past decade that instant messaging in simply better than email, for a long list of reasons. Add to the growing list of reasons the fusion of voice, and soon, video messaging on your cellphone, with the online messaging architecture.

One outgrowth of this transition toward instant communication will be the realization that email should be used as a last recourse, only when real time communication is not possible or unavailable. For example, I want to ask you a question about a project: in this presence enabled Universe 2.0 (leaving aside the niddling, tiny, little detail of interoperability between the services for later) I determine that you are online and available to talk to me. Obviously, I want my answer as soon as possible, and being a textual sort of guy, I type the question, and a few seconds later, I have my answer.

Alternatively, if you are not available, on many instant messaging solutions I can simply send an offline message, using exactly the same user interface: the instant messaging client. On your return to the office, or upon turning on your cell phone asfter exiting a meeting, you'd recieve the message, and perhaps return to a synchronous form of communication with me to reply, or perhaps determine that I am unavailable, and leave me an offline message, too.

But today's mishmash model, switching back and forth from IM client to email client, with two unintegrated repositories of messages -- on one hand, emails, and on the other, IM logs -- that has got to end.

My prediction: instant messaging will become the domininant metaphor for Universe 2.0 -- which subsumes Web 2.0, by the way, but reaches out past the Web to include every connected communication device, like cell phones, entertainment systems, games consoles, and the connected refrigerators and cars of tomorrow -- and email will become a footprint on the path of this communications evolution.

Brad Stone, who broke the Yahoo announcement in Newsweek, collected some new data about instant messaging adoption:

[from IM's New Calling - - MSNBC.com]

But instant messaging, in case you're not already addicted to it, is the preferred communications medium on the Internet, more popular for many users than e-mail. Teens spend hours pinging their friends after school, business folk use it to avoid unpleasant or inconvenient conversations with colleagues and bosses employ it to summon underlings to their offices for face-to-face meetings. Three hundred million people around the world, including 80 million Americans, send 12 billion instant messages (IMs) a day, according to research firms comScore, Media Metrix and IDC. The IM networks allow you to see if your friends or colleagues are online, active and available for conversation. And short text-only IMs usually draw immediate responses, rather than sitting unread in someone's cluttered e-mail inbox.

By adding the ability to make voice calls from the IM networks to outside lines, and vice versa, the Internet companies are turning their IM networks into the kind of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service that Danish startup Skype popularized over the last two years. Starting this week, Yahoo users will be able to buy credits of $10 or $25, then use Yahoo Messenger on their PC to call anywhere in the United States or, at a slightly higher rate, to more than 30 countries. For $3 a month or $30 a year, Yahoo will also give users a personal phone number for their PCs, which will let them receive calls from regular phones on their computer. They can pick their area code, so U.S. users with relatives in London, for example, could choose a London phone number and allow their relatives to enjoy local rates when they call.

Yahoo's announcement was not entirely unexpected. Yahoo bought Internet telephony company Dialpad Communications in June, foretelling its entry in the VoIP arena. Microsoft bought a similar VoIP firm, Teleo Inc., two months later, and will surely soon add phone service to Microsoft Messenger, used by about 22 million people in the U.S. EBay bought VoIP leader Skype for a whopping $2.5 billion in September and plans to integrate Skype phone calls and instant messaging, which could allow buyers and sellers to more easily get in touch after an auction closes. And last month, domestic instant messaging leader AOL, with 53 million users, began offering a VoIP service called TotalTalk that allows users to make Internet telephone calls using a broadband telephone adapter that they can connect to their home phone.

In this way, telephones are becoming one form of end point of the instant messaging-based communications network that is linking us all together. Old, dumb phones don't broadcast presence information, but all cell phones do -- is the phone on or not, where in the network is the individual, and so on -- and depending on how the cell services wish to make that information available to the instant messaging networks, we are likely to see a restructuring of the world's communication DNA around this revolutionary concept.

And, it's about time that the world's governments -- and especially the US government -- wake up to the need for imposed interoperability of the instant messaging networks. It is clearly in the public interest for us to be able to access the presence status of anyone, on any service (so long as each individual can opt in, and manage access in suitable ways). As these networks are likely to become the dominant force in telephony, and will rapidly eclipse the old telephone systems, it is time for the Internet giants to move past their outmoded rationale for a fragmented collection of incompatible networks. The parochical interests of Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, Google, and AOL should not be holding back the emergence of Universe 2.0, but in the absence of governmental interference there seems to be no appeal to reason that could stimulate those competitors to put aside their conflicting interests and structure the standards and infrastructure necessary to insure a unified communication space.

Think how strange it will be if I have to call you on your phone , via my Yahoo Messenger account or Skype, because the phone system is the only piece of the growing real-time network where government regulations have imposed interconnectivity and interoperability of networks.

It's time for a public outcry against the oligarchy whose intransigence in this regard represents a monumental hindrance to what could otherwise be an enormous benefit for us all.

