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  Social software coverage now on Download Squad.

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Yes folks, it is the end of an era -- or at least, the end of this blog as we know it. Our Social Software coverage has been subsumed by a larger entity, although without the usual acquisition rumours, inebriated launch party (complete with Flickr RSS feed) or sudden influx of VC money. Our own Download Squad will be proudly taking over coverage of news in the social software space, so tune in over there for your daily fix; set your new bookmarks to the Social Software category or the main Download Squad site, and reorient your voracious newsreaders to the Social Software RSS feed and/or the Download Squad main RSS feed.

Thank you, and good night.
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  Imagination Cubed online whiteboard.

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From the same nice people who brought us that dishwasher churning away in the next room comes an exiting new way to visually brainstorm and collaborate with your friends! Ok, so it might not be all that "new," and some of you might not find it particularly "exciting," but dammit, I thought it was cool. Developed by General Electric, Imagination Cubed (hence-force to be known as I^3, for the self-serving purpose of me not having to type it out each time) is another one of them multi-user online whiteboards. As I said, nothing particularly special about that. The cool thing about I^3 that sets it apart from other similar tools is the fact that there are no accounts, and therefore, you never have to go out of your way to make sure your friends and co-workers are registered. Simply visit the site and invite up to 2 other people to simultaneously use your white board. When you're done, you can print your final product, see a replay of what happened, or save the white board for later. I can see this being really useful for those times when you are trying to explain to their mother-in-law how to use tivo to record "Today in Cats," and that she needs to "push the green button, not that one, the other one, I mean the big green button shaped like a rhinoceros, here let me draw it for you!" You can also add text to your drawing, change the background color, and display a grid to help you draw more geometrically.

Wrap all this up in a delicious nougat AJAX interface and you've got yourself a winning web 2.0 application. Now, if only they could find a way to monetize it...

Via Lifehacker
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  Patent on social networking granted - to Friendster.

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"Friend-what?" you might be asking, but it's true: Red Herring is reporting that Friendster, the ill-fated social networking that (I think) started it all, has been granted a patent on social networks. Following a great tradition of painstakingly clear patent language, Friendster owns the patent for a "system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks".

Whether Friendster will use the time-tested 'if you can't beat 'em, take em to court' strategy is yet to be seen, but to their credit: they apparently applied for the patent (issued June 27 of 2006) way back in the day, before they fell from their perch.

[via Slashdot]
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  Jookster.

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Jookster mashes up web archiving, social networking, and ranked searching to provide a new service that I think has some interesting things going with it. After signing up for a Jookster profile and installing the Firefox tool-bar, users have access to personalized searches and instant web archiving. Clicking on the Jook This button in the tool-bar instantly archives a copy of the page you are visiting and indexes it for search. You can go back at your convenience and search through all the pages you have jooked. The cool thing about Jookster however is not the fact that it can archive and index content, Yahoo MyWeb 2.0 has been doing this for ages. The cool aspect of Jookster is the social aspect. Adding buddies with similar interests expands your search results to include things jooked by them, and their buddies, and their buddies buddies, etc. You can specify how many degrees of separation you want to search. The search results are ranked by how many degrees the person who jooked a page is away from you. This feature brings in a concept that has been much talked about at the Supernova conference this week; the fact that outside of the web, we use trusted contacts so look for information, and judge the quality information based on the what you think of your friends. Jookster brings this idea to the web, and I think it could be the start of something big. Imaging searching for information on the ecosystem of the amazon rain forest and being able to see that a biologist you know had jooked a result; wouldn't that immediately reassure you that the information there would be good stuff?

I think Jookster is a great idea, and even if it turns out that it is one of the many startups that will go belly up in this boom, I'm confident that the underlying ideas it embraces will be something that we are using for years to come.
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  Billy Bragg to MySpace: You'll get nothing and like it!. Rupert Murdoch and Billy Bragg: you have to wonder how these guys got in bed in the first place. It's a notion that'll induce Scanners-esque head explosions and I wouldn't spend much more time it, as the avowed socialist Bragg has taken his toothbrush and, we presume, did not let the door hit him on the way out of avowed capitalist Murdoch's crib.
Irked by terms of service that apparently gave MySpace "a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" his music, British songwriter Billy Bragg pulled his music from the social networking site.
Bragg's MySpace.com page offers this explanation: "SORRY THERE'S NO MUSIC," because "once an artist posts up any content (including songs), it then belongs to My Space (AKA Rupert Murdoch) and they can do what they want with it, throughout the world without paying the artist."
As Publishing 2.0 notes, the falling out is a harsh reminder of the lengths MySpace will go to compensate for not owning any of the content (read: the underlying value upon which much of the enterprise depends) posted on its sites and of MySpace's still-showing Web 1.0 roots.
Naturally, MySpace chalks this all up to a bit of sloppy lawyering.
"Because the legalese has caused some confusion, we are at work revising it to make it very clear that MySpace is not seeking a license to do anything with an artist's work other than allow it to be shared in the manner the artist intends," Berman says. "Obviously, we don't own their music or do anything with it that they don't want."
Whew. Well, I'm relieved; how about you? As we all know, when someone dismisses the tiny print in a contract as "legalese," that part is immediately invalidated, right?
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  Heat mapping your transportation decisions.

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MySociety.org, a British tech nonprofit project that builds and showcases new tools for civic good, has released a beautiful series of maps illustrating various transportation data sets around England.  See, for example, this sample map showing whether public transport (bus, light rail best is in red) or a private automobile (blue) will get you faster from the Cambridge station to any other part of the country.  (Cambridge is in the bottom right hand corner, nearish London.)  The project has created many other maps as well, illustrating a variety of data.

This is interesting, of course, primarily as a proof of concept.  I'm sure it was time consuming and expensive to create, but that won't always be the case.  If organizations like public transportation agencies expose their data via APIs then I can imagine that displays like this will only be a matter of processing power, which is only a matter of time.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to see a map like this for any trip you were planning?  "I'm at 44th and Killingsworth in Portland, and I'd like to go to 15th and Belmont.  If I'm willing to be dropped off within a few blocks, would it be faster to go by light rail or car?  How long is it likely to take me to get to a particular spot?  That particular place I'm headed isn't a public transportation dead zone, is it?"  Oh the questions you could answer!  This is just one of many maps  MySociety has published,  which is a good thing in light of Margaret Thatcher's famous (attributed) quote - "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure."

Found via WorldChanging
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  Social-Mail, Byoms and more: This week's eHub round up.

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"I like your roundups of eHub!" says Emily Chang in an email.  All the more reason to keep doing the darned things.  Emily Chang's eHub is a great resource for learning about new or newly highlighted Web 2.0 services and products, but it can be overwhelming.  In the spirit of helpfulness, I've now done a number of weekly summaries of my favorite items on eHub.  The following is the most recent in the series.  No substitute for reading eHub itself, of course, these summaries are just my favorites on the weeks I find time to do a write up.

Listed in order of my excitement this time instead of chronologically:

Social-Mail

Happy day!  Send emails to an RSS feed.  I feel far more comfortable using this tool, a Big in Japan offering, than I do using my previous stand by, mail2rss.org.  Mail2rss.org has worked well for me so far, but the fact that it's remained in "extreme  alpha" mode since I found it makes me very glad to find an alternative.  I use these tools all the time to create feeds for organizations that don't offer them (many in the nonprofit sector, for example.)

Byoms (build your own mobile search)
Not highlighted directly on eHub, but the product of a company that was (Kozuro).  Custom search via IM with support for natural language queries, search sharing and RSS feeds.  Not sure how all of these will work together yet, but those are some of my favorite features for anything - so I'll be watching closely for the June 5th public beta release.  The company says you'll preselect certain sources you want to be able to search, then you can use IM to query those sources on your computer or mobile device.  Sounds pretty cool to me.

Netvibes ecosystem
Makes ajax homepage modules easy to share.  Netvibes is one of the most popular Ajax homepages, which are themselves very poor ways to read anything more than a few RSS feeds with few items in each one (in my opinion).  But it may be one of the most realistic ways to hope for further RSS adoption, and the ecosystem's sharing does help make tangible the portability of feeds. There's an API that's being used to develop new modules, a Word Press plug-in - the announcement of the ecosystem got a lot of coverage throughout the blogosphere.

Farecast
In private beta, this system will use historical data to allow users to predict future airfare offerings.  Have to wonder if another larger vendor will buy this one out, I'm sure that's the idea.  Probably one of the best examples, in fact, of a technology built to flip.  Landing page visual design at least looks totally hip.

Big Blue Saw
You may have read some of the articles around lately about low cost rapid fabrication from CAD files.  Big Blue Saw is an Atlanta based service that offers just such an affordable service.  I've read about this type of thing being the future of manufacturing in the developing world, for now this service is getting press in Make Magazine at least. 

Spinvox
Turns voice mail into text messages or email.  Sounds great, presuming that it works well.  Discussion at MobileCrunch points to two likely problems:  long voicemail messages and the difficulty of trusting a translation to text of the important subtleties in spoken language (like the world "not").  Not having tested this myself, I don't know whether the text messages I get are going to tell me what the names of the callers are as well as my phone's recognition of contacts.  That would be very important.


That's this week's highlights from eHub according to yours truly.  Don't forget to check out the whole site for hours of fun.
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  eBay to include blogs, wikis - will people use them?.

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Steve Rubel discovers coverage and then goes in depth on eBay plans to incorporate blogs and wikis in their service offerings.  It looks like an impressive implementation, but I have a few questions about it.
  • First, if people wanted more in depth discussion - wouldn't the product descriptions and the buyer/seller feedback be less mass produced than they are now?  "Great customer!  Would sell to again for sure!" over and over again.  What percentage of the auction pages are mass produced by huge eBay store owners?
  • Given that this will be a pure commercial space it seems like the promised land for comment spammers.  Will eBay be able to fight spam in a way that doesn't shut down discussion but works for users?
  • Not sure that these mediums are the best suited for this context.  It seems like kind of an awkward application of two very hip, exciting tools.
  • Tag support makes sense if implemented in conjunction with pre-selected categories and full text search.  Given the nature of this particular market, though, I wonder if this will be the space where we really see tag spam emerge in a big way for the first time.
  • Internationalization of discourse will be an interesting mess to watch, I'm guessing.  Most businesses large enough to do a lot of international business mitigate language and cultural differences by hiring specialists to help with these issues.  Micro-businesses will not have these resources and I'll be curious to see how many miscommunications, previously silent prejudices and other communication issues emerge.
  • Business blogging often helps build relationships between companies and their customers.  How much loyalty do you feel to any particular eBay store?  I'm guessing not very much.  Thumbs up, thumbs down on reputation may be enough reputation/communication system for the vast majority of eBay users.
I'm not sure how much adoption these tools are going to see.  Blogging takes time and energy.  I'm not sure that people will find that investment worthwhile when sprucing up product pages and optimizing for search is already doable.  Does conversation drive commerce, as Rubel says?  Or in this case are we dealing with an intention economy - where people come to eBay intending to purchase something and only need help finding the best option at the best price?   I've never been too clear on how great an option it was to be able to call a seller on Skype, so I'm not sure how great an idea this is.  I've only been ripped of on eBay once, though, so perhaps I don't understand other peoples' need for communication. 
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  IHT, OhMyNews partner.

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Hong Eun-taekI just watched Hong Eun-taek,  Editor-In-Chief of the of South Korea based citizen journalism project OhMyNews speak at the NetSquared conference (disclosure: I work for Net Squared).  Amongst the interesting details of  Eun-taek's talk was a statement that the organization aims to become a global news wire similar to the AP and Reuters.  One of the most recent steps towards that end is a partnership begun in recent weeks to swap headlines between the prestigious International Herald Tribune.

I think there is an important difference between the recent high-profile partnerships between the AP and Technorati and between Sphere and Time Magazine and this partnership.  Specifically, while it is meaningful for a mainstream media organization to include links indicating "what the blogosphere is saying about this topic" - I would contend that it is meaningful in a different way for prominent parties in the citizen journalism camp and in the traditional media camp to permanently display each others' headlines in a box on their sites.  It's an interesting form of mutual recognition that goes beyond the relatively casual link list to the medium in general.

The IHT/OhMyNews partnership is also clearly important because it involves two parties that are not based in the United States.  Ethan Zuckerman from Global Voices Online is speaking now about the huge explosion of content producers from China, Africa, Brazil and the Middle East/North Africa that is on its way.  This partnership is liable to be remembered as a key development in the relationship between old media and new media on the global stage.
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  Four memediggers compared: Digg, Reddit, Meneame and Hugg.

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Call them memediggers, community moderated news sites, or digg clones. User submitted news moderated up or down by other users and available for comments. Call them whatever you wish, this new class of social media warrants close examination in order to make the most of the potential it presents. Which of these sites get the most use, see the most conversation and are most useful to their readers? How should people looking to launch new digg-style sites organize things in order to maximize adoption and impact?

One first step could be to examine a variety of leading sites of this type and that is what I've done below. It's arbitrary, it's unscientific and I think it's interesting. Last Friday evening I looked at the front page of 4 interesting memedigger sites and wrote down some numbers. Digg is clearly the standard, but also examined below are Reddit, the Spanish-language site Meneame and Hugg.com, a project of the hugely popular environmental blog Treehugger. I would have liked to include Newsvine, but was unable to find numbers to compare.

An overview of some observations:

  • Front page items are more commented on in Reddit than Digg, relative to the number of points those items have recieved.
  • Meneame seems to be successful in terms of votes but receives fewer comments.
  • Hugg isn't being used very much. I am curious why.
For each site I counted:
  • the total number of points listed for all items on the front page of the site
  • the number of items listed
  • the age of the oldest and second oldest items on the front page
  • the total number of comments listed on the front page
  • the estimated number of registered users in the system
Based on those numbers I then:
  • divided the average number of points held by each item on the front page of each service by the estimated number of registered users. This could be called the chance that any single item on the front page was given a point by any single registered users. This may serve to roughly estimate the breadth of participation in the system - a system where the items on the front page have received a relatively large number of votes relative to a relatively small number of users is one where there is greater agreement amongst users about what is important. This number may be more precise if it were calculated with the number of recently active users than total registered users.
  • I did the same division as above with the number of comments listed. This may provide some insight into the amount of conversation that occurs on the various sites, at least regarding the items that are on the front page.
Obviously this is very unscientific, just a starting point to look at and talk about the differences in memedigger services and communities. I hope you find it interesting.

Four memediggers compared

Digg

6923 points on 15 items = 461 points per item on the front page

Oldest item listed is from 1 day 3 hours ago, 2nd oldest 21 hours ago.

832 comments = 55 comments per item on the front page.

There appears to be 178,625 total registered users.

Total points on front page divided by total users equals 0.04. That could mean that one out of roughly every 20 registered users has given a point to an item that is now on the front page.

Total comments divided by registered users equals 0.005. That could mean that one out of roughly every 200 registered users has left a comment on an item that is now on the front page.

Notes on Digg:

  • There are 5955 pages of users. Users Thuglife and Diggitydank both appear after the 1000th page of most active users, in case you were wondering.
  • The nearly 180,000 registered digg users is a far larger number than the 60,000 subscribers to Tech Crunch, lest you use the latter number to measure the impact of Web 2.0.
  • Google search for site:http://digg.com/users has aprox 4 to 5 million results.

Reddit

3179 points on 25 items front page = 211 points per item

There are several items listed as from 1 day ago.

777 comments = 51 comments per item

Registered users appears to be undisclosed. Reddit representative has said that the site gets tens of thousands of users every day. Google search for site:http://reddit.com/user gets 209,000 results.

Note: Reddit has many additional features beyond news moderation.


Meneame, Spanish-language digg clone on tech

1882 points on 20 items = 94 points per item

Oldest post is 1 day and 10 hours, second oldest 1 day 5 hours.

192 comments on 20 items = 10 comments per item

There appears to be 4940 registered users.

Total points divided by total users = 0.38 That could mean that there is a roughly 40% chance that any single user has given a point to any item that is now on the front page. This could also mean that a high percentage of registered users continue to engage in ongoing use.

Total comments divided by total users = 0.04 That could mean that approximately 1 out of every 20 users have commented on a front page item.

Notes on Meneame:

Google site:http://meneame.net/user.php gets 22,000 results.

There were items with zero and 1 comment on the front page, both with more than 80 votes.

The site also includes a wiki for discussion of the service.

Hugg

92 points on 15 items = 6 comments per post on front page

Oldest item is from 1 day 3 hrs ago, 16 hrs is second oldest.

8 comments on front page.

There are 93 registered users.

Total points on front page divided by total users = .99 That could mean that every user has given a point to an item on the front page. The fact that this is unlikely demonstrates the inadequacy of this formula. I believe it indicates instead that the many of the relatively few active users find almost every item they give a point to appearing on the front page. Clearly the front page is of far less use to these readers than in other systems.

Total front page comments divided by total users = 0.09 That could mean that 1 in ten users have left a comment on an item on the front page. It is likely one or a few users have left more than one of the 8 comments.

Notes on Hugg:

Hugg is a project of the environmental blog Treehugger, for which Technorati has found 9,298 links from 2,943 sites. This indicates that the large Treehugger community is not into Hugg.

Of the 15 items on the front page, all were contributed by a total of 5 users.

One of the items on the front page when I visited was titled Jesus 'healed using cannabis'. I found that funny.

There are loads of big ads on Hugg, including from some of the biggest environmental organizations in the US.

Other memedigger or community moderated news sites that may be of interest:

Muti "Muti is a site inspired by Digg and reddit but dedicated to content of interest to Southern Africans or those interested in Southern Africa." See also the site's cool mashup of Google Maps and Yahoo News on Africa and elsewhere.

Crispynews Crispynews is hosted digg-clone software used by a wide variety of communities of interest. American Idol fans, Mormons, Brazillian hip-hop fans, etc.

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  Actortracker is an impressive topic-specific affiliate link mashup.

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ActorTrackerActorTracker.com is a very impressive mashup of feeds from TV talk shows, movies and more mixed with affiliate links for videos and other memorabilia concerning your favorite actors.  Most commercially oriented mashups seem a step away from cheesy splogs, but this one is very nice.  Many features and a nice aesthetic let you know that the people behind ActorTracker spent a lot of time on it.  Unfortunately, there appears to be some problem with the  MyTracker feature, as I'm not able to log in to accounts I create.

The site has been around for awhile, but it may take some time before mass media loving consumer audiences are comfortable dealing with data like persistent search results and the like.  If and when that day comes, the right marketing (and a log in proccess that works) could put this site in a good place to get many users.  The service has an unintimidating interface, including e-mail subscription for new results.  It's a good example of the way that RSS could end up being implemented by small players for mass audiences without waving the acronym around too much.

Given the huge amount of consumer goods available online around various celebrities and pop culture, matching affiliate links and listings shouldn't be too hard.  Not always perfect, though, as the 700 Club's listing ends up next to an affiliate link to buy the movie Fight Club.  I suppose millenarians do have to stick together!

Found via Programmable Web.
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  MySpace, Inconvenient Truth partner up.

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Being bought by the owner of the Fox empire hasn't scared MySpace away from partnering with Al Gore's high profile film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."  Announced last week but receiving little play in the blogosphere to date, the partnership appears to be more low-key online than the previous X-Men promotion but set to leverage the online community for real-world public events.  The movie's main site doesn't appear to make any reference to the partnership, as it is described on MediaPost, but MySpace friend to all Tom does have a Truth badge and link to the film's MySpace profile.

According to MediaPost,  "the campaign will culminate in a 10-city MySpace theater buyout on June 16, with free tickets going to select members of the film's MySpace community.  MediaPost also reports that MySpace is contributing a significant amount of ad space to raise climate change awareness.  The MySpace music channel is reported to be planning  an artist-on-artist interview between the former vice president and a to-be-announced rock star who is also happens to be part of the MySpace community. The MySpace movies channel will spotlight an interview with the film's director, Davis Guggenheim.

The partnership between the film and the high profile online social network appears to be remarkably low-profile.  No press releases appear on PR Web, few bloggers outside of MySpace have written about it and a Google News search brings back surprisingly few results.  The MySpace community itself appears to be responding well, however, as almost 45,000 users have added the films as a friend to their profile in just less than a week.

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  EarthLink approved to provide wifi in New Orleans.

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EarthLink announced today that they have been approved to provide wifi service to New Orleans.  According to the company's blog:
"The network will have two tiers -- a free (and ad-free) service at up to 300kbps during the city's rebuilding efforts, and a paid service at 1mbps up/down. EarthLink will also allow other providers to offer their services over the network, allowing for open access and competition."

There was some seriously strange legal wranglings about whether the city would be allowed to contract with anyone to provide this service and apparently it was the local state of emergency that allowed it.  Given that, and the incredible reliance on the wireless network there during the rebuilding - why doesn't the federal government just subsidize the top-tier service for everyone?  That's a silly question, such a policy would obviously interfere with the market's ability to monetize human suffering.  I can't imagine that Earthlink would mind.  At least permission has now been granted for the market  to partner with local government so that some service at all is available.

I'll be watching Esme Vos's Muniwireless.com for analysis of this deal.  See also New Orleans Voices for Peace, a liberal grass roots group "providing Internet access, website hostng, media development and training for partnering organizations and communities effected by the Hurricanes Rita and Katrina."

Update:  There's an email excerpt just added to the Earthlink blog from the New Orleans CIO about he's having people hug him on the street about the fact that free wifi is on its way.  It's an interesting account, nearly a tear jerker.
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  RSS feeds from surprising nonhuman sources: what examples are there?.

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Working on a presentation for a conference where I'm going to talk about RSS and am wondering - what are the coolest examples of nonhuman generation of RSS feeds?  I know that technically every search feed, stock report feeds and things like that are generated without the immediate involvement of humans.  But some time ago Lisa Williams told me about a buoy at sea that publishes a feed of hourly updates to all kinds of weather conditions.   That's from the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS).   She told me she would like to be able to subscribe to a feed that would tell her when her home's heating oil was running low. 

There's got to be more examples out there - anyone care to point to ones you know of?  I know there are systems to track package delivery (like FedEx).  There have to be some RFID systems that utilize RSS.  I know there are quite a number of  innovative examples of RSS feeds generated in libraries.  Limited  traffic reports for particular cities from Yahoo and Traffic.com.  Incidentlog.com is a cool use of police reports, mashing up feeds and Google Maps.

Really far out examples of RSS feeds being generated for a useful purpose without substantial human input is what I'm looking for.  I really believe there will be a lot of this in the future, but the sooner we can find examples the sooner we can prepare ourselves and others for the idea.  Please do post examples in comments if you can think of or find any that I haven't.

To be honest I'd be curious to see peoples' favorite applications of RSS in any context.  Anything already listed by Tim Yang or Basement.org excluded.
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  Edelman acquires PR firm of Mozilla, many other tech companies.

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Steve Rubel just wrote that his employer Edelman has acquired the Silicon Valley PR company A&R Partners.  Rubel says that many of the company's clients are already blogging.  Edelman leadership appears focused on bringing corporate communications into the new world of social media in some very cool ways, albeit learning from mistakes like the Walmart bloggers situation.  Here's a client list for A&R, you might notice that Mozilla is on there.  Interesting.  There are a number of people using these new social media to remake PR and save it from it's unsavory past.  Those efforts are said to be based in honesty - and that's a radical concept.

Valleywag has a more Valley-centric take on this.
Nicholas Carr has a hilarious response to Rubel style cheerleading
of honest conversation as being of central importance.  Fair enough, and don't miss the comments.
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  CA AG candidate launches RSS to IM notification system.

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California Attorney General candidate Rocky Delgadillo doesn't just have a long list of endorsements on his side - he's got new web tools going for him as well.  Delgadillo's campaign just launched a new service offering for supporters wanting to keep up with the campaign - RSS to IM notification from immedi.at

The letters RSS don't appear anywhere on the site, in fact there's not a link to subscribe to news from the campaign in a feed reader - but there is a link that allows you to plug in your IM username and get instant notification of new developments that can be passed on to others.  Timely updates have an excitement that may be more likely to spread by word of mouth.

Delgadillo's "vision" page begins with the sentence: "As I look around our state today, it's not just crime and violence that threaten our families.  It's also the greed and arrogance of corporate power run amok."  Sounds interesting enough to me.  I wonder how extensively the campaign is using RSS to IM internally.
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  Global Voices Online begins compilation podcast.

Filed under: , ,

The international blog aggregation community Global Voices Online has released its first edition of the Global Voices Podcast, a compilation of clips from podcasts around the world.  The first episode manages to fit in satire from South Africa about the visibility of queer people, coverage of bloggers' take on an upcoming election in Mexico (in Spanish) and clips from Jamaica, Israel/Palestine, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.  Set to music from Creative Commons label Magnatune, the whole thing fits in 17 fast paced minutes!  It's hosted by the very charming Georgia Popplewell, from the Carribian Free Radio podcast (an Adam Curry favorite).

The show reminds me in of a more grass-roots, web 2.0 version of the Global Shortwave Report, a fantastic, long running weekly 30 minute compilation of international shortwave news in English. 

Global Voices recently received funding from Reuters.  Its primary function is to aggregate content from bloggers all around the world.  The project has long published interesting interviews with people from around the world, but this newest foray into the news and culture serialized audio space wil be interesting to watch.  Many Global Voices participants are aspiring mass audience journalists as well, so whether new mainstream media stars emerge from this space or whether it thrives as a niche media project will help make the history of Web 2.0's impact on media.

Found via David Weinberger.
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  boyd, Jenkins MIT interview on MySpace and DOPA.

Filed under:

MySpace and youth social software expert danah boyd has released the full text of an email interview she and Henry Jenkins, Co-Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, recently did with the MIT News Office on MySpace and the proposed Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA).  Lots of good detail and analysis here, a great example of the usefulness of email interviews.  Helpful in understanding the proposed legislation, MySpace and youth social software in general and the public work of two prominent voices on these issues.  Both boyd and Jenkins are funded by the MacArthur Foundation to do academic work on these topics currently.

Here's how boyd explains her work:

"For my doctoral dissertation, I am investigating why and how youth are engaging in digital publics like MySpace, how this affects identity development and how youth socialization has changed over the last century. This work is being funded by the MacArthur Foundation to help understand the nature of informal learning. Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research."

Jenkins says about his work:
"[My work] seeks to identify the core social skills and cultural competencies young people need in order to become full participants in the cultural, political, economic, and social life of the 21st century. In doing this research, we are reviewing the current state of educational research surrounding participatory culture and examining how teachers are currently deploying these technologies through schools. We want in the long term to develop new curricular materials which help parents and teachers build a more constructive relationship with new media."

Both provide some useful thinking and talking points in regards to the much maligned sector of youth-oriented social software. 
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  Yahoo, eBay partner.

Filed under:

A multi-year agreement has been made between Yahoo and eBay to bundle many of the two company's services together.  Here's the Seattle PI in case you haven't seen the story yet.  Watch the discussion unfold over the day at Techmeme. 

Update: Mick Weinstein of Seeking Alpha precedes his summary of blogosphere reactions with this noe.  "Note that JP Morgan Securities had a report (.pdf) out just two days ago predicting such a eBay-Yahoo alliance as the most likely deal of its kind among the big internet players."

Thoughts:  I think this is liable to be seen as a less obtrusive partnership than some other search engine/other vendor deals.  As far as I know, nobody's computer or even browser comes with Yahoo or eBay baked-in top-level (Firefox Yahoo inclusion is substantially more low key than that of Google)  so I think this is going to be received as an extension of voluntary use. 

Second, I'm not sure how limited the possibilities are here.  Will people start using Flickr to upload their photos for eBay?  Will future auctions be promoted on Upcoming.org?  Maybe I'm being silly here, but the point is that Yahoo's recent torrent of feature-add-by-acquisition offers a lot of creative potential for a partnership with a huge player like eBay/PayPal/Skype.

Some people have said this is just a trial balloon, that these two companies are really competitors, etc.  But in the face of Google's success and Microsoft's largess I can't imagine that Yahoo and eBay wouldn't be able to work out some really powerful collaboration.  The fact that Yahoo gets more page views than any other site online, has acquired so much hippness and yet is the dark horse in this space is amazing.
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  FON to split private, public environs in routers.

Filed under:

FON, the experiment in shared wireless internet access that allows members to use each others' connections and nonmembers to pay for access, has announced a key software adaptation that responds to users' concerns about security.  The company just announced on its blog that its next release will include two different environments using the same router, one public and one private.  By using two separate SSIDs, or service set identifiers, FON appears to be making a technical response to widespread member concerns about sharing internet access with strangers.  I can imagine this will make the system much easier to promote to prospective new members.  Apparently non-anonymity of FON community members and assurances that hosts wouldn't be held liable for activities through their connection weren't assurance enough.  I'm not surprised.

Though funded by some heavy hitters like Google and eBay/Skype, FON seems to be acting like a good Web 2.0 company should - agile, responsive and with frequent updates to its service.  The hardware end of the social web acting just like the software sector Web 2.0 evangelists say should be the modus operandi.  Yet this development demonstrates that it's not all a happy picnic of sharing and love.  Some technical means of user control are still needed at the same time all this sharing is going on.  That's what this looks like to me.


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 Outlink The Doc Searls Weblog, 8/25/2006; 3:00:05 AM.
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  Making the place where we're headed.

Gordon Cook: How do we get from "here" to "there"? He goes deep here. The killer piece (at the end of a bad link I hope G will fix soon) is Personal Fabrication: a Talk with Neil Gershenfeld of MIT. Neil's work reminds me of my friend Marshall Burns' "Napster fabbing," which he talked about at the first P2P conference.

 
 Outlink del.icio.us/popular, 8/25/2006; 2:50:05 AM.
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  :: Yonkis.com ::
 
 
  mooglets - your web browser widgets
 
 
  NewsForge | Designing a book with LyX
 
 Outlink digg, 8/25/2006; 2:50:04 AM.
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  Guy Catches Roommate Dancing Like an Idiot. Hidden camera video of an Air Force Cadet dancing in his room when he thinks nobody is looking
 
 
  Laptop Slides Into Bed, creates Love Triangle. It's happening everywhere, the laptop is creeping into the bed causing a rift between happy couples. "Yet Mr. Smith is all too aware of his wife’s mounting disapproval of his routine and suspects that a laptop-in-bed ban could be imminent."
 
 Outlink GigaOM, 8/25/2006; 2:40:06 AM.
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  Somebody Give These Guys Some Millions!. We just got pointed to Mooglets, another personalizable homepage (warning: probably won’t work in IE6). It got a few diggs. This one’s prettier than the rest, though it doesn’t have much in the way of widgets yet. Very Mac OS X-ish. Mooglets is made by a self-described “small web design/engineering agency located in Rome, Italy” [...]
 
 Outlink CNET News.com, 8/25/2006; 2:30:07 AM.
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  HitTail helps you profit from the dregs of search. Blog: If you want to know what the top search terms are that land people on your site or blog, you want Web analytics software. There...
 
 Outlink Techmeme, 8/25/2006; 2:30:05 AM.
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  Windows Live testing video search (Marshall Kirkpatrick/TechCrunch).

Windows Live testing video search  —  Windows Live.com is working on some interesting new features in their beta search service, most notably video search.  It's not on the front page yet, but on the section of the site ironically missing the word beta on its logo: beta.search.live.com.

Source:   TechCrunch
Author:   Marshall Kirkpatrick
Link:   http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/08/24/windows-live…

Techmeme permalink

 
 Outlink Techdirt, 8/25/2006; 2:30:05 AM.
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  Tracing YouTube's Ancestry Back To America's Funniest Home Videos. The tech world is pretty fast paced, with people looking forward all the time and rarely looking back. That's unfortunate sometimes as there are things to be learned from what happened in the past. Slate has a fun article tracking the cultural history of home videos from the cultural zeitgeist of America's Funniest Home Videos to YouTube today. It mostly focuses on AFHV and what a cultural phenomenon it was when it first aired, while noting the underlying boundary pushing it encouraged, which is now displayed widely on YouTube. While the article trashes YouTube a bit for being "lonelier, less welcoming, and more pathetically voyeuristic," that's only half of the equation. It's also a lot more powerful for both publishers and viewers (and, in some cases, the distinction gets pretty blurry). Of course, that's representative of just about all of the new online-enabled publishing platforms these days. The signal-to-noise may be lower, but the absolute signal is much, much higher and much, much more compelling.
 
 Outlink Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog, 8/25/2006; 2:20:09 AM.
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  Explaining Sun's Share Gains. When Sun was in trouble a few years back, I was really frustrated by a simple reality of open markets: when you're down, it's not your answer to the question "why?" that matters. It's your competition that's quoted everywhere. "Here, let me tell you why Sun's having a hard time." It drove me nuts. (You'll recall, "Why is Sun down?" "Because they're proprietary and expensive, and all customers want is a cheap box.")

So over the past couple weeks, spiking yesterday with the release of industry market share numbers showing we outgrew the market (in my new role, I've been counseled, not by our general counsel, to avoid saying "we spanked the market"), I've been getting a lot of questions going the other way - wanting my view on why our peers are shrinking or troubled.

My answer? I have no idea, go ask them. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it.

I can tell you why I believe we are succeeding, however. I do spend a lot of time understanding our pipeline, wins and losses.

We've been saying for a while, for the customers we serve, innovation is about the only thing that matters in winning business. Cost of acquisition is a nit - compared to the cost of operation and management. A cheap Ferrari doesn't help a transport company that needs to move 10,000 people every day. They want a bus.

And no, this message doesn't resonate with everybody. It goes over like a lead balloon when you're selling to a flower shop in a shopping mall. Or a dentist's office or restaurant. They want a cheap box. But that's not our core market, that's someone else's. In my view, they're both going to stop buying infrastructure, anyways. Here's my CRM advice for both: shut down your servers, go directly to salesforce.com. We at Sun will then focus our time on salesforce.com. And believe me, IT matters to them. And they are spanking the market. Sorry, handily outpacing the market.

Secondly, the proprietary and expensive moniker is now dead. Dead dead dead. Solaris is open source, and gaining huge share (to my friends in the analyst community: you should stop saying the x64 market is characterized as a Windows and Linux market - when it's obvious there's a growing Solaris market on x64 systems). SPARC is now open source and gaining its rightful place in the industry standard server market - with Niagara's focus on eco-responsibility and energy efficiency seeming awfully timely. Our new lineup of UltraSPARC IV+ systems are cheaper and faster than IBM's Power systems (one customer just told me, "they're appropriately named when you get your electricity bill.") And our Opteron lineup is just, plain, awe inspiring:

But then there's the most fundamental answer to why we're gaining share.

I was sending out a note of congratulations to one of my staff members this week, when we first got wind of the data. And then I figured, it wasn't just his team, it was both our hardware/systems teams. And our software team for Solaris. And our marketing team, and our global sales and service teams. And our amazing ops team. And the corporate functions keeping the wheels on the bus while we're restructuring it. It was every one inside Sun, and all our supporters in the market.

Great products take great teams to gain share. So why'd we gain share?

We had a few good people focused on it. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

And just in case you missed the news, here's a couple good articles:

Sun's server sales soar, while Dell bores in Q2 -- The Register
Sun Overtakes Dell In Worldwide Sever Revenue -- InformationWeek

 
 Outlink CNET News.com, 8/25/2006; 2:20:08 AM.
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  HitTail helps you profit from the dregs of search. Blog: If you want to know what the top search terms are that land people on your site or blog, you want Web analytics software. There...
 
 Outlink digg, 8/25/2006; 2:20:07 AM.
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  The Sacred And Profane Sides Of Firefox. Log onto Spread Firefox, the community marketing site for the popular open-source browser, and you'll see flavors of the product that will probably surprise you. One of the most successful Firefox promotional vehicle can be found at Firefoxies.com. You can probably guess where this is going....
 
 Outlink Engadget, 8/25/2006; 2:20:05 AM.
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  Sony claims battery recalls will cost them $200m.

Filed under:

In a brief but pointed statement by Sony, hygienically entitled "Statement Regarding Sony's Support of Apple's Recall of Lithium Ion Battery Packs Used in Apple Notebook Computers," the mass manufacturer of defective batteries announced that the recalls we've been hearing so much about in the past few days are due to "microscopic metal particles in the recalled battery cells [that] may come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell. Typically, a battery pack will simply power off when a cell short circuit occurs. However, under certain rare conditions, an internal short circuit may lead to cell overheating and potentially flames." Ok, got it, we're with 'em, especially on the bit where they announced they're taking additional measures to ensure the safety of future batteries manufactured. So, howsabout putting a pricetag on all this carnage, eh? Well, between Apple's and Dell's six or so million units that are about to be recalled, it's going to set Sony back between ¥20 and ¥30 billion, or in dollar terms, between $134.2 and $201.3 million (or in per-unit terms, that's roughly $22 and $33 per battery). Now that, dear friends, is a spicy damned meatball.

P.S. -Ok, so howsabout that markup on those batteries? Even after shipping, support costs, and costs per unit, your $100-$150 battery is still only going to cost Sony as much as $33 per. As if we weren't already angry enough.

[Thanks, Tim]
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 Outlink del.icio.us/popular, 8/25/2006; 2:20:01 AM.
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  常见破解软件的优秀替代免费软件
 
 
  How to get people talking about your product
 
 Outlink Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen, 8/25/2006; 2:10:07 AM.
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  Flip the endian-ness of a long in C#.

Programming challenge:

Write me a function with this signature in C#:

public (unsafe?) long Reverse(long i, int bits)

...to flip the endian-ness (LSB/MSB) of a long, but just the # of significant bits specified.

Example, if the input is 376, with bits=11, the output is 244 (decimal, base 10).

376 = 00000101111000
244 = 00000011110100

Example, if the input is 900, with bits=11, the output is 270.

900 = 00001110000100
270 = 00000100001110

Example, if the input is 900, with bits=12, the output is 540.

900 = 00001110000100
540 = 00001000011100

Example, if the input is 154, with bits=4, the output is 5.

154 = 00000010011010
5   =00000000000101

And make it FAST...;)

 
 Outlink gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards", 8/25/2006; 2:10:05 AM.
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  english cut is expanding.... [The future English Cut World H.Q.] English Cut is expanding. We've come up with a very fiendish plan. Thomas explains all:So you will have gathered by now that I’m hatching a cunning plan. My aim is to have the...
 
 Outlink digg, 8/25/2006; 2:00:08 AM.
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  A million thanks! Yes... A MILLION!!! (Flash Animation). Weirdest flash animation ever! You gotta see it for yourself! I think i'll be sending this to all of my dearest friends... muehehehehe
 
 Outlink del.icio.us/popular, 8/25/2006; 1:50:08 AM.
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  BBC NEWS | Health | Tea 'healthier' drink than water
 
 
  Main Page - Dev-Scene
 
 
  ゆーすけべー日記: Plaggerでエロサイト作ってみた
 
 Outlink digg, 8/25/2006; 1:50:06 AM.
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  If We Destroy Our Planet. Will science find us a new one?
 