The buddylist is clearly the center of Universe 2.0, and I would like to have one buddylist, not four or five, and if that requires the Majors to make nice, and to work out the complexities in a fair way, then so be it. There was a time in America when Ma Bell owned the network, including the phone on your kitchen wall, and you couldn't replace it with a cheaper version. And there was a time when the phone companies owned your phone number, and if you dropped the service, you lost it. And in the not too distant future, we will be telling teenagers about a time when the Giants owned our buddylists, and we couldn't communicate across the services because Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, and AOL thought it was better to have a fragmented world. And they will laugh at how stupid the old fogies were, back in the day. And they will be right, because it is stupid, and if we continue to put up with it, we are stupid.

Comments (162) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Technology

December 07, 2005

A Kinder, Gentler Blogosphere

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Wow. I have been traveling back and forth across the US the past two days, and completely missed this piece. Apparently Mena Trott gave a sort of odd (to be kind) talk at Les Blogs (again, I am glad I didn't go), where she called for a "nicer" blogosphere. Then some casually minded guy, Ben Metcalfe, disagrees with the thrust of the talk in the IRC backchannel, which was being projected behind Mena, and then...

[from :Ben Metcalfe Blog -- Blog Archive -- Les Blogs: Me Mena]

Whilst all of this was going on, we were making our thoughts known on the conference backchannel (like we did for every session, good or bad). From what others were saying it was clear her speech was getting a lot of other people’s backs up too, not just mine. I wrote several times that I found elements of the speech patronising – especially when the idea was floated about a suggested “terms and conditions” for commenting.

During the backchannel conversation I did finally loose my cool and describe what she was saying as “bullshit” – which I concede is a strong word to have used. However, this was a backchannel environment and as such I feel it went up to, but didn’t cross the line, of what you can reasonably expect from “backchannel discourse”. I also want to reemphasise that that the tone and content of Mena’s speech was so unbelievably way off what was appropriate given the nature of the audience. This sentiment has been backed up by others someone even described it as “startlingly na�ve” during a post-session chat about it.

However, my “bullshit” comment hadn’t gone unnoticed, as the backchannel was also being projected onto the screens at the front of the auditorium. Clearly this was the straw the broke the camel’s back, and Mena highlighted my comment. Shel Israel came to her defense and demanded for “dotBen to stand up and show yourself” [clairification: Mena asked me to stand up, Shel voiced his support]

And being the no-shit kinda guy I am, I did. In front of 400 influential bloggers and opinion formers I stood up

What followed was a brief but frank discourse between Mena at the lectern and me, with a radio mic, at the back of the hall.

Which is characterized at the Blog Herald as "Mena Trott implodes on stage at Les Blogs: calls participant an Asshole after lecturing audience about the importance of civility", which seems to sum it up, sadly enough.

[Note: The comments at Ben's post are fascinating, like Dave Winer's: "I never thought comments were an integral part of blogging. You can go back and read my archive to see that I’ve been pretty consistent about that." Huh? Conversational medium, but comments aren't integral? And Don Park lends true wisdom: "To sum it up, my advice is to:

  1. be civil mostly.
  2. be direct when civility intereferes more than helps.
  3. be tolerant always.
]

Comments (15) + TrackBacks (3) | Category: Events

Gary Turner on Mac Identity

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Gary Turner turned me onto a new app ( see memoria technica -- Blog Archive -- Identity Crisis) that displays where your Mac was made and when:

Coconutidentity.jpg

I am now a little bit Chinese.

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N90 Takes Centerstage at Les Blogs

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Loic showing off his new N90 cell phone at Les Blogs:

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Les (ZZZZ) Blogs: Glad I Didn't Go

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I haven't been paying too much attention to the posts abou Les Blogs, since I am totally bored with blog conferences. But Marc's post confirmed my premonitions:

[from Marc’s Voice]

Had a great day - today. Except the Citizen Journalism panel was pretty boring - as usual.

And the pictures?

les_zzz.png



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Dina Mehta on Plaxo

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Just to clarify, since Dina Mehta recently quoted something I wrote in 2003...

[from Conversations with Dina

On the other hand, Stowe Boyd wrote a piece way back in 2003 on Plaxo called Content Unmanagement. And he doesn't seem to feel it is spamming.

Since I moved to Mac in Jan, I have had no personal benefit from PLaxo, and so it has just seemed like a bunch of emails to delete: spam.

I put them in the hall of shame (Windows only), and I am now going to delete my account. I no longer want to optimize contact management through a networked contact "un"management system. What I dream of now is something else entirely, with no central server/service. I have hopes for microformats, but ultimately it will be an individual publishing his/her identity -- unmediated. No Plaxo in the picture, per se. And no spammish emails, either.

But deleting was easy and fast.

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Dave Sifry Announces Mini-Windows

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

miniTechnorati.jpg

Dave Sifry explains the new "View in Mini" chicklet that just recently appeared in Technorati. Basically, you can keep a search window open in a minimized form factor, and see new entries that fall into the search. It's another example of search as a shared space, but it's not very shared yet. There is no way to communicate with others who might be keeping a "Les Blogs" Mini open, yet.

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Thomas Hawk on Starbucks Sticky Marketing

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was in San Francisco earlier this week, and saw someone driving down the street with a Starbucks coffee cup on the roof. I forget who I was talking to, but I was on the cell, and interrupted the conversation to relate the fact that someone was about to lose a $4 coffee.