 Outlink The Doc Searls Weblog, 8/25/2006; 1:40:09 AM.
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  <h4>Test heading</h4>.

Test text.

 
 Outlink Gizmodo, 8/25/2006; 1:40:09 AM.
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  Apple Battery Recall Update.

applerecallsmall.pngThe official online form for the Apple Battery Recall is here. I filled one out for an iBook and a Powerbook with no troubles, except for actually having to lift up the keyboard for the iBook to find the serial number. The one listed in the "about this mac" section was actually another serial number.

All you need is your laptop's serial number plus your battery's serial number for the first page. On the second page, your personal information such as the address you want the battery to be shipped to.

Word of warning. Make sure you confirm your address is correct before you submit the second page. There's no confirmation page that will say "Are you sure this is correct? Hit back if you are not." If you screw up, you'll probably have to contact Apple again to correct your address. Either that, or camp out at your neighbor's house daily for 4-6 weeks.

Battery Exchange [Apple]

 
 Outlink digg, 8/25/2006; 1:30:08 AM.
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  Open Source: Designing a book with LyX. If you've ever considered writing a book, you may have looked at the layout capabilities of OpenOffice.org Writer, AbiWord, KWrite, or other word processing programs. While these tools can produce adequate results for many types of documents, it's also worth considering LyX, an open source (GPL) desktop publishing application.
 
 
  'Wiki Wars' Rage in Political Arena. Wikipedia is more popular online than Disney, Wal-Mart and ESPN. As more people view it, its offerings grow more extensive. However, its open source approach creates problems when it is applied to controversial topics, as contributors use sites to push their versions of the truth.
 
 
  Survey: To Get That Job, Bring On The Charm. A survey of 223 senior executives and managers found that 63% rely on "likeability" and personality of a candidate when making hiring and promotion decisions. So what does this mean to the stereotypical techie who is often labeled as lacking sparkle when it comes to people-skills? Bring on the charm...
 
 Outlink Boing Boing, 8/25/2006; 1:20:04 AM.
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  Xeni on CNN American Morning: Apple recalls Sony batteries. Xeni Jardin: Friday, I'll be a guest on CNN's American Morning with Miles O'Brien and Soledad O'Brien for a segment about the recall of Sony batteries in Apple notebook computers. News was posted earlier today here on BoingBoing and elsewhere around the web. Segment airs live around 915am-ish ET/615am-ish PT, Friday.

By noemail@noemail.org (Xeni Jardin).
 
 
  Mikey "I RFID-chipped myself!" Sklar on The Daily Show. Xeni Jardin: Eliot Phillips of hackaday.com says,
BoingBoing has covered Mikey Sklar's projects before. He RFID chipped his hand and also built a trampoline controlled flame thrower. He was on The Daily Show yesterday for a segment on nano machines along with Ray Kurzweil.
Link. (Way to go, Mikey!)

By noemail@noemail.org (Xeni Jardin).
 
 Outlink del.icio.us/popular, 8/25/2006; 1:20:02 AM.
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  JavaScriptデバッグツール集:phpspot開発日誌
 
 
  叱る時、やってはいけない10か条 - [幼児教育]All About
 
 
  プログラミングと開発者のためのCodeZine:Google Web Toolkit:現実的な開発に即したAJAX(Google Web Toolkit, GWT, AJAX, Java)
 
 Outlink ProgrammableWeb, 8/25/2006; 1:20:02 AM.
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  Tools for Google Maps. Mike Pegg does a great job tracking the most interesting maps mashups over at his Google Maps Mania. Occasionally he also does a roundup of tools for creating or enhancing Google Maps. Follow this link to see his eighth roundup of these tools along with links to the previous seven roundups. Good mix of Google [...]
 
 Outlink del.icio.us/popular, 8/25/2006; 1:04:51 AM.
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  Color Codes Matching Chart HTML (Pantone, CMYK, RGB Hex)
 
 
  java.net: Five Habits of Highly Profitable Software Developers
 
 
  justpretending dot net - printed in norway
 
 
  The Lockdown: Locked, but not secure (Part I) - Engadget
 
 
  Very Funny Ads
 
 
  Bhuvana Sundaramoorthy’s Blog » 50 COMMON INTERVIEW Q&A;
 
 
  Printer Anywhere™
 
 
  Schneier on Security: What the Terrorists Want
 
 
  Battery Exchange Program iBook G4 and PowerBook G4
 
 
  Amazon.com Amazon Web Services Store: Amazon EC2 / Amazon Web Services
 
 
  freenigma gmbh
 
 
  Ruby Programming Language
 
 
  Improv Everywhere Mission: Slo-Mo Home Depot
 
 
  How to get people talking about your product
 
 
  A devious trick to handle chronic complainers
 
 
  Shorty: Shorter, human-readable links from long URLs
 
 
  Secret Weapons for Startups
 
 
  Ruby, Rails, Test::Rails Cheat Sheet | Ruby on Rails for Newbies
 
 
  How to read
 
 
  Polaroid-o-nizer™
 
 
  Linux GPRS/EDGE via Bluetooth HOWTO
 
 
  The 9/11 Report A graphic adaptation
 
 
  第11回 プログラマが知らない,デザイナーの苦労:ITpro
 
 
  10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy
 
 
  Open Source Flash - fc64
 
 
  +LOVE IS DESIGN+: 写真をオシャレに見せたい人のための便利なツール
 
 
  Don't be shy about promoting your product
 
 
  mooglets - your web browser widgets
 
 
  Weta originals - Rayguns
 
 
  htmlor’s blog » Blog Archive » 玩转feedburner
 
 
  School Stress: How To Reduce Student Stress and Excel in School
 
 
  Phone Rep's Crazy Journals
 
 
  DSAS開発者の部屋:こんなに簡単! Linuxでロードバランサ (1)
 
 
  A Web 2.0 Tour for the Enterprise - Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design
 
 
  景観3DCG作成ソフト「Bryce5.0」が無料に - GIGAZINE
 
 
  [Customize.org] Viewing > Novum OS
 
 
  The New Yorker: Fact
 
 
  Untitled Document
 
 
  Starfish - ridiculously easy distributed programming with Ruby
 
 
  The Red Cross Ambulance Incident
 
 
  Showing iTunes Controls on the Toolbar
 
 
  Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Released
 
 
  JCXP - The Ultimate Windows Information Site :: Vista Transformation Pack 5.0
 
 
  Java theory and practice: Testing with leverage, Part 3
 
 
  BBC NEWS | Health | Tea 'healthier' drink than water
 
 Outlink Ray Ozzie, 8/25/2006; 1:04:50 AM.
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  Wiring Progress....
It’s been about a month since I launched the idea for Live Clipboard at the O’Reilly EmTech Conference Since that time, it's been fun to observe the energy surrounding the concept - both on the web as well as within Microsoft. 
 
One particularly interesting thing I found in backtracking the conversation is that, among others, Bill Burcham over at lesscode.org had apparently been thinking and writing about similar concepts for some time.  His, and others' evangelism of the concept makes me even more optimistic that we might actually be able to get it to critical mass in some evolved form.
 
In the past few weeks, the discussion thread that our concept development team started has been extremely active.  We’ve received some great input and feedback from many of you and as a result have a draft spec for review.  We value your insights and look forward to working with you to evolve this to a 1.0 spec.
 
We’ve also updated our sample web page, and our technical introduction to Live Clipboard.
 
Also, last week at Mix06 there were three separate sessions where the Live Clipboard concept was introduced and discussed.  At Mix06...
  • Two members of the concept dev team, Paresh Suthar and Matt Augustine, conducted a session on Live Clipboard.  Mix06 attendees saw the etech demo and more - including the integration of the Live Clipboard and SSE concepts.  Paresh and Matt showed how you can set up SSE contact sync between two users using the Live.com gadget and Live Clipboard. 

    (By the way - a new video overview of SSE with Paresh and George Moromisato, another member of the team, is available
    for viewing here.)
     
  • Nikhil Kothari unveiled his Live Clipboard Atlas component and how it could be integrated into a media player gadget.  After demoing the necessary coding steps, Nikhil showed how you can copy an audio playlist from a web page in Live Clipboard format, and then paste it into a gadget, which then began playing the songs and displaying album art.  Very cool.
     
  • Scott Isaacs, the architect responsible for the AJAX bindings framework used by the Windows Live and MSN sites, showed some amazing Live Clipboard capabilities that he’s adding to that framework.  Essentially, as a result of Scott’s work, you just need to add a small bit of XML to any page that uses his framework and the Live Clipboard icon/control is automatically added to any microformat on the page.  For example, if you have contact data in hCard format on a page, the Live Clipboard icon for copy/paste will simply render automagically next to the contact info.
For those interested, Mix06 videos/podcasts are here.
 
Much progress has been made within a few short weeks, and it wouldn’t have happened without your participation.  Special thanks to
  • Tantek Celik for his encouragement and continuous education on microformats.  Tantek’s microformats are ideal for representing structured data in HTML; we use them extensively in our demos.  It’s great to see that Tantek (left) and Matt Augustine got a chance to connect at MIX06.
     
  • Colin Viebrook at liveclipboard.org for caring enough to criticize/improve the iconography
     Live Clipboard Icon
  • Paul Daniel, who - clearly inspired by our Live Clipboard work with Windows Live Local - decided to get it working in Google Maps marker windows
     
     
  • To Jon Udell for his always-on-the-mark insights into the significance of all things technical
     
  • All the folks who have contributed comments/encouragement via the discussion thread
Let's keep the momentum going...
 
 
  Wiring the Web.
For years, many companies including Microsoft have invested significantly in the open, interoperable use of XML and Web Services toward enabling programmatic interconnection between processes, services and sites across the internet.  And that investment is bearing fruit as professional developers serving enterprises use powerful tools such as the .NET family of products toward decidedly embracing SOA.  The shift from monolithic toward composite applications has progressively become a reality in the enterprise, as we turn data center-based systems into a programmatic “mesh”.
 
But in the wild world of the web, composite applications have taken a notably different path – the most popular form these days being the mashup.  Although arguably far less powerful than going the WS route, mashups demonstrate how quickly a “mesh” can form when the process of wiring together components is made easy for the “scripting-level” developers.  These higher-level developers and integrators are critical to the development ecosystem: they exist in far greater numbers than formally trained programming professionals, and more often than not they possess key domain expertise – rapidly bridging technological capabilities into real world, valuable solutions.
 
Clearly as the flexibility and potential of “mashing up” and recombining application components gets closer to someone who understands the user’s needs, the value to that user increases.
 
And this is where my head has been at the past several months.  I’ve been wondering, “what would it take to enable users themselves to wire-the-web”?
 
If you happened to read my post about Simple Sharing Extensions last fall, you’re already likely aware of my optimism about the potential of using RSS as a DNA of sorts to enable “mesh” information sharing scenarios at a grassroots level on the internet.  I believe RSS has the potential to be the “UNIX pipe of the internet”, and that one of the simplest and most pervasive “mesh” needs that many of us have is to provide connections for things such as contacts, calendar entries, messages, files and the like.
 
About a month ago, while putting together a presentation that included the obligatory March Of History related to the emergence and significance of the GUI, I was struck with a fairly stark realization.
 
In the PC world, whose pre-GUI history was experienced through various flavors of MS-DOS, one of the greatest user benefits first delivered pervasively by the GUI was the radical concept of running multiple applications simultaneously and, more importantly, using them concurrently and inter-operably.  Through rigorous style guidelines and standard controls made available to application developers, suddenly users had the power to interact in ways that bridged divergent applications.
 
And what was the most fundamental technology enabling “mash-ups” of desktop applications?
 
The clipboard.  And a set of common clipboard data formats.
 
Before the clipboard, individual applications (such as Lotus 1-2-3 with its Copy and Move operations) enabled intra-application data transfer – in a world largely designed around a single running application.  But the advent of the multi-application user environment, combined with the simplicity of the Select/Cut/Copy/Paste/Clear model, suddenly empowered the user in ways they hadn’t previously experienced.
 
In its simplest form, the clipboard enabled the user to simply grasp the concept of moving a copy of the information from one application to another (i.e. by value).
 
In its most advanced form, the clipboard enabled users to set up “publish and subscribe” relationships among applications – dynamically interconnecting a “publisher” with a “subscriber” (i.e. by reference).  You can see an early such PC application mashup in one of my old posts.
 
So … I started to think:
 
The world of the Web today is enabled by the power of a simple user model – Address/Go or Link, Back, Forward, Home.  And certain “in-page” models have emerged from the ether: clicking the logo in the upper-left is Home, search in the upper-right, Legal/Corporate/Privacy/etc at the bottom.  How we interact with shopping carts is now fairly standard.
 
But each site is still in many ways like a standalone application.  Data inside of one site is contained within a silo.  Sure, we can cut and paste text string fragments from here to there, but the excitement on the web these days is all about “structured data” such as Contacts and Profiles, Events and Calendars, and Shopping Carts and Receipts, etc.  And in most cases, the structured form of this data, which could be externalized as an XML item or a microformat, generally isn’t.  It’s trapped inside the page, relegated to a pretty rendering.
 
So, where’s the clipboard of the web?
 
Where’s the user model that would enable a user to copy and paste structured information from one website to another?
 
Where’s the user model that would enable a user to copy and paste structured information from a website to an application running on a PC or other kind of device, or vice-versa?
 
And finally, where’s the user model that would enable a user to “wire the web”, by enabling publish-and-subscribe scenarios web-to-web, or web-to-PC?
 
Just think about that last scenario. It’s a mess today.  Let’s look at the most adopted form of wiring-the-web today: RSS feeds for blogs.
 
There are three classes of generally available weblog feed readers:
1. PC-based aggregators such as NewsGator or NetNewsWire
2. Web-based aggregators such as Bloglines or live.com
3. Browser-based aggregators such as Internet Explorer or Firefox
 
Many blog sites are prepared to publish content through feeds.  But how do they suggest to the user that they establish a subscription within their preferred blog aggregator?
 
In the case of #3 above, browser designers have (thankfully) agreed upon a simple technique wherein a special icon “lights up” when a page contains feeds to which you can subscribe. This icon is:
 
However, in the case of #1 and #2 above, we’re in a world of hurt. 
 
RSS icons, buttons and badges
 
Some PC-based aggregators use custom registered URL schemes such as “scheme://feed-path”; others use techniques such as http://localhost/feed-path.  Web-based aggregators pass the feed-path in the url, e.g. http://subscriber-site/subscriber?feed-path.  The user experience for subscription is a mess.
 
And what of the promise beyond weblogs for feed-based publish and subscribe?  Today’s user experience is certainly constraining what might be.
 
After thinking about this for a while … I had an idea .
 
The idea was based on using a simple and consistent user model to wire-the-web that would assist individuals in creating their own mesh of interconnections - both web-to-web and web-to-PC.
 
Simply stated, I’d like to extend the clipboard user model to the web.
 
A few weeks ago, I approached my brother Jack – who leads a Concept Development team in my group at Microsoft – and visually sketched out and storyboarded some end-to-end user scenarios that I wanted to try to accomplish.  The scenarios were all centered on this new clipboard user model.
 
The team took me up on the challenge, and in a few short weeks had accomplished all of the scenarios, and more.  And they did it using techniques that are incredibly simple, and which work securely and are browser independent.
 
Today at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, I’m sharing this new concept – through a brief demo and through hallway discussion.
 
I call this new concept Live Clipboard, because we view “live” efforts as those providing users with seamless end-to-end scenarios that “just work” by weaving together the best of software and the best of services.
 
The Concept Development team has created a screencast of a Live Clipboard demo, and a simple web page-based demo that you can play with.  Hopefully this will convey more vividly some of what I’ve attempted to explain above.
 
There are quite a few key influencers attending ETech, and it’s my aspiration that many of them, and many of you, will embrace this nascent technique, and “make it real” by working with us.  The goal is to create a standard that works across many different scenarios, many different types of websites, and many different PC-based applications.  In the same vein as Simple Sharing Extensions, we’re releasing our work under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.
 
For our part, a number of individuals from MSN and Windows Live will now be actively participating in the refinement of Live Clipboard toward ultimately implementing it on sites such as live.com.  Those who’ve seen it are quite excited about bringing this value to users.
 

I'd like you to help evolve LiveClipboard from an idea to reality - please join the discussion at: LIVE-CLIP@DISCUSSMS.HOSTING.LSOFT.COM

 
Enjoy, and please share.
 
 
  Labs.

I thought I’d take a moment to express my excitement about the kickoff of Live Labs, a new effort under the leadership of Gary Flake – a tremendously talented individual with many, many fascinating ideas about where the internet is headed.  As described in Gary’s manifesto, Live Labs is structured for agility, and for turning ideas quickly into reality.  It’s a rapid experimentation, incubation and advanced development group with a very direct connection into the product organizations. 

 

I’d also like to welcome another person of great talent - Ashok Chandra - to Microsoft.  Ashok’s kicking off a new Search Labs group focusing on taking search to the next level.  Between these two efforts, I expect many cool projects to emerge in the realm of software and services.  They’re going to be great places to work – whether in Mountain View or Redmond.

 

Finally, a quick update on the RSS Simple Sharing Extensions.  The spec has been making good progress, and there has been an update to the draft spec introduced last fall.  There’s also now some sample code available.  Check out the tutorial, and join the conversation.

 
 
  Looking back, looking forward..
As the year draws to a close, I find myself back east with some time to reflect upon this whirlwind of a year. 
 
About once a year I try to force some “whitespace” into my life in order to give my mind the opportunity to seriously question strategic assumptions, and for abstract/creative thought.  At this time last year I was just returning from one of those level-setting trips after cruising/exploring Antarctica with my family – an incomparable experience. I was reinvigorated and, as always, ready to shake things up.  Of course, little did I know what was in store for me/us in ‘05.
 
The year began with a bit of nostalgia, as I participated in a couple of main-stage events at IBM’s Lotusphere in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Notes.  It was a tremendously fun homecoming – particularly because of the time I got to spend catching up with many former partners and colleagues, including Mike, whose counsel/help ultimately proved to be quite pivotal.  (While there, over cocktails, Volker was the first to start harassing me to restart my blog.)
 
From a business perspective, the first quarter was interesting, complex, exciting and exhilarating at a level that’s hard to describe.  Several opportunities presented themselves that we’d never before conceptualized; we learned a great deal.  And by March, due to the tireless efforts of an amazing set of talented individuals, Groove agreed to be acquired by Microsoft.  To have their work become an integral element of the Office system was a pivotal opportunity for those in the Groove ‘family’ who’ve believed in the product and its potential for eight long years.  Thanks to the thoughtful integration of the organization by Chris, David, Eric, Ken, Steven, et al., Groove is well on the path to filling its role in what will be an amazing Office ‘12’.  I’m very proud of what it has become, and thankful for the strong leadership as I’ve spent most of my time in Redmond.
 
From a personal perspective, it’s been a year of change in many dimensions.  My daughter began her first year at Penn; my son is now engaged; I turned 50.  Most significantly, my wife and I began a new bi-coastal adventure.  I’ve got an apartment in downtown Seattle – my primary residence since early April – while my wife lives primarily at our home north of Boston.  On most weekends and some weeks, I fly east; on some weekends and some weeks, she flies west.  After doing it for months, we’ve fallen into a ‘groove’ that works quite well.  I’ve also had fun experimenting with ways to “bring the coasts together” using technology – setting up always-on ‘portals’ between various rooms in both places just to see how this telepresence-based peripheral awareness might feel.  I’ve now got more ideas; I’ll probably write about this at some point.
 
This year at Microsoft I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with and learn from a broad set of talented people – particularly Bill & Steve, JeffKevin & Jim & Robbie, Craig & David, Brad & Chris & Kevin, but also SO many others.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount in such a short time; this is an incredibly complex and interesting organization, with assets and opportunities that I hadn’t begun to imagine until being inside.  I very much look forward to working with them and their teams as we jointly reshape the company and its direction for this next phase of growth.
 
Actually, 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 also look forward to the imminent birth of an organization being built within the context of my group that is an outgrowth and expansion of humanitarian work we’ve been doing for years at Groove.  I’ll talk more about this early in the year; stay tuned.
 
I look forward to the Office ‘12’ and Vista introductions!  It’s going to be great to see peoples’ reactions to the user experience innovations in 12, and it’ll be really exciting for the teams that have poured so much of themselves into these efforts.
 
I look forward to using more and more Windows Mobile devices.  Months ago I pulled the plug on my blackberry and went cold turkey to an HTC Typhoon-class device.  A great device that is much more useful for triaging email than I’d imagined, but I really do need a thumb keyboard.  As of last week I’m now using/testing the upcoming Treo 700w, and it’s great!  The pipeline of cool devices about to emerge is stunning, and the software platform incomparable.  Much to look forward to, and many new ideas for Jack as to what we might do with these devices’ capabilities…
 
If 2005 was a year of “change” for me, 2006 will be a year to “build”.  Much of what I seek to accomplish here is already clear; some is emergent thinking.  As plans gel, I very much look forward to interacting with some of our largest customers so they can play an active role in shaping the ‘services transformation’ of enterprise systems in a way that’s material and meaningful to their businesses.
 
I very much look forward to this spring, when I’ll have the opportunity to spend a bit more time in China than I have in the past.  It will be a time to clear the mind; to learn; to again reset assumptions.
 
I’m intrigued to see what a transformed Red Sox will do … and of course, I very much look forward to my son’s wedding, and celebrating with many extended family members I haven’t seen in ages.
 
It’s looking to be a fascinating year!  And I look forward to working with many of you.  My best wishes for a wonderful holiday…
 
 
  Really Simple Sharing.
One of the great things about once again having an active blog is that it enables me to engage in discussion about concepts I’m excited about, and that I’m working on, before they’re fully-baked and while they could benefit from others’ involvement.  The first such thing I’d like to introduce here is something we’ve been calling SSE.
 
By way of background: for a few years now, I’ve grown to be passionate about the fact that people (and organizations) are choosing products & services relevant to their needs that have compelling experiences that “just work”.  Such is the basis for all of my current work related to service-enabled software.
 
For years, as many of you, my work life has involved significant travel.  As significant bi-coastal coordination has now entered into the mix, things have gotten even more complicated for me, for my wife, for my assistant and hers.  In order to stay on the same page, each of us has the need for (limited) visibility into aspects of each others’ calendars and schedules.  Each of us has a mix of private, shared, and public events and meetings that we’re tracking.
 
Some of these we edit privately and publish to others.  (This itself has posed significant challenges – particularly sharing partial information from confidential calendars.)  The most challenging calendars we deal with are those that are “shared”, such as the family calendar my wife and I jointly maintain, or the calendars we share with outside groups – such as the meeting calendars of volunteer organizations.
 
It’s tough because we use a mix of different email/calendaring systems – corporate as well as non-corporate, web-based as well as client-based.  And to each of us it makes sense to want to edit the calendar in our own PIM application of choice where we do all our calendaring and scheduling work – not within calendaring systems on other various websites.
 
And the same goes for contact lists.  In our case, each of us has a mix of private, shared, and public ‘address books’ or ‘contact lists’ that we’re managing.  At work I deal with contacts in my enterprise directory as well as my own private contact list.  But I share two completely different contact lists with my wife – one that is our “home rolodex’ with plumbers, doctors and the like, and one that is our “family rolodex” with friends & family.  And I know she has other contact lists she shares privately with members of groups she’s working with.
 
As an industry, we have simply not designed our calendaring and directory software and services for this “mesh” model.  The websites, services and servers we build seem to all want to be the “owner” and “publisher”; it’s really inconsistent with the model that made email so successful, and the loosely-coupled nature of the web.
 
Shortly after I started at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to meet with the people behind Exchange, Outlook, MSN, Windows Mobile, Messenger, Communicator, and more.  We brainstormed about this “meshed world” and how we might best serve it - a world where each of these products and others’ products could both manage these objects and synchronize each others’ changes.  We thought about how we might prototype such a thing as rapidly as possible – to get the underpinnings of data synchronization working so that we could spend time working on the user experience aspects of the problem – a much better place to spend time than doing plumbing. 
 
There are many great item synchronization mechanisms out there (and at Microsoft), but we decided we’d never get short term network effects among products if we selected something complicated – even if it were powerful.   What we really longed for was "the RSS of synchronization" ... something simple that would catch on very quickly.
 
Using RSS itself as-is for synchronization wasn't really an option.  That is, RSS is primarily about syndication - unidirectional publishing - while in order to accomplish the “mesh” sharing scenarios, we'd need bi-directional (actually, multi-directional) synchronization of items.  But RSS is compelling because of the power inherent in its simplicity.
 
This got me to thinking about simplicity.  Notes had just about the simplest possible replication mechanism imaginable.  After all, we built it at Iris in 1985 for use on a 6Mhz 286-based IBM PC/AT with incredibly slow-seeking 20MB drives.  We were struggling with LIM EMS trying to make effective use of more than 1MB of memory.  Everything about the design was about implementation simplicity and efficiency.  So if simple is the goal, why not just adapt the Notes replication algorithm to this need?  Notes "notefiles" could be analogous to RSS "feeds"; and Notes "notes" could be analogous to RSS "items"; and Notes "items" could be analogous to XML "elements".
 
Notefiles replicate by using a very simple mechanism based on GUID assignment, with clocks and tie-breakers to detect and deterministically propagate modifications.  Something like this could easily be represented in XML.  Notefiles replicate with one another in a decentralized, masterless manner; feeds could be "cross-subscribed" in a similar manner.  There's no magic to it once you know specifically what you're trying to accomplish, but it certainly helped to have an existence proof.
 
And so we created an RSS extension that we refer to as Simple Sharing Extensions or SSE.  In just a few weeks time, several Microsoft product groups and my own 'concept development group' built prototypes and demos, and found that it works and interoperates quite nicely.
 
We’re pretty excited about the extension - well beyond the uses that catalyzed its creation.  It’s designed in such a way that the minimum implementation is incredibly easy, and so that higher-level capabilities such as conflict handling can be implemented in those applications that want to do such things.
 
Early on, after we had a prototype going, I met with Dave to tell him about it and perhaps get him involved.  Immediately at our first meeting he spotted its potential to solve something else he had been thinking about – replicating changes among OPML lists or outlines being managed within different services or by different people.  He challenged us to see if the same SSE mechanisms could be applied to OPML.  As it turned out, only minor changes were required.  In essence, by connecting these dots between what we’d done to extend RSS and his vision for OPML, Dave's catalyzing a new form of decentralized collaborative outlining.
 
At this point, various groups at Microsoft have begun to further develop their early prototypes to see what we can learn, and to ensure that the spec is sufficient.  There's nothing to announce right now in terms of which products will support the spec, when, and for what purpose, but people are experimenting with it and are intrigued.  It’s time to bring the spec to you, so that you can do the same. 
 
We’ve numbered the draft specification 0.9 because we have a good degree of confidence in its usefulness based on the prototyping that we’ve done thus far, but it’s certainly not a 1.0 and I would certainly caution against building anything ‘production’ on it quite yet.
 
Here’s the draft spec for SSE, and here’s a FAQ that we put together.  A forum where we can talk about it amongst implementers will be forthcoming. 
 
(Props for making the spec and early prototypes actually happen go out to the individuals in many product groups - you know who you are - who were motivated enough to want to enable this scenario for users.  And to Dave for extending it to OPML.  It's been fun working with all of you, and impressive how rapidly this could happen.)
 
One other important point:  We’re releasing the SSE specification under a Creative Commons license – Attribution-ShareAlike.  I’m very pleased that Microsoft is supporting the Creative Commons approach; you can see more about this at in the licensing section at the end of the spec.
 
Enjoy.
 
 
  V3.

When I first began blogging back in August of 2002, I explained that I was doing so to learn more about the nature of the link-centered medium, and that blogging might represent a new and more effective model of interaction in the "public space".

 

Indeed, I learned.  Through two bouts of blogging - one lasting three months, the other about a year - I learned as much about my own communications rhythms and habits, stumbling blocks and compulsions, as I did about the medium itself.

 

A great deal has occurred since then.

 

Groove continues to grow and thrive, but now within the Microsoft Office group.  Since late March my new role has had me spending most of my time in Redmond WA, with an occasional week here-and-there working at my Groove office in Beverly MA.  With an 'empty nest' now that the kids are both in college, my wife and I are enjoying a new adventure ... as we blend our new life in urban Seattle, with our continuing life in coastal New England, with the tremendous opportunity being afforded to me to make an impact here at/through Microsoft.

 

One of the most unexpected pleasures of our new bi-coastal life is that not only are we able to continue rooting for our beloved Sox at Fenway ... but thanks to also living within walking distance to Safeco Field, we now have twice the number of opportunities to watch the Yankees lose.  (Papi was robbed, btw.)

 

So why the blog restart?

 

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I brought life to a new initiative that, over the course of the months and years ahead, will catalyze and deliver a number of things that I'm very excited about.  At that event, I said that unlike many other stealth projects I've/we've done, in this case many of our plans and offerings will evolve progressively and in the open, shaped in good measure by a dialog with you.  This is not just feel-good marketing speak: the conversation related to Microsoft - its reputation, its intent and its offerings - is occurring and will continue to vigorously occur on the 'net with or without us.  I'd rather it be "with", and I hope to add value in becoming another of the varied Microsoft voices conversing on the 'net.

 

As in the past, it's not my intent to be pitching our products here.  We've got plenty of mechanisms - old school and new - that work well for that sort of thing.  But to the extent that I'm excited about something, or I think there might be a different angle that you might be interested in, I'll chime in.

 

Mostly, though, it's my intent to use this as a channel through which to reply and converse with you in a manner that scales.  Not on all topics; it's clear that the nature of my role at this large, public company dictates that I should and will stay silent on certain matters.  At times there will be controversies I just can't or won't engage in.  Many years ago at Groove we developed an early blogging policy.  Things may have evolved quite a bit since then, but this policy continues to give reasonable guidance that I'll continue to apply to my own comments here.

 

So ... if I couldn't sustainably blog the last two times I tried, will it work this time?  I guess you'll just have to stay tuned to find out.  I certainly have a much more complex life now than I did then, with much less flex time / whitespace within which to blog.  Conversely, I'm involved in many interesting and varied issues here that have potentially broad impact, so there's probably a lot more I'll want to converse about.

 

As a matter of fact, there's a fun little project that several of us (inside and out) have been playing with for a few months that we've wanted to talk about more broadly, but didn't have a lightweight way to get it out there.  Now we finally have a reasonable way to kick off the conversation.  Next week, perhaps.

 

Going into this, I certainly know that my posts will be relatively infrequent, and probably won't go as 'deep' as they might've gone in the past.  Less essays, more shorter comments.  As in my previous blog, I'll be tracking the conversation by watching inbound links, rather than by enabling comments on the site.  The "link mesh of conversation" is a key distinguishing characteristic of this medium, and is one that I really like.

 

My apologies to those long-time subscribers whose aggregators never gave up on me and had to re-subscribe using the new feed URL.  I'd heard great things about Spaces, and I figured that if it works so well for 25 million other bloggers, it might even work for me.

 

So, here we go again.

 

Welcome to Ray's Weblog, V3.

 
 Outlink Lessig Blog, 8/25/2006; 1:04:42 AM.
XML
 
  blog2congress. Don Marti has a very cool style sheet to make it possible to turn a blog entry into a letter to Congress.
 
 
  Best Open Source Solution. Creative Commons' free software project, ccHost, a project that "provides web-based infrastructure to support collaboration, sharing, and storage of multi-media using the Creative Commons licenses and metadata," has been named the "Best Open Source Solution" at LinuxWorld 2006. ccHost supports ccMixter. See some pictures of those who support ccHost.
 
 
  Fantastic collection of political mashups. John Anderson sent me a link to a fantastic collection of political mashups. The current President is a popular target, but the Nixon stuff is really great as well.
 
 
  Wikimania Awards: the soul of the free culture movement. Check out the very cool finalists for the 2006 Wikimania awards.
 
 
  Sharecropping at the Washington Post. Denise Howell has a great post about the Washington Post's plan to run a mash-up. According to the terms and conditions, as a condition of participating, the artists must agree to "grant and assign all right, title and interest in the Recording to" the Washington Post. Good for the Washington Post -- mash-ups are an important and valuable form of creativity encouraged (and democratized) by digital technology. But I believe that the artists who create them deserve to own and hold the copyright to their new creative work. And in my view, any self-respecting artist should refuse to participate in any sharecropping mash-up. You did the work. You should own the rights to the work you did.
 
 
  Another CC Salon.

CC Salon is happening tomorrow – Wednesday, August 9th – from 6-9pm at Shine in San Francisco. CC Salon is a free, casual monthly get-together focused on conversation, networking, and presentations from people or groups who are developing projects that relate to open content and tools. CC Salon SF is now being presented in conjunction with CopyNight SF.

This month's line-up of speakers includes Hemai Parthasarathy and Barbara Cohen of the Public Library of Science, Owen Byrne of Digg, and John Buckman of Magnatune. Shannon Coulter will be DJing a set of CC music from Magnatune's catalogue.

For more information, visit this event's Upcoming.org listing.


This Flickr photo of CC Salon was taken by DNSF and is used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

 
 
  the one thing PFF and I agree on for sure. Ray Gifford has announced he is stepping down from being President of PFF. There are (unfortunately) too few things I and PFF agree about. But we agree about Ray. He is a man of extraordinary integrity and insight. It is sad to see him go (but for the best of all possible reasons).
 
 
  well, one thing could make me happier. So 25 minutes after I posted the post below about Balkin's book (saying "nothing could make me happier"), the Supreme Court of New Jersey decided the appeal in the case I argued (more than 18 months ago). It is here. My client won. Ok, you're right, NJ SCt. I'm happier.
 
 
  My increasingly favorite academic press.
yale_logo.gif
So I'm back on the grid, after a (never long enough) break with my family. Nothing is as cool as my kid. And though returning is tough, this news was great to return to: You'll recall my over-the-top (but completely accurate) praise for Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks. That was published by Yale University Press, which allowed Yochai to release the book under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license (you must give attribution, you can make only noncommercial uses of the work, and any derivative must be under the same license). Today, Jack Balkin wrote to say that Yale has now permitted him to release his book, Cultural Software, under the same CC license. Balkin's book (published in 1998) resolves a plainly more academic debate. But it uses metaphors from computer science to develop a theory of how cultures evolve. Balkin is a friend, and long before a friend, mentor for me. Nothing could make me happier than to see his great book within the CC family.
 
 
  OneWebDay: September 22, 2006. The Web has changed millions of lives. Just two months from now, on September 22, we'll be celebrating the first OneWebDay. OneWebDay is one day a year when we all - everyone around the physical globe - can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities. In short, it's like an Earth Day for the Internet--a day to stop and think about what the Internet means to us. Add the OneWebDay Button to your site and get together with friends in your town to plan an outdoor celebration with an online component that people elsewhere on the Web can appreciate. Put a link on the OneWebDay wiki In New York's Bryant Park, San Francisco's Union Square, in London with the Lord Mayor, near City Hall in Austin, in downtown Chicago, in downtown Portland, Maine, all over Canada, and in Naples (Italy), and Canberra (Australia), OneWebDay will be celebrated for the first time on Sept. 22 -- and those are just the celebrations we know about. The goal of OneWebDay is to make the Web, and our individual connection to it, visible -- so that we don't take it for granted. We make progress when we make things visible.
 
 
  Bravo John Edwards. So I'm sitting at a hot Internet Cafe in Costa Rica, interrupting the month with the family, to follow Dave's lead in drawing attention to just how Edwards' gets the net. As Dave explains, former-Senator Edwards has begun distributing video using BitTorrent -- demonstrating the important value of this technology that has nothing to do with "piracy." Now if only he'd signal clearly the freedoms that run with his video... (Thanks, Dave)
 
 
  Remixed Heroes. One of the greatest moments in my career was when I got to introduce David Byrne at Wired's Creative Commons Concert in New York. At that September 2004 event, we announced that David Byrne and Brian Eno intended to re-release their seminal Bush of Ghosts album with tracks available for remix under a CC license. A couple of months ago, the Bush of Ghosts remix contest launched with the component tracks of two songs available under CC for remix. So far more than 170 remixes have been submitted to this extraordinary site. I'm sure I'll get in trouble for this, but as Byrne has always been an inspiration to me -- long before I knew anything about copyright -- I must confess nothing else in the history of CC has meant more to me. Pitchfork has a great new interview with Byrne on Bush of Ghosts, as well as his other cool projects (including his own fascinating blog) here.
 
 
  Creative Commons SF Salon Tonight. Join us for the July CC Salon, taking place in San Francisco on Wednesday, July 12 from 6pm-9pm at Shine. CC Salon is a casual get-together focused on conversation and community-building with 2-3 brief presentations from individuals and groups developing projects with relationship to Creative Commons. We look forward to seeing you there! CC Salon - San Francisco Wednesday, July 12, 6-9 PM Shine 1337 Mission Street (between 9th and 10th) San Francisco
 
 
  GOOD Magazine comes to San Francisco. Bay Area CC friends: You are invited to a party on July 14 at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco, hosted by GOOD Magazine! Join us for a night of art, music (provided by Odd Nosdam of Anticon), and an open bar. Admission is free if you purchase a year subscription to GOOD Magazine. GOOD is a new publication focusing on people, ideas, and institutions that are affecting the world in innovative and positive ways. One very cool thing about GOOD is its Choose GOOD campaign, where you can subscribe to a year of the magazine for $20 and choose a partnering non-profit organization that you want 100% of your subscription fee to go towards helping. That means for $20, you can subscribe to a year of GOOD, make a contribution to CC, and gain admission to a night of great fun. Details: GOOD Magazine comes to San Francisco! Friday, July 14; 9pm-2am 111 Minna Gallery (111 Minna St.) Art, music (provided by Odd Nosdam), and open bar all night. Magazine subscription required for entry. 100% of your subscription fee can go towards helping CC! Subscribe here. To RSVP: (1) go to www.goodmagazine.com, (2) subscribe (all $20 goes to the organization you choose) and (3) email your name and confirmation number to RSVP@goodmagazine.com.
 
 
  How the Danes share files. Claus Pedersen has completed research on the pattern of filesharing in Denmark. His conclusions are (1) the decline in record sales in Denmark is explained by many factors, and (2) the decline that there is is finansed almost in full by the wealthiest artists. What's particularly interesting about the study is that it uses data from the Nordic Copyright Bureau, which has a monopoly status in Denmark. That means the data are not estimates of sales declines, but actual sales. (Nordic records 99% of the market). A summary of the paper was translated by Marie Elisabeth Pade Andersen. You can read it here. Claus now looking for support to get the full paper translated. If you've got an idea, email him at this address.
 