Turns out it might have been a marketing ploy:

[from Thomas Hawk]

When I got close enough to speak to him I told him that his coffee was on his roof. He looked at me and said, "I know, Happy Holiday's from Starbucks!" At first I didn't get it, it didn't sink in, so I told him again, your coffee it's on your roof and again he looked me square in they eye and said, "yes, yes, I know, Happy Holidays from Starbucks." It was at this point that I realized that the coffee cup was permanently affixed to his roof and that he was an advertisment in disguise.

[pointer from Business2Blog]

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

Yahoo Announces Phone Calls Integrated With Messenger

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yahoo asked me to come out to Palo Alto Monday, and get briefed on their planned phone service, integrated with Yahoo Messenger. I got the chance to meet Jeff Bonforte, newly dubbed as senior director of voice product management for Yahoo, formerly of SIPphone (the folks developing the Gizmo Project -- the open source alternative to Skype).

I listened to the product roadmap, and was unsurprised: they are definitely focused on kicking Skype, hard. The long term ("Voice 2.0") is about voice integration across the board in Yahoo. We'll see how that plays out. I think Yahoo has a real chance to displace Skype as the VoIP darling, given the number of Yahoo users out there.

Personally, I'd like to see more attention to the audio and video podcasting side of things. Or stated differently, I would like to see more attention to recording voice and video from desktop and handheld devices, and editing/publishing that.

Of course, high quality audio and video is critical, but publishing it is just as important -- at least to me.

[On a media sidenote: this story was supposed to be embargoed until Thusday, but Newsweek and others broke it early. So those of us thay played nice with the story got scooped!]

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

Scoble on RSS Backlash

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Robert turns out to be a contrarian (or am I the contrarian?) regarding my beefs with RSS readers:

[from Scobleizer - Microsoft Geek Blogger � More from Ireland]

Stowe Boyd puts some RSS backlash out there (he doesn’t like the feed reading experience). I keep hearing this too when I give speeches. But almost always these are people who don’t try to keep up with a large number of sites and just visit randomly. I take a more structured approach to my feed reading and hate reading sites on the Web, for the most part. Although with Digg and Memeorandum I certainly do my share of random poking around too.

One thing, though, is even if you hate the RSS experience, there are benefits for having all that stuff stored up. Desktop search works a lot better than even Google on the Web does. If I remember I read something on a feed a few months ago I can find it instantly by using desktop search, but it often is hard to find on the web-based search engines like Google, MSN, or Yahoo.

It’s interesting that some people actually like seeing a blog’s design. I don’t. It impedes readability. Imagine if the New York Times had a different font, a different color backwash, and a different font size for each author. It’d make reading a newspaper really a poor experience, wouldn’t it? Yet we put up with that on the Web. RSS frees me from that system and makes it a lot easier to read a large amount of information very quickly.

I agree with Robert in part:

  • I would like to have a log of things I have read, but I would like that to be a journal of all the places and bits I have visited, stamped by time and tagged, as well. So when I am wandering around -- like right now -- catching up with many peoples' comments on the RSS Readering post, I could be tagging the journal entries. I do that now with my posts with Technorati tags, and some of the places I go with Del.icio.us tags. But Del.icio.us makes me do too much heavy lifting.
  • Unlike Robert, I don't find fooling with blog layout that much of a hassle, and appreciate a bit of randomness. The endless pellets of info in RSS readers drive me batty.
  • My process of reading stuff is not random, but it is not assembly-line, industrial-strength blog reading like Robert is into. I find that I need to tag, comment, post, and so on, to make sense of the stream. Otherwise, nothing sticks with me.

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Andy Lark on RSS Readers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am in good company...

[from Andrew Lark: RSS Readers...]

At the end of the day I am with Stowe, none of these really reflect the way we interact with Web 2.0.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

David Weinberger on Massively Multiplayer Online Truth

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

David W wonders if we need a replacement for the subjective/objective truth dimension:

[his post, Joho the Blog: Massively Multiplayer Online Truth, in it's entirety]

In some of my talks, I've been suggesting that the ability of people with different subjective viewpoints to talk with one another (via blogs, email, Skype, etc.) creates something new. It's not objectivity. It's not subjectivity. I've been calling it "multi-subjectivity."

Someone at my Oxford presentation pointed out that "multi" is entirely the wrong modifier because it implies many individuals, rather than focusing on what's occurring between them. But "intersubjectivity" carries baggage I don' t want. So, how about "Massively Multiplayer Online Truth."

Yes, I'm being cute, although I think it gets at something serious: The old, romantic view of truth was lonely. This one is social, and thus is joyful.

[Flame retardant underwear: MMOT is not a replacement for other types of truth. We need all of 'em.]

Ok, I propose "sojectivity" -- the understanding that arises from individuals with different subjective viewpoints exchanging their views -- using the "so" of "social".

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Doc Searls on Handbasket Weaving

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Doc Searls and the Cluetrain bunch have been swept into the Wikipedia neutrality wars:

The Doc Searls Weblog : Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The Cluetrain entry in Wikipedia, my wife just pointed out to me (incredibly, I'd never read it) is one of those the neutrality of which is disputed, complete with a warning on top. She also pointed out cluetrainmanifesto.com, which is making money, presumably, for a squatter.

The Wikipedia backlash must be stopped.

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

Lee Gomes on Tech Blogs Produce New Elite

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Lee Gomes at the WSJ zooms in on the revolution that has happened in the tech world: the shift of power from conventional media to a small elite of tech bloggers:

[from WSJ.com - Portals]

The reality is that while there are now as many tech blogs as stars in the sky, only a tiny fraction of them matter. And those that do aren't part of some proletarian information revolution, but instead have become the tech world's new elite. Reporters for the big mainstream newspapers and magazines, long accustomed to fawning treatment at corporate events, now show up and find that the best seats often go to the A-list bloggers. And living at the front of the velvet rope line means the big bloggers are frequently pitched and wooed. In fact, with the influence peddling universe in this state of flux, it's not uncommon for mainstream reporters, including the occasional technology columnist, to lobby bloggers to include links to their print articles.

The easiest way to follow this world is via a useful blog-tracking service called tech.memeorandum.com. The site runs off software written by Gabe Rivera, a former Intel compiler programmer. It sifts through hundreds of technology-oriented blogs to find the hour's hot topics and who is saying what about them. The results are presented concisely in a single place, updated every few minutes. Another site, blogniscient.com, offers a similar service. (It is apparently important in the tech blog world to pick a name that is as awkwardly unspellable as possible.)

The thing that is interesting in this revolution is the number shift: it is not necessary to reach millions. A blogger can be enomously influential with only a few thousand daily readers, if those readers are themselves influential. As we break away from broadcast media conventions, mass influence is less relevant. What appears in its place is social relevance: what matters is who you are influencing.

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

Jeremy Wright: Criticizing Web 2.0 Companies On Scale, But Not Scaling B5?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

It's a strange convergence: On one hand Jeremy Wright is criticizing Web 2.0 companies for not scaling -- he names Technorati and a bunch of others -- but at the same time B5 hits all sorts of scaling issues themselves:

[from Ensight - Jeremy Wright’s Personal Blog � Web 2.0 Companies NEED To Scale]

Maybe I’m just spoiled, having worked in high performance, high availability apps before, but it constantly astounds me what some folk consider “scaleable” and “available” applications. I’ve spent about 10 hours this month working with really, really high profile Web 2.0 ish companies nearly yelling at them about their lack of true infrastructure.

...

[from b5media.com - the blogger's blogging network]

Over the last week or so, it’s becoming quickly apparent that our current hardware resources aren’t enough to keep the network up. We’ve been working on another solution, but we’ve been waiting until we’ve paid our bloggers for November before we go and spend gobs of money.

Our hope is that in the next week or so this will be fixed. Sorry about any recent (and upcoming, until we get new hardware in) downtime.

A bit schitzoid, although in principle the two issues can appear totally unconnected.

[pointer from tech.memeorandum.com]

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The Web 2.0 And Beyond - a conversation

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jenny Attiyeh interviewed David Weinberger, Chris Nolan, and me just after the Symposium on Social Architecture, and she's posted that at Thoughtcast: (see The Web 2.0 and beyond — a conversation).

Her first question was directed to me, where she asked whether the growth of the Web was uncontrolled, like evolution, or was it instead following some intelligent design. I replied that the Web seems to be proceeding like an orgy: its headed somewhere, but no one is in control. David was peeved because of a series of hardware problems (PC, not human) that day, but he doesn't seem it. Chris was funny, despite the fact that we were missing the first half of the symposium cocktail party.

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Squidoo Beta Goes Live

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Seth Godin's newest project, Squidoo, that I wrote about a few months ago (Seth Godin on Squidoo) went live today. Heath Row helped me put together a so-called lens on Social Architecture.

The weird thing is I can't find it by searching at the site: neither a search for "stowe boyd" or "social architecture" seems to work, although I pop up periodically on the www.squidoo.com web page occasionally as a "featured lensmaster." Looks like the beta has a glitch or two in it, at least in search capabilities. I searched for 'blog' and found only three lenses, but when I clicked on the 'blog' tag I got dozens of hits.

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December 06, 2005

Death By Powerpoint

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I received a rather unclueful email today, touting a new online service:

Hi

As a journalist seeking knowledge experts, I am sure you will find this of interest. Today, Sonic Foundry launched the industry's first searchable Website of rich media expert presentations (www.mediasite.com). Complete with audio, video and rich presentation graphics, some of the business leaders, politicians and knowledge experts you'll find here include:
Jack Welch, Jeffrey Immelt, Michael Dell, Tom Ridge, Tommy Thompson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Kerry and Scott McNealy, to name a few.

I am *not* really a journalists, and I am not seeking 'knowledge experts' -- at least I don't think I am. And the 'rich media expert presentations' look to be powerpoints. Millions and millions of powerpoints. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!

Powerpoint, like email, is a place where knowledge goes to die.

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Social Media, Defined

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was having coffee with Ian Kennedy and Havi Hoffman of Yahoo this morning in Palo Alto, just catching up, and Ian asked me for a short definition of "social media". I temporized, saying I would root around in the archives and see what I had in the way of elevator-speak on the subject.