 Outlink Seth's Blog, 8/25/2006; 1:04:34 AM.
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  Spanish soccer bloggers wanted.... Darren Rowse is at the cusp of a trend: The Problogger Job Board - Helping Bloggers find jobs. And you can even subscribe by RSS......
 
 
  The thing about the wind. I just had some great windsurfing lessons (no, that's not me--the only thing I had in common with this guy is that we were both upside down). I can tell you that windsurfing is very easy... except for the wind....
 
 
  Good enough. So, just about everything that can be improved, is being improved. If you define improved to mean more features, more buttons, more choices, more power, more cost. The washing machine I used this morning had more than 125 different combinations...
 
 
  What happens to radio?. I did an interview with Mark Ramsey about the future of radio. Here's a little squib about the four ways I think the medium might go: Scenario A: Everyone has Wi-Fi or WiMAX in their car. Once that happens, we're...
 
 
  Thinking about snakes on a plane. The Mainstream Media was enthralled by the Snakes on a Plane story. Here, at last, was proof positive that the internet changes everything... hey, it even changes movies! Hollywood was scared, of course, but they usually are. They understand, finally,...
 
 
  First Time Here?. Analytics says that my blog is getting more first-time traffic than usual. Hence this link: ...about Seth Godin. Thanks for visiting....
 
 
  Twenty free copies. One per customer. SITNB: Expires Tuesday morning, says Ryan: InBubbleWrap....
 
 
  What people want. The same thing everyone else is having, but different. A menu where the prices aren't all the same. More attention than the person sitting next to them. A slightly lower price than anyone else. A new model, just moments before...
 
 
  Human beings have short memories. German appliance maker Bosch introduces the Axxis™ washer....
 
 
  Great moments in copywriting. From the back of the King of Shaves tube: MagnaGel MME (Micro Magnetically Enhanced) shaving gel sets the new standard for shaving software... The thing is, it really does make you want to go shave....
 
 
  The top five mistakes entrepreneurs make when they market. A riff I did at WorkHappy.net....
 
 
  Welcome to Shuffleworld. College dorm 1979, every kid had three dozen albums. You picked the one you wanted to listen to while you did your calculus homework (you knew them all by heart), took it out of the sleeve and played it. (small...
 
 
  The Web 2.0 Traffic List. There are thousands of web 2.0 companies out there, many started by just a handful of people. But which ones are getting traction? etsy vs. lulu? imvu vs. clusty? Here's your answer. Feel free to digg it....
 
 
  ...in the middle, Starting. When a director makes a movie, she can be pretty confident that the audience will see it from the beginning straight through to the end. When I write a book, I have the same luxury. That’s usually the case when...
 
 
  Free stuff, self-promotion and repetition. Just in case you aren’t tired of me and my endless prattling on about my book, today is pub day, so I’ve got a laundry list of neat stuff for you. It actually makes me extremely uncomfortable to mention something...
 
 Outlink Burning Questions - The FeedBurner Weblog, 8/25/2006; 1:04:33 AM.
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  The FeedBurner Podcast - Redux.

Have you missed us? We've missed us too! All of this feedburning business has kept us busy enough to properly ignore our own podcast almost a year (as evidenced by our last episode posting of September, 2005). To all 78 subscribers who've kept their Bics in the air since then: "Hellloooooo, Cleveland!"

Rather than abandon the FeedBurner podcast as we did our innocence of days gone by, we cooked up a better solution. FeedBurner is pleased to announce the customer-sponsored and produced podcast format. While you've been out there doing whatever it is that you do, we have been quietly gathering a growing list of volunteers who have graciously offered to host/produce and contribute to the FeedBurner podcast in some way.

What's the result? More FeedBurner podcasts, more often. But more importantly, this new format means we get to shamelessly promote our customers which makes us very happy (you know how much we like to do that).

We kick off our first, er ... second podcast with the one and only David Lawrence. You can learn more about David and Episode #2 on our dedicated podcast page.

Spend some quality time with cast and crew of FeedBurner and our very talented customer base. Subscribe to the FeedBurner podcast feed today.

Interested in volunteering your time, patience and your skills of an artist to a future episode? Shoot us an email.

 
 
  Blumberg joins FeedBurner Board of Directors.

We've made some room for Matt Blumberg at the big fancy table in the back room (the table without the folding legs). Matt is founder, CEO and chairman of Return Path and knows a wee bit about Internet services with 7 years of experience helping marketers increase email ROI and having previously served as General Manager of the Internet division of MovieFone, Inc. from inception to the company's sale to AOL. He also has a deep appreciation and understanding for delivering content to the far-flung reaches of the Internet-o-sphere(TM), so we enthusiastically welcome his contribution to such heated board debates as "Why don't you just TELL me which feed you want burned?" and "Does this feed look fat to you?"

Matt writes a blog about entrepreneurship titled OnlyOnce. He loves earth tones, walks in the park, and the letter P.

 
 
  FeedBurner acquires Blogbeat.

In the syndicated content solar system in which the FeedBurner orb spins, it helps to occasionally venture out of our galaxy in search of intelligent life and integrated product offerings. Long story short, we have acquired Blogbeat. In our quest to provide our publishers with a comprehensive picture of how content is distributed and consumed, we liked the fact that Blogbeat uses the feed to gather additional information about the blog. We have been interested in expanding our combined site/feed view since FeedFlare got going some months ago, and Blogbeat will give us the ability to provide publishers with a more thorough statistics picture.

What does this acquisition mean for you?
FeedBurner customers will have a means of comparing feed trends and metrics to site metrics in some interesting and non-traditional ways. By the end of the year, we'll have assimilated... er, incorporated Blogbeat functionality into the familiar FeedBurner platform. If you're a Blogbeat customer, we first welcome you with a full refund since Blogbeat will become a part of StandardStats, our free service. Additional (and optional) paid services will be built out in the future. During the transition, you will continue to be supported by Blogbeat, and we encourage you to take a look around FeedBurner and get used to the joint.

But what about [insert your question here]?
There is a lot more information about this acquisition available in the press release and our official acquisition FAQ.

 
 
  newTunes for iTunes (Podcast Category Changes).

Apple has launched a streamlined new categorization scheme for podcasts listed in the iTunes Music Store. Somebody wasn't paying attention to our "don't launch changes on a Friday before a holiday" policy, but we'll let it slide this time. We've carved out some room between sleeping and World Cup viewing this US holiday weekend to update our trusty SmartCast service in support of these changes. Below are the set of old --> new category mappings based on the updated category scheme defined by Apple. We have auto-updated all the podcasts in FeedBurner to validate to the new category scheme (and validate through the already updated Feed Validator). If you want to tweak these adjustments to your podcast categories, simply log into your FeedBurner account and visit the "Optimize" tab to access the SmartCast feature.

old -> new
Arts & Entertainment->Arts
Arts & Entertainment|Architecture->Arts|Design
Arts & Entertainment|Books->Arts|Literature
Arts & Entertainment|Design->Arts|Design
Arts & Entertainment|Entertainment->TV & Film
Arts & Entertainment|Games->Games & Hobbies|Video Games
Arts & Entertainment|Performing Arts->Arts|Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment|Photography->Arts|Visual Arts
Arts & Entertainment|Poetry->Arts|Literature
Arts & Entertainment|Science Fiction->Arts|Literature
Audio Blogs->Society & Culture|Personal Journals
Business|Finance->Business|Business News
Business|Management->Business|Management & Marketing
Business|Marketing->Business|Management & Marketing
Education|Higher Education->Education|Higher Ed
Family->Kids & Family
Food->Arts|Food
Health|Diet & Nutrition->Health|Fitness & Nutrition
Health|Fitness->Health|Fitness & Nutrition
Health|Relationships->Health|Sexuality
International->Society & Culture
International|Australian->Society & Culture
International|Belgian->Society & Culture
International|Brazilian->Society & Culture
International|Canadian->Society & Culture
International|Chinese->Society & Culture
International|Dutch->Society & Culture
International|French->Society & Culture
International|German->Society & Culture
International|Hebrew->Society & Culture
International|Italian->Society & Culture
International|Japanese->Society & Culture
International|Norwegian->Society & Culture
International|Polish->Society & Culture
International|Portuguese->Society & Culture
International|Spanish->Society & Culture
International|Swedish->Society & Culture
Movies & Television->TV & Film
News->News & Politics
Politics->News & Politics
Public Radio->News & Politics
Religion & Spirituality|New Age->Religion & Spirituality|Spirituality
Science->Science & Medicine
Sports->Sports & Recreation
Talk Radio->News & Politics
Technology|Computers->Technology|Tech News
Technology|Developers->Technology|Tech News
Technology|Information Technology->Technology|Tech News
Technology|News->Technology|Tech News
Technology|Operating Systems->Technology|Tech News
Technology|Smart Phones->Technology|Tech News
Technology|Text/Speech->Technology|Tech News
Transportation->Games & Hobbies|Automotive
Transportation|Automotive->Games & Hobbies|Automotive
Transportation|Aviation->Games & Hobbies|Aviation
Transportation|Bicycles->Sports & Recreation|Outdoor
Transportation|Commuting->Games & Hobbies|Automotive
Travel->Society & Culture|Places & Travel

Any questions about the new categorization scheme? Those should go to Apple. These changes were rolled into production and publicly announced by Apple on Friday; we have tried to react to the change as quickly as possible for our podcasters.

Any compliments about our SmartCast feature? Direct those to our Support Forums or email feedback at feedburner dot com.

Love, us

 
 
  Hackathon III - Leader of the Hack.

The developers at FeedBurner have been acting like a bunch of kids in the back of a station wagon lately ... "When's our next Hackathon?! Tell Chris to stop touching me!" After our last two successful endeavors, the Hackathon has become the anticipated event of the season here at FeedBurner HQ. One day spent exclusively working on pet projects that aren't on the Gantt chart. It's just like a Google engineer's "20% time," except, well, this is our third one in about a year, so let's call it "FeedBurner's 1.41% time."

This past Friday, June 16th, we all showed up in the conference room early in the morning, proposed our ideas, and came up with the gameplan. We then went immediately into "can't talk now" mode, frantically coding for an end-of-day presentation. When the buzzer sounded, the pizza and beer went down fast as everyone showed off their hacks, captivating the room and eliciting tears of joy from the business team who no longer had to run customer support for the day (if somebody answered your question on Friday using the word Adam instead of Atom, please resubmit your question).

While all of this is a lot of fun for us, it's usually a lot more fun for publishers when we get to unveil a bunch of new features, tweaks and services all at once. Here they are, as described by the developers themselves:


Follow the story link to read more...

 
 
  Our Blog Gets the Makeover these Modern Times Demand.

Our crack design team is at it again, this time having raised a cloud of dust around this very blog: Burning Questions. Once they sanded down the aging outer layer, they revealed something that looks a lot more like us: Fresh and feedy. While we realize that nothing shouts "Confidence!" quite like a pile of blue matchsticks, we felt that replacing them with bright, shiny, useful links and much-needed information might benefit both our casual and dedicated Burning Questions readership a bit more.

Highlights of our new design include a lot more about us and our goings-on (it is our blog, after all). We've attempted to bring some of the popular sections of our Web site front and center. Check out the following hotness:

  • Publisher Buzz
  • The company Flickr feed
  • Recent media coverage
  • Upcoming Events
  • Press Releases
  • An open call to help us resurrect the FeedBurner podcast (if you would like to produce the show, drop us a note)
Look for additional information and fun stuff to pop up as we get used to the renovated digs. Also, expect changes to Publisher Buzz and Ardiendo soon. (Blue matchstick aficionados can still get their kicks on Ardiendo for a very limited time.)

 
 
  Your FeedBurner Feed is in My TypePad Blog!.

We've been working closely with our friends at Six Apart to improve the connection between TypePad blogs and FeedBurner feeds, and lo, the integration is complete. Starting today, you can choose to connect your TypePad feed to FeedBurner, thereby taking advantage of all of the subscriber measurement and feed promotion tools that are there for the taking. You can also disconnect your feed from FeedBurner just as easily. Chocolate and peanut butter aside, we think this integration is pretty tasty.

What This Means for You
If you are a current FeedBurner customer publishing a TypePad blog, you can now get the full picture of your audience's size. Subscribers who may receive updates from your native TypePad feed can join the subscribers to your FeedBurner feed to become one big happy family, viewable in its entirety from your trusty FeedBurner charts. (CAUTION: Joining these feeds may cause your subscriber numbers to increase!) New TypePad customers — from individual bloggers to the growing number of Fortune 500 corporations and media companies using TypePad Business Class — can set up this connection during the initial blog configuration process.

Getting Connected
Just log into your TypePad account and select the "Feeds" option from the Configure tab of the application. Six Apart has created a few simple screens that walk you through the drama-free process of "connecting" your feed to FeedBurner. Once you've completed the connection, you can log in to your FeedBurner account to take advantage of all that feed management goodness.

I Have a Question of the Tech Support Nature...
We've put together a nice little FAQ with answers to questions we think you might have. If your questions have more to do with the TypePad side of things, please start with Michael Sippey's post at Everything TypePad. Also, much like New York pizza, our Support Forums are open for business around the clock and the answers you receive inevitably taste better warmed up the next day.

Enough with the food chatter already. Salut!

UPDATE 6/22: Six Apart integrates additional FeedBurner services into the TypePad platform.

  • FeedFlare: You no longer have to roll up your sleeves and dig into your TypePad template to use our popular FeedFlare service. Now, there is one-click addition of FeedFlare to standard TypePad templates. Behold the simple configuration process. Once configured, log into your FeedBurner account and customize which FeedFlare units appear in your feed and on your site.
  • Ping Us: If you've connected your TypePad feed to FeedBurner and enabled TypePad's Publicity tools, TypePad will automatically notify FeedBurner when you make updates to your blog. Check it out.

 
 
  Geffen Feeds Fans' Needs.

The office stereo is cranked up to eleven this morning to welcome our latest customer, Geffen Records. With a date like 06/06/06 upon us, the office flashpot could finally see some use should Rob Zombie drop in on us.

Geffen recently launched a feed-driven refresh to its Web site that essentially automates the viral methods artists like the good Mr. Zombie, and many others, leverage to launch their records. From Mary J. Blige to Counting Crows to Rufus Wainwright and many more, Geffen's new feeds help establish a direct line of communication between the artists and their fan base. You can now subscribe directly to your favorite band's feed and receive the latest news, tour dates, videos and more.

Geffen's early trials proved that feeds were the marketing tool that garnered the highest conversions. Feed subscribers were four times more likely to take action (e.g. download wallpaper, play audio/video clips, sign up for a message board, etc.) than those reached through more traditional methods. Recognizing the growing audience that will no doubt follow the launch of the next generation of browsers, Geffen wanted to lay the groundwork for a company-wide embrace of feeds to ensure they're able to leverage this new medium. That's where we come in. We meaning, you know, FeedBurner.

Instant Community, Integrated Web Services
Geffen will be taking advantage of FeedFlare to help connect fans with artists. Because FeedFlare is an extensible service, Geffen can create custom links that encourage direct participation from fans. Via items in the feed, fans can rate the latest Nelly Furtado album on iTunes. Or, become a MySpace friend of emerging artist, Matt White. Geffen's feeds will include links that go beyond the artist's content and embrace the communities that have grown in support of the band. As new services develop, Geffen can easily add them using FeedFlare, letting fans know that the artists' feeds will always be the best place to go to find the latest and greatest.

But wait, there's more! It's one thing to be Mary J. Blige's label. She has a loyal (and large) following, and plenty of opportunities to gain new fans. (Like that recent performace on American Idol.) What about new, emerging artists? Geffen's partnering with us to reach the 8 million subscribers who read feeds in the FeedBurner Ad Network (FAN), so that they can advertise emerging artists who will catch the discerning eye of particular demographics.

Using feeds to promote feeds? The engineering team here thinks that has a wonderfully recursive sound to it. Our marketing director just says it rocks.

 
 
  FeedBurner Gets a Memory - Quick Stats Update.

The engineers at the FeedBurner Statistics Lab (across the street and down the hill from the FeedBurner Wellness Center) are pleased to present new enhancements to our free StandardStats feed traffic service. And the winners are:

Yesterday's News
Historical subscriber tracking is now live. Want to see how many NewsGator subscribers you have today compared to a week ago? Or MyYahoo? Or iTunes? Yesterday, no way. Today, yes way! The service launches with 5 days' worth of history (starting May 18th) and will work into the future as long you choose to use FeedBurner (remember that we make it easy to leave FeedBurner should you decide you're fed up with all of the free stuff).

The new Subscriber history feature acts much like the stats you know today; just use the date widget at the top of the subscribers page to view your subscriber breakdown from a date in the past. Calculating stats for display should be much faster. By the way, excellent use of the semi-colon in the first sentence of this paragraph (you know, considering we're computer people).

Bonus: The number listed in your subscriber chicklet is now time period synched to the number in the analyze tab. Marvel at the consistency!

Live Hits
Second on the list of new features addresses your need for more immediate data. We now offer a feature called "Live Hits" which you'll find on the Analyze tab below the Subscriber menu item. Wondering how many people have been knocking about your feed just now? Check out this listing of the last 25 hits to your feed displayed by date, time and user agent. This new feature is a running tally that includes everything from subscriber hits to browsers to bots accessing your feed. See an example of what Live Hits looks like for our feed:

livestats.gif

The time and date for each Live Hit is automatically displayed using your local timezone settings as long as you have JavaScript enabled in your browser (otherwise, we show GMT).

Count and be happy.

 
 
  Red Herring 100.

There are lists you just don't want to find yourself on. Like "Worst Dressed (If You Were Trying)," or "Likelier than Not to Stamp Those License Plates." (We've stayed clear of both thus far, though the former is well within reach). However, there are lists that come along that demand much more favorable attention. One such destination is the Red Herring 100.

Here is a group of private technology firms in North America that have been recognized by Red Herring for their part in "Driving the Future of Technology." Editors identify new and innovative technology firms and entrepreneurs that are changing the way we live and work (they spotted Google and eBay in their early days).

This year, FeedBurner makes the list and we'd be totally fibbing if we said we weren't stoked about it. In fact, there was much rejoicing. You can read more about this award in the be-all/end-all source of news: The Press Release. Also, be sure to visit Red Herring for the latest on innovation, technology, financing and entrepreneurial activity.

We'll pause now to enjoy this recognition. — Smartly Accessorized Pause Here — Now, back to innovating!

 
 
  Updates for FeedBurner Email.

It's been almost a month since we launched FeedBurner Email. The aforementioned system's chief architect returned from vacation, took one look what the kids had done to the place, and immediately set about restoring order. That said, we have appreciated the positive response to this service from our publishers, long-timers and newcomers alike, and today we fulfilled the number one request: subscriber list management. Now, in the Email Subscriptions service area for your email-enabled feed, you may:

  • View a sortable list of all of your subscribers and their status: active, unverified (they requested a subscription but have not yet activated it), or bounced (their address doesn't work)
  • Export this list in Microsoft Excel or Plain Text (CSV) format
  • Manage individual subscriber activation status
We know a good number of you are also looking forward to richer formatting, branding, and introductory message customization options. We haven't forgotten about you! We plan to get to all of that fun stuff soon. As always, More To Come.

 
 
  All Wired up.

Back in the early '90s, when many of us were impressionable young college students, we got our hands on the first issue of Wired. In those days, we weren't even sure this Internet thing was here to stay. But here was a magazine that was different. Stories about cell phone hacking. Military technology. They published the authors' email addresses. We were hooked.