Here's an attempt:

Social Media are those forms of publishing that are based on a dynamic interaction, a conversation, between the author and active readers, in contrast with traditional broadcast media where the 'audience' is a passive 'consumer' of 'content'. The annotations or social gestures left behind by active readers, such as comments, tags, bookmarks, and trackbacks, create an elaborate topology resting on the foundational blog posts, and this enhanced meta-environment, the blogosphere, is the context for and the realization of a global collaboration to make sense of the world and our place in it.

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Bill Brown on Tag Punctuation

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Bill Brown levels a really good complaint about the lack of standards around what I call tag punctuation: the delimiters that are used to separate a list of tags:

[from Tag formats: Can't we all just get along? - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)]

What if I want to tag something “white house” instead of with the separate tags “white” and “house” (which changes the meaning) or “whitehouse”/”white+house” (unintuitive)? Enter comma delimited tagging.

He goes on to list a variety of services -- Flickr, Amazon, 43Things -- and there is little consistency.

At Technorati, I use "+" to tie words together, like "compound+phrase", because I am creating the tags in HTML URLs, and blanks don't work well there, but T'rati changes the plus to a blank. Some services won't allow plus signs in tags, which is a pain. Some people use "wikiword" style, with all the words smooshed together.

It would be good if a standard emerged for punctuation, so I propose the following:

  1. All tag solutions should allow blanks and other special characters in tags except for comma. [Then I could forego the use of "+".]
  2. commas should be used to delimit tags in a list.

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Instant Message Handle

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I mentioned in passing the other day that I have reclaimed the AIM handle of "stoweboyd" that was stolen from me a decade or so ago when I dropped my AOL account. I still have "stoweboyd - at - mac.com" and the "boydstowe" handle I used for years, but for symmetry I am going to use "stoweboyd" on AIM since it matches my handles at MSN (which I never use anymore, really) and Yahoo (which I seem to only use to talk to folks at Yahoo).

Please update your buddylists, because I am switching over!

[tags: , ]

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Stuart Henshall Resurfaces

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Well, he was not really lost, just toiling like a madman over at Skype Journal, but he did stop blogging at Unbound Spiral. Sounds like the Stuart of old is reemerging, out of the fever dream that Skype seems to have been for so many in the ecosystem that grew around it.

[from Unbound Spiral]

I've recently felt pressure in some quarters to act more like a journalist. My answer is I'm not a journalist and never intended to be. It's not that I don't like interviews and following up on facts. It's just those aspects can become very time consuming. I'm much more interested in creating applications and solutions for tomorrow today.

Welcome back, pal. What you have outlined in this paragraph is the defining tension in my life these days. I work at staying abreast with new, developing social technologies and work hard at writing about where it is all going, or should be going. On one hand, that makes me look like a journalist, but I am not, really. And on the other hand, I have not succumbed to the siren call of going to build one of those fascinating applications that I fiddle with so much. I like the frontier, but I don't want to plow it. I don't even enjoy leading the wagon trains across the prairie very much: consulting to end users of these technologies can be really annoying. So I guess I will have to keep scouting around, mapmaking, surveying the territory, and scribbling these messages from the edge.

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

Synopsize Your Existence and Reason For Being in Ten Sentences, Please

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Last night, I was in a dinner meeting and the inevitable introductions began, rolling around the room from the host, to the first guest, and so on. As others were cleverly summarizing their bona fides I realized how bad I seem to be at this common social interaction. Its like not knowing which pair of shoes to wear, or which fork to use for the shrimp course.

At any rate, I stammered out something about being a long time student of the subject at hand, mumble, mumble, mumble. But what I was thinking, while my mouth was on autopilot, was a series of one-liners:

  • "I kvetch, professionally."
  • "I would never join a club that would have me as a member."
  • "That reminds me of a story."
  • "Twelve arrests, no convictions."

And then, when the dinner presentation soared into the hockey-stick graphs and product yellowbrick road, I was noodling over this mundane task. I knew I had at least one glass of champagne too much when I started to confabulate a social tool -- the "introductionator" -- that would generate the appropriate paragraph, based on circumstance, and surrounded in the appropriate level of puffery.

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December 05, 2005

Adam Curry and Dave Winer Give Each Other Wedgies Over Podcasting Credit

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have had my own tiffs with Dave Winer -- he is an easy guy to dislike and/or piss off -- so I tingle with schadenfreud to watch the mess roiling about the can of worms that his relationship with Adam Curry has turned into. Recently, Curry has been accused of editing the Wikipedia entry on podcasting to inflate his role (hey wait... it's Wikipedia... can't anyone edit anything?) in the development of podcasting, and now, apparently, Curry has caught Winer deleting a post that claims Curry should turn over 50% of Podshow to him.

[from CURRY.COM: Adam Curry's Weblog

In January of 2005 I met in a Miami hotel with Dave, Ron Bloom and 5 other people in the course of the week about starting a podcasting business. For days we had heated discussions about the future of Podcasting and it was clear that the differences of opinion were vast.

It was also clear that no one from the group (which included 2 investors) wanted to work with Dave but me. It was a very uncomfortable time for me, and at the end of the week I told Dave I wasn't interested in setting up a business anymore if we couldn't get the business people on board. He freaked out (in a restaurant) and demanded that if I got a television show out of the press at the time, that I would have to pay him his 'share' and drove away without saying goodbye. That event made me realize I had made a wise decision. Some people you just don't want to be in business with.