So it's pretty great that all these years later, we get to report that Wired News is running its feeds through FeedBurner. Like other publishers who use FeedBurner's advanced analytics to measure their audience, better understand feed consumption, and build their online community, Wired News is leveraging the full suite of FeedBurner services to make feeds more integral to their content strategy.

As a part of the FeedBurner Ad Network, Wired News is already generating revenue, and is using FeedBurner services like FeedFlare to survey its audience to gain greater insight into its audience demographics. For those who think Wired News is just tech news (their tech headlines feed *is* great), you're missing out on some of the best original reporting on Culture, Politics, Games and more on the web. Read more about this news in today's press release.

 
 
  The Feed Powers The Site.

This morning, we unveiled another enhancement to our advertising platform: a feed-driven approach to positioning ads on Web sites and blogs. The feed is the keystone to publisher content; by managing the feed and providing the FeedFlare service, the FeedBurner Ad Network sees context and structure normally unavailable or rendered ambiguous by simply screen-scraping the Web page.

We talk a lot about feed meta data around here, and it tends to result in a loss of dating opportunities, but it's this extra context that's available via the feed that provides the framework for new and better ad units. Ads that shift to the latest permalinks on a site, ads that only appear/disappear once a post has comments, serialized campaigns on a page that understand page/article sequence, etc. The first planned site campaigns powered via the feed will start running in a couple weeks, and we'll go from there. You can read more about this launch in our press release and in the news.

While we have been saying a lot about the ad network lately, we have been working hard on our full suite of free services, and we have a couple other updates to announce over the next week, including more integrated email management and added historical subscription metrics. We continue to not get to the bottom of the "things to build for publishers" list, and great suggestions keep on coming in, so we'll keep shovelling and you keep writing, recording, and filming.

 
 
  FeedBurner Web site now looks like FeedBurner.

Our hardworking and talented design team has put the finishing touches on our new Web site. While the old FeedBurner page was beginning to have a certain retro feel to it, we felt it was time to streamline a few things around here.

Right away, you'll notice that the new site looks a lot more like the FeedBurner application. This was done so that when you come to FeedBurner, you feel like you are at FeedBurner, a sensation that provides a wonderful sense of logical consistency. We also created a bit more content specific to our various customer categories, including bloggers, podcasters/videocasters and commercial publishers. There is still more to come, including the official adoption of the company blog, Burning Questions, into the family.

A few highlights of the redesign include:

Let us know what you think of the makeover and if you find any broken links or other weirdness.

 
 
  Enhanced Advertising Services: 2 of N.

On the heels of our first announcement on the topic, we follow up with the availability of a self-service interface designed to make the ad-buying process easier for advertisers. The new self-service tools provide a quick way to bypass human contact and purchase media directly via the FeedBurner Web site. If you are a media buyer, ad agency or marketer looking to participate in this new medium, this is the place.

Self-Serve Ads Screenshot

Publisher Impact
The launch of these new tools will help us support our primary goal to provide value-add services for content publishers. More advertiser demand means more money-making opportunties for participating publishers. As always, participation is optional and publishers get the final say as to what ads, if any, run in their feeds. The approval process is automated and integrated into your existing feed management dashboard. A full list of Publisher FAQs is available in our Support Forums.

Get Started Now
Learn more about our available channels, view a list of participating publishers, check out current ad specifications and even watch a short demo (1:50, 2.8MB) on how to set up a campaign.

Our self-serve tools are supported by a very friendly Ad Operations team. Questions? Get in touch through all of the regular means including email, shortwave radio, etc.

We will continue to focus on and expand this part of the toolset for publishers and advertisers over the course of the next 8 to 12 weeks, culminating in a suite of services this summer about which we are so excited we can barely contain ourselves. More to come.

 
 Outlink Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog, 8/25/2006; 1:04:30 AM.
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  Acquiring Hewlett Packard's Legacy.

I love the humor and mischief in Sun. It's one of the things that drew me here long before I joined the company, and one of the things I really appreciate about our culture. But frankly, it's one of the things that's gotten close to being rinsed away by years of cost cutting.

So I'd like to officially declare, herewith, a rebirth of fun at Sun. Good, cheap, drive the other guys up a wall, fun. And to that end...

You may have read about a very interesting art project. Some enterprising artists decided to mix technology and art, to create likenesses of technology industry titans, attach a Java phone to the sculptures, and set them free to find their way home. The project relied upon the kindness of strangers. Public spirited individuals that contributed to the return of the artwork to its rightful destination would leave their email address on the back of the artwork, and receive a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the sculptures.

The Java phone enabled the sculptures to be tracked via a service operator, Accutracking, and via Google maps. You can read about the technical details here, and track animated maps of each piece's progress.

Now, not everyone thought this was a cool idea. When presented with the opportunity to purchase the likeness of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, it having made the trek from the printer ink section of a San Jose Office Depot, our friends at HP elected not to honor their founders. So out of respect for HP's legacy, the fine folks in Sun's marketing team decided to acquire the artwork. Bill and Dave are absolute legends, held in the deepest respect by all of us at Sun. We were honored at the opportunity.

So we bought them, and their garage, for $6,000. Lock, stock and Java phone.

And what better way of demonstrating the strength of our partnership than with a picture:

With nearly 25% of Solaris downloads requested on to HP's servers, we know their customers really want the partnership, and we're happy to oblige.

To warn you in advance, Bill and Dave have both indicated a strong interest in learning more about Sun and the Solaris platform, so stay tuned. We're putting together a global tour. Maybe even some new t-shirts.

 
 
  The Value of Being Green. I was at Craigslist recently, and heard they were being kicked out of a hosting facility for being widly popular - in order to serve a massively expanding user base, their growing infrastructure was requiring more electricity than the facility could supply. If you live in California, you know that energy efficiency isn't just a fad - it's a means of driving competitive advantage and flexibility. And keeping costs in line. Just as surges, or poor planning, can leave businesses exposed strategically and financially.

The state also takes energy efficiency seriously - if you drive a hybrid or high efficiency car, you can use the carpool lane on highways. If you put solar panels on your rooftop, you can qualify for rebates. This isn't about political correctness, it's about working within constraints, driving sustainable development and lessening environmental footprints. It's not politically correct, it's economically correct.

So I was particularly pleased to see us announce that PG&E; will give rebates to California businesses for jettisoning our competitors products, and replacing them with more efficient Niagara machines, our UltraSPARC T1000 or T2000 servers. We are the first company to have met the requirements that prove the outstanding efficiency of our datacenter infrastructure. Moving off our competition and onto Sun saves money, power, space, and lessens the impact the IT industry has on the environment. And now it's not just us saying that, it's the Pacific Gas and Electric company, the state's largest power utility.

If you ever get asked by a cynic, or your management "what's the real value of being green?," I can give you a very specific answer, at least for Sun. In the State of California, it's worth $700 to $1000 per server. I did say per server. Every single bid we're in across the state just got $700 to $1,000 per server more competitive.

With ASP's under $5,000 for a Niagara machine, that's not a little competitive push.

That's real power.

 
 
  Doesn't This Drive Your Lawyers Nuts?.

As you know, I'm a big believer in the transparency blogging drives for me and Sun. Driving information to the marketplace - all employees at Sun can speak their minds and clarify our strategies and perspectives, rather than having a pundit or competitor talk over us. And in reverse, driving information in to Sun - if there are problems to be found in our business, I'd just as soon they were in the open, rather than hidden away. We (and true, the rest of the world) can see and fix problems first, rather than letting those uninterested in fixing the problems take advantage of their existence (whether competitors or litigants). Sunlight's a great disinfectant.

As a CEO who blogs, the most frequent question I get is, "doesn't this drive your lawyers nuts?" And as I've said, no. Our legal team understands, guides, drives - and protects - our business. All without sneaking into phone booths to change costume. And with technology, regulation and our products all colliding in the marketplace (is it legal to scream "SOX!" in a theater filled with CEO's?), I sleep better at night knowing they're actively engaged.

If you want evidence that navigating today's business environment requires careful thinking, consider one particularly ironic issue: posting material information about Sun on my blog, including information about our business results, runs the risk of violating something called Regulation Full Disclosure, or Reg FD. The regulation's goal is to ensure broad, non-exclusionary distribution of material information to the investing public. And somehow, my blog isn't deemed to be such a non-exclusionary distribution vehicle (but a press release, or the Wall Street Journal is). Reg FD is something we're going to be discussing with Commissioner Cox at the SEC (whose views seem to parallel ours - the more transparency the better).

Are our lawyers in the way? The opposite, they're driving the change. Want proof?

Very quietly, this week, our General Counsel - the senior most lawyer in all of Sun - started a blog. It's here. He, too, is now the only member of his tribe, the only GC in all the Fortune 500 to have a blog.

Now the real question should be (especially if you know Mike), am I worried about what he's going to say?

(Joke, Mike, take a joke.)

 
 
  Lunch with Prime Minister Tony Blair.... I had lunch with Tony Blair today. (And yes, I have been waiting all afternoon to type that.)

I and a few other Silicon Valley leaders were honored to host the first visit ever for a British Prime Minister to Silicon Valley. And he fit right in (wardrobe aside, but he's a world leader after all, and asking him to dress down for Silicon Valley would be like asking Steve Jobs to skip blue jeans and a black shirt - morally objectionable to someone).

The conversation ranged across a variety of topics, from education to cultural competitive advantage, to the government's engagement in delivery of social services via the network.

We only really had an hour together, so I thought I'd jot down a few of the vignettes from our discussion.

The Prime Minister wanted advice on advancing the United Kingdom's position in Europe for research and development. Nearly everyone in the room referenced Stanford and Berkeley's role in making the Valley attractive - as a source of graduates, to be sure, but more as a revolving door for research, partnership, education, dialog. I reminded the Prime Minister that the "SUN" in our ticker symbol, "SUNW" stands for Stanford University. John Hennessy made an interesting reference, quite serious I think, to Stanford's now looking toward the philanthropy of its graduates as a far more lucrative source of return on its intellectual property then traditional licenses or royalties.

I took a quick poll to prove a point - nearly everyone in the room was a product of public school education (myself included). So the opportunities weren't isolated to higher education. (Mr. Jobs followed up to make the reality more painful - showing how few of us were sending our children to public school.)

And lastly, there was a discussion of wage rates and cost of living on the desirability of an economy for R&D.;

My point - shared by many in the room, but not all - was that Silicon Valley's (and certainly Sun's) business is largely insensitive to the price of labor on the world market. As one of my staff members said recently, "when it comes to hiring, this ain't Costco, we don't buy in bulk." If we can bring a product to market three or six or twelve months earlier than planned, wage rates as a percentage of total return aren't even measurable in calculating returns. (What was Bill Joy's starting salary? My point... who cares.)

So if you want to attract companies like Sun to your economy, focus on investing in education, in your students, and in your leaders. Focus on educating your policy makers as to why you're committed to education - not to build presitigious institutions, but to invest in progress, academic as well as economic. Focus on the value of broad based talent as a competitive weapon, don't be distracted by cost reducing labor.

So on behalf of Sun, and our little corner of Silicon Valley, I laud the Prime Minister for taking the time out of a very difficult schedule to visit Silicon Valley. It took courage and time.

What we all recognize to be the basic ingredients of progress.

 
 
  We're the Dot in Web 2.0?. Please read the Safe Harbor Statement at the bottom of this page - it's important (and beautifully written :).

If you've seen the press release, you know we had a good fourth quarter to close out our 2006 fiscal year.

This is now my first full quarter as CEO - and I'm pleased with our progress. Our basic restructuring is underway (that's what the big charge was), and we showed some good growth on the top line. We're seeing a lot of demand, which showed up as revenue that beat Wall Street estimates, very solid bookings, and good deferred (future) revenue.

So I thought I'd add some color to our numbers, and put some of our competitor's comments into context. Answering the questions surrounding "why'd you grow when others were having a hard time?"

First, the market is growing.

We see no global slowdown in IT. Despite what one competitor said. Our key customers (those that view information technology as a competitive advantage, not a cost center) are continuing to invest. They're investing to drive on-line relationships, fuel competitive advantage, and drive efficiencies - but mostly they're investing because they see a return.

We saw especially good demand in our computer systems business (which grew in a quarter where some of our biggest competitors shrank) - and especially on the low end/high volume segment of our product line. Our newest Niagara UltraSPARC systems surpassed the $100M per quarter mark, just about the fastest ramp of any product I can remember. Our Galaxy x64 systems grew way faster than many of our x86 peers (and that was before the big launch that redefined our product set), and we grew our StorageTek business faster than their standalone history - which means we're seeing revenue synergies. We closed several great embedded Java platform deals, too, with three of the largest consumer electronics companies.

That said, I'm definitely seeing the enterprise PC business slow down. Corporate users are putting off new PC's until Vista comes into view, while consumers (witness booming results from Motorola, Nokia and Apple) are biasing away from PC's for really great consumer devices. (Ask a teenager which they'd prefer, a new phone, or a new PC...)

Phones powered by Java technology, Blu Ray DVD players (I saw my first in a Sony store this weekend), XM Radios, Vonage phones - those devices, in aggregate, will radically outship PC's over the coming year. And as a result, they'll drive more growth in demand for network infrastructure than PC's. (Phones aren't just for phone calls, after all.) So as we've been saying for a while, adoption of the Java platform is a leading indicator of Sun's business - just like more lightbulbs drive demand for bigger generators (even if you don't own the lightbulb factory).

Second, choice matters - we're opening new doors.

Greater than 60% of the customers we're meeting through our Try and Buy program are new to Sun. (Well above my expectations.) We exceeded the 5 million license mark for Solaris 10 in Q4 - the majority running on Dell, HP and IBM computers. (Go ahead, read that sentence again, I always read it twice.) We're reaching out beyond Sun's traditional hardware base, and beyond the world of proprietary software - to customers we may never have otherwise met, who now want to talk to us about network identity, data management and business integration. Frankly, Dell, HP and IBM are now channel partners. Please quote me.

And the addition of Ubuntu Linux on our SPARC servers means we're now talking to leading edge Linux customers about consolidating outdated infrastructure. Add in to the mix that we run Windows on our Galaxy x64 systems, and that we routinely attach and support StorageTek systems on IBM mainframes - it's all upside for Sun's customers, and Sun's shareholders. Choice drives opportunity. And customer acquisition.

Third, innovation matters more than price.

Being cheap (or cutting corners on components) doesn't matter as much as delivering value and innovation. A 230 MPH supercar that gets 9 miles to a $4 gallon of gas, isn't nearly as interesting to today's consumer as a Tesla - that uses electricity at a cost of about 1 cent/mile (and appears to outperform most supercars, and yes, I'd like to own one, and no, I haven't convinced my wife). And Niagara is to Tesla as [competitor here] is to an outdated supercar. (And again, if you'd like to try a FREE NIAGARA for 60 days, - we pay return postage if you don't like it.)

Datacenters have to focus on operational cost as much as acquisition price - that's a design priority for Sun. That you don't have to service our newest x4500 (Thumper) storage, but can instead let drives fail in place and just reclaim the space once a year, makes it more competitive than what a hobbyist can build for $1.9/gigabyte. That we can do it in four rack units, at <$2/gig, while running plain vanilla Solaris on the machine - matters a ton to a customer that wants to manage 500 of them. More than it might to a hobbyist who wants to put one in his den (have I mentioned that's an expensive demographic to please?).

Lastly, execution matters.

I want to congratulate and thank the worldwide operations teams - who got us through our ROHS and WEEE transitions without a scratch. If there were an award for smooth execution, you'd get it folks.

And to the sales and service organizations for delivering on Q4 for us and our customers - you did a fantastic job, challenges and all. And remember, lots of demand is a first class problem to have (painful and tiring though it may be when you're wading through it...).

I'm feeling great about our competitive position, about getting our basic restructuring in place, and great about the market opportunity. So much so, we're having a debate internally about bringing back one of our taglines, "We're the Dot in Dot Com." Or refreshed, "We're the Dot in 2.0."

So, what do you think? Comments welcome :)

_______________________________________________


Safe Harbor Statement: This blog entry contains predictions, projections and other forward-looking statements regarding Sun's expected future financial results and business opportunities. This includes statements regarding demand for our products; growth of and investments in the IT market; revenue synergies from our acquisitions; increased demand for network infrastructure; and our market opportunity. Our actual future results may be very different from our current expectations. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations include: increased competition; failure to rapidly and successfully develop and introduce new products; risks associated with Sun's international customers and operations; reduced spending in the IT market; and failure to successfully integrate acquired companies. We encourage you to read the 10-Ks, 10-Qs and other reports that we file periodically with the SEC for a discussion of these and other risks. We do not currently intend to update these forward looking statements.

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  The Rise of the General Purpose System.
NOTE: Update at bottom...

Silicon Valley's hot again. How can I tell? My favorite barometer is a personal one - my commute down either of the the two major highways joining San Francisco and San Jose is as bad as it was in the bubble.

On a less anecdotal note, I've also been spending a lot of time with newly funded startups (and the ballooning ranks of venture and private equity investors). Interest level, and market opportunity, are up, for the innovations that fuel the internet.

On the technology front, one of the most interesting trends I've seen is the near disappearance of custom hardware. I'm not seeing nearly so many ASICS or custom boards built by hardware startups hoping to become the next Sun or Cisco. I was talking to one such company just a couple weeks ago, run by a guy known for having made big investments in custom hardware designs over the years. So I asked "where'd all the ASICS go?"

His response? "The bar's a lot higher today - general purpose products are so fast, we do pretty much everything in software." As Solaris and the systems on which it runs get faster, they're continuing to displace a breadth of specialized solutions in the market, from customized operating systems or private distros to ASICS and daughter boards.

And in an interesting way, this goes against what customers want.

For the most part, customers love special purpose systems. The NAS filers, load balancers, storage switches and firewalls, even custom search appliances, solve a specific problem, do so with great focus, and are like novacaine on a technical problem. Have a pain? Numb it with an appliance.

There's only one part they don't love. Living with the economics.

Leaving high price tags aside, specialized products typically require specialized skills, customized management or versioning processes, and they tend to be difficult to integrate into increasingly uniform datacenter processes. (Southwest Airlines gets great economic advantage from only flying Boeing 737's - most CIO's crave a "737 datacenter," built on one OS, with shared services for all - yet most will admit to having inherited a Noah's Ark).

On the other hand, suppliers (like Sun) love general purpose systems. By design, general purpose systems, like general purpose servers or operating systems, aren't focused on one market. Instead, they focus on horizontal segments of the market (like web serving), and allow us to amortize R&D; investments over a far broader opportunity. While allowing us and our customers to leverage the management, supply chains, administration, versioning and even ISV's that build up around very high volume platforms.

Potentially more work for the customer on day one, but typically massive financial and administrative savings. As an example, tomorrow morning we're introducing a new product, internally named "Thumper." It's a 4 core server with 24 terabytes of storage, housed within a very small (4 RU) box, leveraging the most advanced file system to hit the market in years, ZFS.

We're still figuring out what to call the product, "open source storage" or "a data server," but by running a general purpose OS on a general purpose server platform, packed to the gills with storage capacity, you can actually run databases, video pumps or business intelligence apps directly on the device itself, and get absolutely stunning performance. Without custom hardware (ZFS puts into software what was historically done with specialized hardware). All for around $2.50/gigabyte - with all software included.