Podshow, which was started months after the Miami meeting, is not the company Dave and I discussed and it wouldn't be where it is today if we had followed Dave's vision. In fact, he shunned the entire idea and even the name outright. We made a clean break in Miami and Dave apparently can't accept that.

Part of the 'work' that Dave and I did under our so called 50/50 agreement was on audio.weblogs.com, which I promoted relentlessly. Where's my piece of the $2.3 million that Dave received for it? He didn't even have the courtesy to toss a bone to the server admin he promised to 'make whole' upon a sale for setting up the infrastructure gratis. And there are more Winer stories like this flowing into my email box.

Doc Searls, where are you? Can you calm these guys down before the pioneers of podcasting turn themselves into a laughing stock?

[Update: A little birdy pointed out that I misspelled Winer's name as Weiner throughout. Thanks!]

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Gmail Adds Virus Checking Of Attachments

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Just noticed that Gmail now checks attachments for viruses:

[from About Gmail]

What's new on Gmail?

Just Launched!

Virus scanning is here!
Get an automatic check-up every time you open or send a message with an attachment. We even try our best to remove viruses so we can protect you against all the ones we find. You're on your own with the common cold (try chicken soup).

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December 04, 2005

Egosurfing: My Google Number is 268,000!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yikes! I was searching for something I wrote a long time ago via Google, and discovered that my Google number is up to 268,000! (see "stowe boyd" - Google Search).

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Nokia N90 Blogger Promotion: On Fire and Catching Heat

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

So I am a member of a select group of bloggers (I don't really know how many of us are in it) who have received the new Noka N90 video camera phone as part of a clever PR campaign. I have started to fool around with it, after an initial SIM card hiccup, and what I see is impressive. In fact, the quality of the video is so good that I plan to use the N90 -- experimentally, anyway -- for a few interviews this coming week. I'll even try to use the on-phone video editing software. Yes, you heard me: on-phone video editing software.

But I was sniffing around to see what others thought of the phone, and I stumbled onto a controversy about the marketing approach being used by Nokia over at Clogger:

[from Nokia phone is off the hook]

Nokia's new clog [corporate blog] around the N90 phone is a piece of marketing genius. In reality, it has just repurposed a load of public content, packaged all its collateral surrounding the phone and stuck the whole shebang in a blog. Having sent sample handsets to a number of high-profile bloggers, it's tracking coverage on the N90 blog and linking back.

Can you see what it did there? The bloggers are doubly chuffed [British for happy with life] - not only do they get a link on a high-profile corporate site but they get a new freakin' phone! And not just any phone! This is phone is cutting edge, dude! Check it out! It's off the hook!

Positive blog reactions from bloggers not used to getting free stuff - let alone free stuff worth hundreds of pounds and freshly created in geek heaven - are a given. Even reasonably ethical clogger and housewife's favourite Loic le Meur can't help admitting that he should say something nice about the phone seeing as he got it free.

Check out the fatuous thankyou message in the post's comments from the Nokia marketing drone: "Thanks for the kind words and the great "exposure" in the magazine." [Loic got a placement for the phone in a French magazine]

Brilliant. Just send him a cheque, eh? Am I the only one who can see this is wrong?

Except that Clogger is missing the point, or at least a part of the point. The phones are distributed without any condition that we write about them. There is a small-print-ish proviso -- namely, that Nokia can ask for the phones back at anytime. And I, for one, really want to see the newest stuff as early as possible. I am happy that they send it to me instead of having to go to a trade show to see it.

The implication is that we are being subtly influenced by Nokia, and will naturally -- without even knowing, perhaps -- write more glowing praise for the N90 than we would otherwise. I doubt it. If the phone sucked, I would say so, and I'd happily send it back when the marketeers decided that I was bad juju. But the phone is cool, and I am happy to say so.

And Andy Abramson, the "corporate drone" involved in the program responded to Clogger's invective in this way:

[from comment to the post, above]

We set out from the start to establish and implement a different kind of corporate blogger program, one that is not "shill" based, nor one sided, and one which is more about the bloggers and citizen viewpoints not just company speak.

We wanted the bloggers to really review the products, not just write commentary based on what they have seen in other reviews. You see, from our perspective a review is about first hand experience, not critical comments on other people’s observations.

We also didn’t create fake personalities that go out on the web and post comments, draw attention or “ambush” anyone. We leave that to companies we know specialize in that sort of thing. Instead what we are doing is done straight up, out in the open. I post under my real name. My company is aligned to the program. Nokia pays the bills.

The difference with this program is we’re making it easy for the bloggers to have access the products and the official information. We’re treating them and valuing them like members of the press and we’re engaging with them, by communicating with them and working with them.

We’re not opting to treat them the way Hollywood press agents treat paparazzi. Loving them when they need them, wooing them when they want them or treating them like something on the bottom of a shoe once success has fallen upon their client. That’s a PR One old school approach. We’re an asymmetrical PR 2.0 company that is working in a Web 2.0 world that blogging resides in.

To which Clogger's nobleizer responded:

[from another comment at the above post]

Andy,

I take back the 'drone' label. You're comments on PR 2.0 and asymetric marketing are spot on. And as I said in my post, Nokia's 'blogger relations' programme was a stroke of pure genius that I'd expect from a company so good at what it does. (Except that awful Nokia Game thing I once tried - I got so bored I nearly died.)