How much new work does a customer need to do to run Thumper in their network? None. It's just a Solaris system, managed, versioned and administered like all their other Solaris systems. How much work does an ISV need to do to take advantage of Thumper? None, like I said, it's just Solaris, the same as what runs on our, HP's, Dell's and IBM's servers.

And the best part for Sun? Thumper leverages the general purpose systems innovation at our core, leverages the open source operating system used in datacenters across the world already, and allows us to amortize a tighter R&D; budget over a broader market. While driving cost down for customers, and expanding the market for our ISV's, resellers and partners. Moving from specialized to generalized.

So if you'd like to know what Thumper looks like (and at 170 lbs, it is a thing of beauty, but a very heavy thing of beauty), it looks like this:

And yes, we will be including Thumper in our Try and Buy program. And I'd like to personally apologize to all those poor UPS, DHL and FedEx drivers...

_____________________________________

Update: video for this morning's launch event, here. Worth watching all (especially Fowler's segment). My favorite part was Tim O'Reilly talking about the impact of Web 2.0 on application architectures and datacenter requirements. He's accompanied by Scott Yara from Greenplum, one of the smartest startups I've seen in a while. Their interview is at 1:04:35 in the playback.

And btw, given the volume of comments related to "how do I replace a dead drive" in Thumper - the answer is you don't, you let Solaris and ZFS simply remove it from use (while maintaining provable data integrity), and leave it for an annual maintenance call to clean out failed drives and drop in fresh ones (known in the business as "failing in place"). If you're interested in understanding the magic behind ZFS, this is a great tutorial (delivered by one of the inventors of ZFS, the very eloquent Bill Moore).

 
 
  60 Days into the Job.... 60 days into my new job, and I'm sharing an award with Steve Ballmer and Linus Torvalds. Two individuals (sharing the company of many others) I would never presume to count out, but apparently Business 2.0 does. It's an honor to share their company.

Were it me, I guess I would've waited for some business results, but maybe I said something here that annoyed them (which is ironic, given that they cite citizen media as being the most profoundly relevant force in the market today, number 1 on their 50 that matter most).

And continuing the ironies, I had the pleasure of chatting with number 44 of the 50 that B2.0 implies does matter, Bill McDonough, a couple weeks ago - click here for his and my thoughts on sustainable development, and the impact of bridging the digital divide on familial stability.

I also had a good chat with Kevin Werbach at his Supernova conference last week. What a very smart guy, and a great conference. I'll post the content as soon as it's available. Talk about someone who clearly does matter... he'd be in my top 50.

And here's a great win against Microsoft - I'm hopeful you're going to start seeing a lot more of these...

 
 
  Ubuntu on Niagara, and Platinum Ringtones. I'd like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the Mark Shuttleworth and the Ubuntu community - what's Ubuntu? The fastest growing GNU/Linux distro out there (and as you know, volume matters). Dapper Drake is now officially available on the Sun's UltraSPARC platform, the world's only GPL microprocessor, fueling the world's most power efficient server platform. Expanding SPARC beyond Solaris to Linux opens new markets for everyone.

So... here's an invitation to developers and customers that don't want to move to Solaris, want to stay on GNU/Linux, but still want to take advantage of Niagara's (or our Galaxy system's) energy efficiency - click here, we'll send you a Niagara or Galaxy system, free. Write a thorough*, public review (good or bad - we just care about the fidelity/integrity of what's written - to repeat, it can be a good review, or a poor review), we'll let you keep the system. Free.

And if you want proof that volume matters, I thought this was interesting. The world's first platinum ringtone (known as a "blingtone") - with more than a billion wireless subscribers in the world, my bet is they're going to need to define a category above platinum...

Focus on volume, value follows... and with that in mind, where are my manners: HAPPY BIRTHDAY OpenSolaris!.

___________________

* as determined by the product team, in their sole discretion...

 
 
  Answer to the Roof Riddle. In answering the prior question...

As you know, computers consume a ton of energy - if you don't work in a datacenter, you may not know what I'm talking about. But you know how your laptop warms your lap? Or your PC heats up your den? Multiply that a few thousand times over, and you have a problem faced by most datacenters - power draw and heat dissipation. Map that challenge to every business on earth, and you have a global power crisis as the network is built out. (And talk to some web 2.0 startups, you'll hear many say their second biggest operating expense, after salaries, is electricity - that's why the big search companies are building data centers where power's cheap).

Back to my story... the CIO in my prior posting informed her CEO that in order to support more analytics and trading activity - the computational heart of their business - they needed to build a bigger computing grid. For which they needed more space (which isn't cheap in midtown Manhattan), and more power - to which he responded, "the CEO of the power company is a friend of mine - let me just give him a call."

The CIO replied, "no no, those are only a couple of limiters. The more power we bring in, the more cooling we need. The more cooling we need, the more power again. But the thing that's really holding us back is even with more budget for space, power and cooling, we need backup power in the event of an outage, and the generator necessary to provide backup power of this magnitude is the size of a locomotive, and the only place we could possibly put that is on the roof, and look, we DON'T HAVE ANY MORE ROOM!"

And now you know why we've been so focused on the physical size and energy efficiency of our new computing and storage platforms, in addition to their raw performance. (And if you'd like a sample to try for yourself, just click here, or read what others have experienced.) The lowest end systems start at $795 (no, that's not a typo).

_______________

And Mr. Scoble - thanks for taking the time to stop in, much appreciated. I enjoyed the discussion, too. Thank you for pioneering the medium.

 
 
  A Roof in Midtown Manhattan. I was on a plane flight with an executive from the hospitality industry not too long ago, who told me a very interesting story - about the impact of flat panel televisions on hotel room occupancy. According to this exec, flat panel TV's drove down industry occupancy rates.

No, seriously.

Apparently the space savings and lower power consumption of a flat panel TV (think about it, they're quite a bit smaller and draw far less energy) allowed hotels to skip having to put giant media cabinets in their rooms. And they could save on their total power (and air conditioning) envelope, as well. Which freed up space, power and budget for more rooms. Which led to a glut of new rooms, and the rest falls into place.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a CIO at a large financial institution in midtown Manhattan a few months back. She'd just been promoted to be the CIO of her company, and in one of her first meetings with the CEO, brought him a picture of the roof of their building.

Care to guess why?

 
 
  Sunlight is the Best Informant. I was with a big potential customer yesterday - in the Fortune 100. After a day of briefings from our technical folks, I joined the meeting to see how we were doing. I asked him and his team how much of what they'd seen was new to them.

He said, "about 70% was a complete surprise."

Ouch. That's not good.

To test, I asked, "before today, did you know that Solaris was open source, or ran on Dell, HP and IBM hardware, not just Sun's?" "Nope."

And like I said, this was a Fortune 100 opportunity.

Despite the ample advice I receive, getting through the din, especially in the world of IT, doesn't happen with a superbowl ad (can you remember a single one?), or buying every billboard in every town, or every ad word on-line. We know, we measure their effectiveness.

We know the most valued information travels by word of mouth. Through blogs, on-line reviews, or other on-line conversations. Or "kneecap to kneecap," as we sit across the table from customers in our briefing centers. And frankly, the most valuable information about Sun doesn't come from Sun, it comes from other customers.

So how do you get the word out if you don't have a $500M ad budget? To me, it's not so much about getting the word out, as letting the eyes and ears in. You can tell I'm a big fan of transparency - that's why I write a blog (with comments on, and yes, I read every one, as do a host of others at Sun). It's why I encourage others to drive the conversation in the market, as well. Transparency's at least a part of the solution. If not an outright competitive weapon.

A very wise man once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant" - and in my view, exposing our internals to the outside world also helps us respond to problems more rapidly. True, we have to expose the occasional unhappy customer (I hear this one, in particular, recently became happy), but we expose them to people who can help, too - from within Sun, or within the community. We can't solve problems we don't know about. Like the good justice said, sunlight's a good disinfectant.

Which is why you'll see something very interesting next week start to appear on Sun's web pages and throughout our on-line store. You'll start to see product reviews written by users. You'll see user defined ratings, right on our products. Just like book or product reviews at Amazon. We're starting with just a few products, but it'll ultimately extend all the way up to our highest end enterprise offerings.

What's the risk? That we're exposing ourselves to criticism? That we may have on display the fact that one product or another isn't perfect? (That our competitors may try to rate all our products?)

Nope.

The far bigger risk is that we'd meet another customer surprised by what we had to offer. Unaware that our systems were 5 times as energy efficient as our competitors. That Solaris was free, open source, and available on Dell or HP. Or that Thumper was about to reset the economics of the storage industry.

And to my mind, sunlight's not just the best disinfectant.

It's the best informant, too.

From a voice you'll trust more than ours - your own.

 
 
  Understanding the Changes We're Driving. Please see the Safe Harbor Statement at the bottom of this page.

By now you've all seen the press release we issued today, outlining a plan approved by Sun's board of directors - in which we'll be lowering cost, accelerating profitability, and as a part of both, implementing a workforce reduction of up to 5,000 employees. At the outset, I know these changes will be tough for many employees, but I'm also convinced they'll yield a more valuable company for customers, shareholders and our remaining employees, one that's leaner and more efficient.

We've also provided insight into Sun's operating income goals for 2007, and a framework for thinking about our performance beyond that point. We've also changed elements of our corporate governance - these actions are designed to make Sun a more transparent organization, and one more responsive to long-term shareholders, and simpler to understand.

I'd like to review the thought processes that led to these decisions, and provide color on our going forward market focus and R&D; priorities.

Just after last quarter's earnings call, I initiated a top to bottom review of our markets, our R&D; portfolio, and our overall corporate resourcing. You've already seen management and organizational changes resulting from that work, reported in the past few weeks.

At a top level, these reviews were focused on simplifying Sun - making choices to clarify our priorities, speed up our progress, and drive the transparency that gives all of you more insight into where we're headed. It's been similar actions, over the years, that have enabled us to expand gross margins and deliver top line growth. But these are all points along a path, a path we're now accelerating.

So first, I'll address Sun's market focus.

Our industry is littered with companies that try to be all things to all people. That's not Sun.

In my first 30 days as CEO, I've spent a great deal of time with leaders from among our global customers – and having just completed our most successful JavaOne conference ever, with our most strategic constituency, the Java and Solaris developer communities.

I've heard a consistent message - the internet's growing at an incredible rate - and for many of our customers, the network has become core to how they engage their markets and create competitive advantage. Those are our key customers, those that see network computing as a vital element of their strategy, those pushing the limits of scale and load, and those that see IT innovation as anything but a cost center.

As we began nearly two years ago, we will continue to simplify our coverage models, adding expertise where we can grow value and share. As you've seen in Gartner Dataquest's recent Worldwide Server report, Sun did just this, gaining share with both UltraSPARC systems and x64 systems against our leading competitor/partners. We absolutely believe we can continue to grow as we focus our field and partnering resources on the right opportunities.

We will focus on those companies, from startups to global players, that see network computing as their principal route to market, principal vehicle to differentiate, and principal competitive weapon. We expect to focus our coverage in these accounts, while streamlining our efforts to extend our coverage with the world's most attractive partner community. And to be clear, we are adding coverage and technical specialists, while continuing to reduce redundant or duplicative functions. The market isn't shrinking, nor will our field presence, channel focus or partnering efforts.

Next, I'd like to focus on our research and development priorities.

As many of you are aware, Sun has one of the strongest R&D; organizations in the world - one we've sustained while our competitors have cut - leaving us with an operating system and microprocessor platform which makes our competitors begin to appear as partners. We have some demonstrable technology advantages... energy efficiency, operating systems innovation, dramatic gains in developer adoption. That's certainly the cornerstone of our recovery.

And with those assets, we serve two constituencies – developers, who create content for the network, and deployers, who purchase and operate software and hardware infrastructure in the world's datacenters. I will continue to stress that revenue for Sun is a lagging indicator of the adoption of our core developer platforms – both of which we are reinforcing with today's actions.

We will decrease some non-core R&D;, and specifically duplicative or redundant infrastructure and management processes, but we are expecting to increase our focus on developers, and on investments in Java innovation, and the open source Solaris operating system. The adoption of those technologies will continue to define large revenue opportunities for us in companies like eBay, Motorola, General Motors and American Express – all of whom, by making decisions long ago to leverage Java and Solaris, have become very significant customers - in software, in systems, in storage and services.

As the world's largest free and open source company, we expect to monetize a portion of what we freely distribute through service and support contracts, along with traditional software licensing; and through volume as well as enterprise systems and storage sales. We expect the internet marketplace to grow, and we expect our core intellectual property, for developers and deployers, to give us a significant competitive advantage against those without comparable assets. Simplicity, scale, automation and security will continue to be our differentiators.

You will see in today's actions that we will be simplifying our product line, and reducing duplicative R&D; – to help you interpret that, we will build all products at Sun from Java, Solaris, StorageTek and from our newly unified SPARC and x64 SunFire platforms. I'd like to briefly point to three products that represent the future of such systems innovations. The recently unveiled Niagara servers, the StorageTek Titanium archive platform; and lastly, an upcoming extension to our NAS offerings, code named Thumper.

Having anticipated today's datacenter focus on green computing, Sun began investing years ago in energy efficiency - as a result, our Niagara servers now operate at less than half to a fifth the power draw of our competition (potentially qualifying our customers for carbon credits). As I mentioned earlier, many of you saw the share gains Gartner reported for Sun last week – we believe we can continue to grow share, having recently taped out an even more energy efficient follow on to Niagara - we are adding support for Linux and BSD operating systems on our SPARC platforms, opening new markets for the same platform investment supporting Solaris, leveraging the same R&D; over a broader opportunity.

Secondly, the StorageTek T10000 is the highest scale and security archive offering in the marketplace – it's leveraged by an array of customers, from governments to on-line portals, and many of the world's largest institutions. But you've all heard disaster stories from banks or media companies that have "lost their tapes," revealing what was supposed to be protected consumer information. As a part of Sun, we were able to leverage our systems innovation to add high security encryption to these systems, largely eliminating the risk of losing data. Integrating our StorageTek platforms with Sun's market leading Solaris and Java Enterprise offerings allows us to solve a spectrum of business problems our storage only competitors cannot. This innovation was a matter of linking existing technologies - and will be a focus area while we reduce other proprietary approaches. And again, StorageTek systems will be built atop SunFire servers running Solaris, while maintaining their mainframe heritage and interoperability. Leveraging the same R&D; over a broader opportunity.

Finally, and arguably the best example of the alignment of Sun's systems innovation is a project we'll be announcing in late June - code name Thumper. Thumper is a SunFire server, running Solaris and its 128-bit ZFS file system, that packs 24 Terabytes of storage into a miniature package - allowing Solaris and Java applications to run directly on the storage device at breathtaking speed and price points. It's a perfect example of combining our software and hardware expertise, with an existing supply chain, to deliver a broader market, greater margins, and new customers - leveraging common IP, over a broader opportunity. We'll be announcing complete details at the end of June.

To repeat, we will be simplifying our product line, our supply chain, our development and management processes – while retaining a focus on open source innovation, horizontal scalability and security, and on service automation around our Network.com Grid. All while we continue to seamlessly interoperate with existing systems, from mainframes to Microsoft Windows.

As I stated above, we've improved gross margins over the past couple of years - we will seek to generate more value from our R&D; going forward.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with a couple notes on Transparency and Business Focus

You will hear me and Sun's Chief Financial Officer, Mike Lehman, begin to make projections of our going forward business – we have an increasing confidence in the stability of that business, and as we continue to see growth in our core developer offerings, we have increasing line of sight into new markets and customer opportunities. We will reflect that clarity and transparency to the best of our ability.

Today's changes will result in a significant reduction in non-core or redundant R&D;, field and corporate resourcing – with significant synergies arising from the acceleration of acquisition integrations into Sun. Again, we expect these changes to have little to no impact on customers, and instead to create more opportunities for business partners and suppliers to join with Sun in serving the global market.

We have believed for the 24 years of our existence in a singular vision – the network is the computer. That vision remains unchanged, and if anything, today's refinements to our market focus, our R&D; portfolio, and to our overall business model, drive us even closer to fulfilling it.

_________________________________________________________________________

Safe Harbor Statement

This blog contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, regarding the future results and performance of Sun Microsystems, Inc., including statements regarding Sun's growth plan, Sun's return to profitability, future growth, areas of future investment, the competitive advantage that results from Sun's intellectual property and the monetization of such intellectual property, the attributes of and benefits to be derived from future products, continued gains in market share and synergies to be derived from acquisition integrations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties and actual results could differ materially from those predicted in any such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in Sun's projections and forward-looking statements include: failure to achieve expected cost savings within the expected time frames; increased competition; failure to rapidly and successfully develop and introduce new products; Sun's reliance on single-source suppliers; risks associated with Sun's ability to purchase a sufficient amount of components to meet demand; inventory risks; risks associated with Sun's international customers and operations; delays in product development or customer acceptance and implementation of new products and technologies; Sun's dependence on significant customers and specific industries; Sun's dependence on channel partners; risks associated with Sun's tape products; and failure to successfully integrate acquired companies. Please also refer to Sun's periodic reports that are filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Sun's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2005 and Sun's Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarters ended September 25, 2005, December 25, 2005 and March 26, 2006. Sun assumes no obligation to, and does not currently intend to, update these forward-looking statements.

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  Share... (Gaining). For those that missed it, definitely worth reading:

Sun Gains Share in Q1.

Innovation takes longer to deliver than a simple price cut, but if Q1 is an indicator of things to come, has more lasting value as a competitive weapon. For our customers and our shareholders. To be perfectly clear, lowering price is a tactic at Sun, not a strategy.

I was asked yesterday why we're gaining share - I said three reasons:

1. Solaris and Java are gaining momentum
No one can possibly dispute the impact free and open source software is having on the world - as the OpenSolaris and OpenJava communities continue to expand, as downloads and adoption increase, so does awareness of Sun's (and other open source community member) offerings and the total revenue opportunity. We gain share when customers deploy apps built on our platforms at a rate exceeding others. When our customers grow faster, so does our share - of licensed software, services on free software, servers and storage.

2. Galaxy, Niagara and Panther*
This one's more obvious - customers prefer our products when they're faster, draw less power and take up less space than the competition. World records help. But it's the total equation at this point - the "performance at any price" mentality is fading fast: just ask a Web 2.0(TM) startup what portion of their operating expense goes to electricity - you'll be stunned.

3. Sales and Service Execution
I was talking to a customer yesterday, one of our largest, and asked "how are we doing for you?" I presupposed the answer would surround our product roadmap, given how much time we'd spent getting them up to speed on where we're headed. The response had nothing to do with our products - their CIO just said, "your team is doing great for us, we love doing business with them."

When it gets right down to it, especially for our largest customers, people buy from people.

So congratulations, folks - well done, across the board.

______________

* those are code names for internal server projects, and I just earned myself some hate mail from the product groups that want me to stop using project names...

 
 
  Busy Week.... Last week was a busy week - with JavaOne, and a flood of customers in town.

I started the week previewing the week's announcements at the NetBeans tools community gathering. Here's a little known secret: I used to run developer tools for Sun - and as I said then, and I'll say now, you need only two documents to understand a technology company's corporate strategy: their end-user tools roadmap, and their sales force comp plan. Given that the former is public knowledge, inquiring minds can wonder about the latter.

This is my JavaOne keynote - which was a ton of fun. We broke a bunch of attendance records, with something near 15,000 attendees in the room (my favorite comment came from a reporter I spoke to after the event, who said: "I was amazed at the number of languages being spoken in the audience!"). Great buzz, tons of new stuff (capped off with a real-time Java roadrace after Scott's keynote). Another reporter said, "it's like a social movement." Well, yes.