I appreciate that you're attempting to treat bloggers like members of the press. I also understand that you're trying to treat them well, and not just pick them up then dump them once you've fulfilled your marketing objectives.

But bloggers are not the press. They do not subscribe to the fundamental processes that trained journalists live and die by. They don't give a toss about impartiality, or public interest, or the protection of sources. They are just people without an understanding of the complex issues that come with being responsible for influencing public opinion.

As I said, I think it's a VERY clever thing you've done.

This 'members of the press' nonsense is a bunch of hooey. Abramson is not trying to treat us like the press, he is trying to create a dialogue about the phone's features with a bunch of bloggers. And, yes, I don't really give a 'toss about impartiality', in fact, I believe its a dangerous myth. But the turn into "the public interest and the protection of sources" is bizarre. We are talking about cell phones here, not government policies or top secret prisons in East Europe. And, I strongly dispute the statement that bloggers don't understand "the complex issues" involved in influencing public opnion.

The way the blogosphere works is such that those that are influential have become influential because many other people find their writing persuasive and helpful. Its the wisdom of crowds. We gain influence because of people choose to be influenced by what we say. If we spout a load of garbage then people will tune us out, and we will lose our influence.

Regarding the cell phone marketing campaign, specifically, I doubt that the bloggers involved will lose credibility if we state the N90 is a cool phone. I don't think some moral threshold has been crossed over. Note that I was one of the most vocal opponents to the Marqui "pay the bloggers" campaign last year -- which I call "Marquiism" -- and I maintained at the time that the line that was crossed there was exactly the "pay for mention" clause in the agreement. There is no such deal, here.

And, oh, did I mention that it is a really cool phone?

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (3) | Category: Marketing

Om Malik On Skype Video: Skype Eats Its Young

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Taking a week of vacation -- real vacation: no blogging at all -- means I am late to the party on all sorts of things, like Om Malik's slap in the face to Skype's predatory (or cannibalistic?) technology strategy, such as the recent Skype Video release that basically ends the business of various small firms in the Skype ecosystem (or is it just a foodchain?):

[Om Malik on Broadband : � Skype 2.0 eats its young]

The standard features make it harder for many developers to make a fiscal argument to stay in the Skype ecosystem. As they flee, the system breaks down, and new ideas stop flowing. (Of course that would also mean, some great stealable concepts would never materialize.) These same guys, start supporting Gizmo Project, which uses open source, then the momentum can quickly shift away from Skype.

At the very least they could have acquired one of the contenders, which at the least turns it into a lottery instead of infanticide.

I was very turned on about Skype early on, but I have drifted back to text IM. I can keep a bunch of text IMs going in parallel with other activities, but voice demands foreground attention. Also, the flakiness of the service is an issue when you really want to talk.

Still, I believe there is a killer VoIP app to come, and yes, it will hinge on getting video right, by which I mean video on the phone, not just on the PC. I don't think Skype can make that happen. So I am waiting and watching the other players, and I will revisit the Gizmo Project, too.

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December 03, 2005

Emoticons Riding The Subway

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

[from Overheard in New York: The Voice of The City]

Guy: ...And she had the nerve; she didn't even ask me to be her friend. She just sent me her profile!
Chick: Omigod, you should so send her a frowny.

--Columbia University

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SNARF: Social Network and Relationship Finder

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A group of researchers working at Microsoft Research have developed an email tool to help with email triage -- which email messages should you read first, and which can you safely ignore -- based on social network analysis:

[from Too Many Emails? SNARF Them Up!]

SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder, developed by Microsoft Research and available for download, is designed to help computer users cope with precisely such scenarios. SNARF, a complement to e-mail programs such as Outlook, filters and sorts e-mail based on the type of message and the user's history with an e-mail correspondent. The result: a collection of alternative views of your e-mail that can help you make sense of the deluge.

Makes sense. The importance of a relationship is strongly linked with the frequency of communication, and other social clues buried in the email system. Those who respond more quickly to your emails are likely to think more highly of you, and vice versa. SNARF exploits these tidbiits and other evidence of relationship strength to order email in something other than reverse chronological.

[read entire piece at Centrality]

I like the Nerdvana-ish buddylist-style presentation of email. I hope Google gets around to doing something smart like that in Gtalk (are they ever going to get serious about Gtalk?) because I really like Gmail's tagged email metaphor, but I would like to order my world around people, not the chronology.

And, of course, its in the Hall of Shame for being Windows only (but strangely enough, it works for Lotus Notes as well as Outlook...)

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December 01, 2005

RSS Readering: Why RSS Readers Are No Good For Me (And You, Too, I Bet)

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am constantly fiddling around with RSS readers and various strategies for "RSS readering" -- William James remarked that you coin a new word at your own peril, so verbing "RSS reader" may be dangerous for me, but I do so with a plan.

I want to be an RSS reader: by which I mean to say that I would certainly rather (in theory) receive alerts about posts and -- perhaps even the posts themselves -- within some some window of time of their being posted. However, I haven't generally liked the various RSS readers I have tried. And I have tried gazillions.

I tried NewsGator integrated with Outlook when I was still (hiss) living on a Windows laptop. Yes, in principle I keep my email client open all day, and, yes, in some way getting email is similar to RSS-transmitted posts. But the email metaphor, of folders and messages doesn't quite jibe with my experience of browser mediated blog reading. So, ultimately, I dropped it.

The same is true of standalone RSS reader tools, like NetNewsWire and Fire. I tried them for a time, and then dropped out. These annoy me for similar reasons: I don't like the Pez dispenser feel, where all posts are like another, and you assume the role of a pigeon in a Skinner box, hitting the button to make the pellets roll out.

I have been lusting for something, a new solution, that actually parallels my most rewarding reading experiences. The way this generally works is like so:

  • I stumble across some link, or reference -- perhaps in an email, or in the midst of reading a post in a browser -- and I decide that I would like to invest some attention to this concept, or meme. Note: I am not just deciding to click a link and go to a specific page -- which is all typical browsers do. I am deciding to investigate the theme, thread, meme, or whatever, and assimilate and collate information about it.

  • I then use a variety of techniques to uncover what I am interested in:
    • I might click on tags embedded in the post, that take me to Technorati, or I might simply decide to search at Technorati or Del.icio.us for references to the piece or for tags to the topic or the names of individuals writing about it.

    • I might follow backlinks, from the post back to earlier sources: other posts, or articles.

    • I might ask specific contacts of mine what they know about the object of my interest.

    • I might write a post, summarizing what I have uncovered, and offering some thoughts on the subject

But what I seldom do is just sit there reading a stream of posts, based on their chronology, or other intrinsic factors. No, I am on a hunt, skipping from place to place, and these tools constrain me more than they free me.

What I would rather have is what I imagined Flock might be (and well might be, in later incarnations): a browser-based solution, perhaps a suite of plugins, that augment the browser-based "readering" experience. One part of that might be a buddylist-ish sort of minimal RSS tool that would simply remind me that people I like have posted something somewhere. I have a strong bias that this should be implemented along the lines of what the geniuses at 2entwine implemented in Gush, about which I have written a lot in the past, including various posts this year about the client. I have stopped using Gush because I find the Mac version painfully slow, but I loved having a multi-headed instant messaging client that included an RSS reader. I had tried to persude them to strip down the RSS reader to be just an alerting tool, and to conflate the IM buddylist and the RSS alerts into a single list, rather than two separate worlds, but, alas, the Brothers Carr never did get around to those tweaks.

So, when I recently was alerted to RSS reader doings at Yahoo, my mind filled in all the gaps, and I dreamed that dream again. However, while the new Yahoo Mail Beta does in fact include a now conventional RSS reader integrated with it -- and it appears to work as it should, given the email metaphor -- it won't actually fit in with the model of readering I am chasing after. However, Yahoo is rolling out feed alerts, as part of Yahoo Alerts (although I didn't see it running, yet), which may implement part of what I'd like, since these alerts can be sent through IM. But Yahoo and the other major IM players don't want to provide IM capabilities as Firefox plugins: they want us to use their proprietary clients.

The rest of the browser modules might include these:

  • A tag browser: given a tag, or a boolean expression involving tags, present an ordered list of sources (both authors and blogs). This could be a Technorati plug-in, perhaps.

  • A backward link and forward link sniffer: give the current webpage, collate other pages pointing to that page, and a list of the pages referenced. This I envision as something like the radar widget found in video games, in a way. But instead of being displayed in a circle, two ordered lists would be fine.

  • A Del.icio.us module: given the current page, who of my friends has bookmarked the page, and what have they said? And I would like to get away from the javascript contraption that I use for Del.icio.us now, where bookmarking a page moves me to Del.icio.us, and creates a problem with use of the back command.

  • A journaling module: I would like to drop an anchor in my clickstream when I decide to start some exploration and to drop a second one when I stop, and be able to retrace my steps at some later point, or to pick up the thread again, and add more stuff to it later on. I have written a bunch about "search as a shared space" vis-a-vis various services like Jeteye, but I would really rather have something embedded in the browser experience that I could also publish in some way, to allow it to be shared with others.

  • A IM presence module: I'd like to be able to share the location I am currently browsing as my iChat/AIM presence, and I would like to have my circle of friends do the same. Of course, people would like to turn this off when they are reading Fleshbot (not me, but others might), but in general it would be a simple source of new sources of clueful information.

There's more modules that could be conceived, but I think I have waved my hands enough to get across what is profoundly off about RSS readers: they don't work the way I read. I need support for active reading, or "readering" as I dubbed it, which is a very social activity, not a solitary one. I am no pigeon in no cage.

It could be argued that my needs or wants are wildly atypical -- I am a blogger, I have more time on my hands than others, blah blah blah. I maintain that because I am a blogger, and heavily invested in it, I am willing to do manually what others don't have time or patience to do, even though in the final analysis it leads to a much richer experience of the web.

Now all I need is for inventive souls out there to start building the bits and pieces of my dream world. It shouldn't be hard for someone to build an RSS alert plugin for Firefox, should it? Maybe someone already has done that. But I suspect that the other pieces of the puzzle have yet to be built. I can dream, can't I?

Comments (78) + TrackBacks (5) | Category: Technology