I got a chance to talk with Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola (go buy a RED phone!); and two of the world's most vocal advocates of free and open source software, Mark Shuttleworth (the guy behind Ubuntu/Debian GNU/Linux who flew up from DebConf just for this event), and Marc Fleury (CEO, JBoss, Inc. - the company bringing Red Hat into the Java community). Definitely watch the video - you'll see the symbolic passing of the pickle to Rich Green, Sun's newly minted (but refreshingly familiar) Executive Vice President, Software.

After JavaOne, I spoke with Darrell Plummer and Paul McGuckin from Gartner at their conference (video here). David Berlind, as usual, had a thoughtful analysis of the hour. Frankly, I was a little disappointed in their questioning, as well - it seemed like so many of their questions had been hashed out in blogs and user generated analysis.

But all in all, a really great week - we're now making serious progress on open sourcing Java (and despite the cynics, using a GPL license is very much *on* the table), while focusing the debate on what matters most: not access to lines of code (that's already widely available), but ensuring compatibility. Compatibility is what brought a record number of people to JavaOne this year (making it the world's largest free software conference), it's what's behind nearly 3 billion+ Java enabled devices. And for those that missed the subtlety, that compatibility is what creates the market Sun, and others, can monetize with network innovations, from software to hardware and services.

Seems like an obvious connection to me...

[update: fixed broken link]

 
 
  Java, and Survival of the Most Adaptable. Change is a constant at Sun. So long as the market's changing - or so long as we can change the market - we're going to evolve. As Darwin said, it's not the strongest organisms that win, it's the most adaptable.

To that end, today we announced a series of changes designed to prepare us for the next wave of system challenges and market opportunities. I want to thank Mark Canepa for years of extraordinary commitment and devotion to Sun, and welcome John Fowler (who will lead Sun's Systems businesses) and David Yen (who will lead Sun's Storage businesses) to their new roles.

Speaking of changes, tomorrow morning, I get to deliver my favorite speech of the year, my keynote at Java One. I get to do so wearing my fancy new title, "Chief Java Evangelist," a title I now share with our Chairman.

I'm still amazed when I hear folks wondering how Sun monetizes Java. So at the risk of repetition, I'd like to share a few thoughts.

When Thomas Edison first introduced the lightbulb, he held patents he tried to wield against potential competitors - he wanted to own the client (the bulb) and the server (the dynamo). He failed. Standards emerged around voltage and plugs, and GE Energy (formerly, Edison General Electric), to this day, remains one of the most profitable and interesting businesses around. How big would the power business be today if you could only buy bulbs and appliances from one company? A far sight smaller, I'd imagine. Standards grew markets and value.

Then there was the civil war era in the US, when locomotive companies all had their own railroad widths and shapes - designed only to work with their rail cars and steam engines. How'd they fare? They failed, standards emerged that unified railways and rail lines, and that era created massive wealth, connecting economies within economies. Standards grew markets and value.

To get to the impact on a global scale, you should really read Mark Levinson's The Box. Which talks to the extraordinary impact the standard shipping container had on global commerce. No, I'm not joking. It democratized global commerce. And it ain't even done.

So if you want to know how I feel about Java, my view is it's changing the world - standardizing the plugs and rail gauges and containers used by global internet players. Its momentum, in my view, is unstoppable. What's that worth to Sun? Give it your best shot. When I do, I say most of our revenue is derived from Java. Just like most of Verizon's revenue comes from handsets. Even though the economics of the handset look baffling (but I dare you to recommend to Verizon that they stop selling them). Those that believe free software or service yields lower revenue don't understand the economics or dynamics of the software industry. Think Google or Yahoo!, not Maytag.

So for those in attendance tomorrow, thank you for joining us - at what's become the world's largest free and open source software developer conference. Believe me, there's a huge tent waiting for you - I just walked the main hall, and you could fit a few Space Shuttles in the place.

And somewhat off topic, a family member of mine once asked if I ever got nervous before keynotes - when I mentioned having nearly 20,000 folks in the audience this year, they nearly passed out. My response was simple - what's it like talking to your family about their accomplishments, no matter how big a family gathering? It's easy, it's what comes naturally, it's called being a member of a community, and feeling pride. Talking about what you know and love is like falling off a log (vs. rehearsing a keynote you don't care about, my worst nightmare - second only to extreme turbulence).

So I'll see you tomorrow morning, on-line, or in person. Like I said, it's my favorite part of the year, like spending time with family (and just wait until you see who joins the family tomorrow...).

 
 
  Announcing Greg Papadopoulos, CTO and EVP, R&D;. Greg Papadopoulos (Sun's Chief Technology Officer) and I made a joint customer call recently, to the COO of one of the world's largest on-line companies. The customer made an interesting point - his job was getting more technical. A change from a few years ago, when his priority was big web traffic deals and traditional business development. The customer was a technologist to start, so he was in his comfort zone, but it had become increasingly obvious that the next generation of differentiation on the web was going to come from technology innovation - not just good BD or branding.

Now as you may have heard, I gave Greg a new title recently. In addition to being Sun's CTO, he's now Executive Vice President of Research and Development. Why's that important?

Well, Sun is a company built for engineers, by engineers. I know that probably rubs some folks the wrong way, who want to hear me say we're a "transformative value solutions" company (I can't keep a straight face saying it). But let's face it: value in information technology is coming down to how efficiently you can get something done. Whether it's building a 30 teraflop grid or a web services infrastructure; powering a Java handset or an entire datacenter. From what and who I see, the folks who measure that efficiency are getting more technical, not less.

When the tools are chosen or the RFP's are written, when the benchmarks are done or the operators take over, technologists are playing a more prominent role in our industry, not less. At least for our key customers, who live and die by technology (vs. those that should be shutting down their datacenters to buy network services from our core customers). Nick is right, IT Doesn't Matter to those for whom IT isn't a differentiator - but those aren't Sun's customers. Our customers live and die by IT.

So as a part of this change, the product group CTO's, the sentinels supporting the line executives who run our businesses, will also report to Greg. In the world of human resources, that's known as a "dual hard line" reporting structure. On the one hand, that's only a symbolic change.

On the other, it is a very clear indication of where we're heading. You cannot build a house by motivating sub-contractors with compelling visions of the future. That's why you hire an architect. Similarly, you can't build a network computing company without a chief architect to coordinate nearly $2 billion in R&D.; And as a systems company, we now have a chief systems architect (and a fellow blogger).

This is also a signal inside and outside Sun: I am redoubling Sun's commitment to the primacy of the systems technologist, the systems innovator and the systems engineer. And not just in engineering - but across Sun as a system itself (more on that in a later blog). Our core customers, those who develop systems and services, who operate, administer - and pay for - them, need thought partners and system (not component) suppliers. Most business problems, in our world, have solutions rooted in innovation - and primarily technical innovation. That's our history, and our future.

I'm thrilled to have Greg assist me in driving focus and simplicity throughout Sun. From our great new developer tools, all the way up to identity enabled encrypted tape.

There are an ever smaller number of true systems innovators - those that can bring together the software, the hardware, the network and services layers, to form a coherent and compelling platform for the future of network computing. In your datacenter or in your pocket. We're committed to be exactly that: an innovator that delivers value as measured by those who live or die by innovation.

Please join me in congratulating Greg as he helps to define a new era of technical leadership at Sun.

___________

ps. For those interested, here's a Q&A; I just did with Forbes. And yet more focus on the things that really matter (at least the Inquirer has a sense of humor).

 
 
  On Blogging as CEO. It's been a busy week. My heart rate seems to have slowed just to the point where I can taste food again.

I want to start by thanking Sun's global volunteers - who every day work to improve the communities in which Sun operates around the world. I had the option of cancelling my volunteer commitments given this week's events, but decided to keep it - and had the privilege to visit Blacow elementary school, and talk to a group of 1st grade students and their teacher about the internet. They showed me their StarOffice skills (no, I'm not joking), and when I asked how many of them had email accounts, about a quarter of the room raised their hand. These are first graders, mind you. (I asked one student who sent her email, and she said her Mom, but only when she travelled.)

So I'd like to thank the folks that organized my visit, Mrs. Lorenz for putting up with my questions about how many of her friends knew that OpenOffice was free (on Windows, too!) for all schools throughout the world, and the terrific first grade class for their outstanding presentations.

Earlier in the week, I hosted my first Leadership Conference as CEO. Sun's Leadership Conferences bring together our global leaders twice a year to exchange ideas, discuss priorities, and share best practices. This year was a little unusual - Scott and I communicated his stepping up to Chairman, and my stepping up to CEO. We did so in front of a global town hall on the first day - we had nearly 20,000 (!) employees on-line to watch the event. You've already seen the speech I gave - it's my last blog entry.

Emotionally, it was one of the toughest speeches I've ever given - and I want to thank those of you that added comments, and supported Scott on your own blogs, and throughout the media.

After my speech and a fairly thorough question and answer session, Scott left the auditorium - handing the keys to me, and saying, "I'm going to spend the next 90 days opening every door on the planet. Call me if you need me." And then it was my Leadership Conference. It happened that fast.

The theme of this year's event was simple: Growing. Through Pace and Transparency - it's not just our products that are speeding up this year. We're going to be driving unparalleled transparency into everything we do, precisely because it's the most efficient mechanism to accelerate change throughout Sun. Transparency enables everything to go faster, invites accountability (to which most folks in large organizations aspire), and drives dialogue between Sun and the communities we serve.

So to answer the obvious, for those that have asked the question, "as CEO, will you continue blogging?"

Absolutely yes - count on it. (We'll now be the only Fortune 500 company with a CEO that blogs - the first of many firsts to come.) It's just one of many ways we're going to turn Sun inside out - on our path to growing value (not just revenue or earnings).

And if you want to know who committed to redefining Sun Microsystems, it's these folks, the global leadership team at Sun.

I'm the guy in the center wearing the tie - and before you ask, no, the dress code isn't changing (and if you were going to be in a photo your mother would see (not this one, she doesn't read my blog), you'd wear a tie, too).

In upcoming blogs, I'll cover Greg Papadopoulos's new role at Sun; and my priorities in the next 30 days.

 
 
  When I First Met Scott.... I remember the first time I met Scott McNealy - I'm sure he doesn't remember it. It was in the board room in our old headquarters in Palo Alto. I was with one of the folks from the startup I ran, and we were meeting on the advice of a mutual customer. I think it was 1992 or '93. Before you could actually explain the internet to your parents.

I remember he talked about network computing in a very strange way - he just assumed the future, he'd already moved his entire mindset, and his lifestyle, to the network. He looked at the world through the network. And remember, the network didn't really exist back then. It was a twinkle in a terminal window.

We were talking about the state of the industry - he viewed it in terms of a world that hadn't been built. I viewed it (remember I was at a startup) in terms of what business I could close next quarter. I had payroll to make. And I can honestly say I'd never met anyone so plainspoken about the future. Or so facile with soundbites to describe it. He was confident in a cheshire cat kind of way, not arrogant or professorial. He was in on a secret: the network is the computer.

You may not remember what it was like in 1992, but Wall Street had Sun in its sights - Scott was getting all kinds of flak for not following the rest of the industry. He'd refused to endorse one particular technology, known then as the Chicago Project. A few of the pundits said, "The Chicago Project is the future, and Sun's fighting it." Scott didn't think so. They said he was religious.

But he wasn't making a bet. He was fulfilling a vision. A vision that was obvious to him, and a vision in which the Chicago Project would play a bit part - we had bigger things to focus on.

If you don't remember the Chicago Project it was the code name to Microsoft's Windows 95. The companies that adopted it - and replaced their own innovation - well, you can't name them any more. They lost their ability to participate in the future, to differentiate.

What happened to Sun? Scott, and leaders across Sun, changed the world - by making an unpopular, but wildly successful bet on the internet as a driver of demand for systems innovation. The network is the computer.

A few years after that meeting, Netscape licensed the Java platform, my company was acquired by Sun, and I began working for Scott's then CTO, Dr. Eric Schmidt. I saw the vision, the concept behind "the network is the computer," wasn't just Scott's - everyone that worked at Sun thought his vision was obvious. And back in 1996, it was becoming more true, but not the certainty it is today - the world back then was fundamentally changing. Capital was shifting. Huge numbers of companies were being started and staffed, all over the world. Businesses were being transformed, started from nothing and becoming global titans. Enormous wealth was being created - durable wealth, not the donut franchises or sock puppets folks love to hate. Companies like eBay, AOL, Amazon, Yahoo! and Google.

And it has been, since that time, a wild ride for me, and for all of us at Sun. We've seen a massive global buildout, that took a pause in 2001 - remember, bubbles always precede buildouts. And Scott, back in 2001, when our revenue - given how focused we were on startups, on financial services and on telco customers - was on its way from 18 billion down to around 11... Scott was far more focused on what was going to happen in 2006 than worried about that quarter. He had that same confidence in the future I first saw in 1992. Bet on innovation and innovators. Stick to your vision and your visionaries.

Which is why he preserved R&D;, and jobs, when the world told him otherwise. Why we preserved our relationships with the developer community. Why we redoubled our investment in systems innovation. Why we increased our attention on key customers and partners. Even broadened it to include some unfamiliar faces.

And nearly two years ago, Scott forwarded me something a journalist had written about Sun, and about Scott personally. It wasn't the most positive note, and it was criticizing us for the bets we'd made, and for a vision that at that point, didn't square with the reality in front of us - the new Chicago Project of the day looked more attractive.

And I sent a note back to Scott. Every once in a while you end up as the morale officer for your boss, and it was one of the rare days at Sun where I was more enthusiastic than Scott.

And what I told him then - is what I'll tell you now.

There is no single individual who has created more jobs around the world than you. And unlike Henry Ford and some of the industrialists that preceded you, not all of those folks just work for Sun - I'm not talking hundreds or thousands of jobs, I'm talking millions. They ended up in America and India, Indonesia and Antarctica, Madagascar, Mexico, Brazil and Finland. They ended up everywhere. Everywhere the network travels.

No single individual has spawned so many startups, fueled so much venture investment, or raised so much capital without actually trying - just with a vision of the future that gets more obvious by the day.

No single individual has so effectively created and promoted the technologies at the heart of a new world emerging around us. A world in which the demand for network computing technology will never decline - as we share more family photos, watch more digital movies, do more banking on-line, build more communities on line, run our supply chains, automate our governments or educate our kids.

And no single individual, outside my family, has been a greater influence on my life - I am quite confident the same is true for millions of network consumers across the world. It's probably less obvious to them as it is to me. You have defined for me what tenacity means. What integrity, courage and commitment mean. Inside of work, and outside.

Which is why I'm thrilled you're sticking around for the next twenty years. To lend that confidence to the decisions I make, to help spot the next Chicago Project, and to send me the email boosts I've needed in the past, and I know I'll need in the future. It's not your fingerprints that will be all over our return to prominence, it'll be your footprints right underneath it.

As I said before, we are in a rare industry - in which demand for what we build, for the technologies that power the network, will never cease. Not even the oil industry can count on that. We have the same vision today as we did back in 1992 - a vision that only gets more true as each day passes, and only gets easier to describe to your parents, and to an ever younger population that seems to know that vision in their hearts.

The network is the computer.

Thank you, Scott, you are a hero to us all.

 
 
  The Brazilian Effect. I was honored to meet the President of Brazil last week.

I'm not one to name drop, but this is one of those extraordinary interactions I had to put in a first sentence - I'll return to why I met with him in a moment, but I was having a hard time with a graceful segue later in this post. So with that done...

I've given keynotes at Java One for many years, and one of the things I've grown to expect is what I'll call the "Brazilian effect."

Having just returned from a trip to Sao Paulo and Brasilia, I can confirm Brazil's one of the more progressive nations in the world when it comes to the use of free and open source software. It's got one of the largest, and most vibrant developer communities (great to see the OpenSolaris community putting down roots!),

and as a result, there's never a shortage of interesting projects for me or James to reference during our talks.

But whenever you mention Brazil or a Brazilian project, you have to watch out for the Brazilian effect, the total disruption of your speech by a contingent of flag waving (and wearing) Brazilians that, upon hearing their nation mentioned, break into hoots and hollers and whistles and applause. It takes a few minutes to die down, and the enthusiasm's contagious. And it drives a bit of competitiveness from folks all around the world who want to know why the Brazilians get to have all the fun. (Let's see more flags this year!)

Brazil's very focused on making Brazil a better place - and an open network is playing a big role. There are nearly as many mobile handsets in the market as there are credit card holders (the former are well on their way to being default micro-payment, as well as application platforms), and the number of Brazilians with broadband access is skyrocketing. There's a move to drive all of Brazil on-line, as a means of connecting Brazil to Brazil, and to the global market - and free and open source software is playing an instrumental role.

So I'd now like to say, "I understand the Brazilian effect." There is a distinct sense that Brazilians want a better Brazil, that there's a pride in its progress and evolution. There's a palpable energy, even and maybe especially within the halls of its government institutions (where it's sometimes harder to find energy in other nations). I had an opportunity to travel to the seat of power in Brazil, to Brasilia, a city with an interesting history.

And once there, I met with the Congressional President, and with President Lula himself. We talked about free and open source software, the future of the network, and how Sun could help bring more Brazilians on-line, while transferring the skills and technologies that create jobs and export opportunities. And not because Sun's a charity, but because it's good for our business, too - more Brazilians on-line drives more business for Sun, as a connected citizenry participates, with media companies, government agencies, financial institutions and one another. But Brazil knows it can't afford a connected society without the competition and opportunities brought about by free and open source software.

The Brazilian government is aggressively focused on digital inclusion, on bringing every segment of society to the 'net. They're making some of the world's largest investments in free software, leveraging it to deploy next generation network platforms spanning traditional telecommunication infrastructure to digital television. (One of the lead government IT folks was walking me through the lobby of their Congress, showing me their voting systems, and proudly said, "we're only running open source software now. We run Solaris.") The IPTV projects are really interesting - in scale alone (there are more TV's in Brazil than mobile phones, and go take a look at the size of the country if you're interested in network topology problems).

But the rollout of digital TV, and the internet itself, is threatened in Brazil by licensing authorities and patent holders, who are holding Brazil, and every other developing nation, hostage to royalty claims and licensing fees. Claiming that open source software isn't safe (it is, we indemnify our open source customers just like we did when our software was closed source), or that the foundation technologies will obligate Brazil to pay extraordinary royalties for each citizen or citizen access (not true, either).

Those threats are simple - patent holders (who have names very familiar in the IT world) and licensing authorities (sponsored by the same companies) are impeding the rollout of the network to developing nations. We were there to present an alternative, as we're doing across the world. Presenting those alternatives to drive progress, transparency, and ultimately demand for what we build.

Because bridging the digital divide is what gets us out of our seats, hooting and hollering. The network effect, after all, is Sun's Brazilian effect. And stay tuned on our progress - we're hoping to have some interesting things to announce shortly.

And once again, during a town hall in Sao Paulo, I was asked, "what are you going to write in your blog about your visit to Brazil?" My response, "I'm going to write about how great our team is." A great team, doing important work, not just important for our customers, but witness the meeting with President Lula, important for Brazil.

Congrats, Cleber and team - keep it up!

(with apologies for the folks who got cut off on the edges - next time, I'll be sure we've got a far wider lens...)

 
 
  The Network is the Computer. Allow me to once again apologize in advance for a lack of brevity. This is one of those blogs you wait a career to write.

A few years ago, I was sitting across from a Wall Street CIO, one of many I was visiting in New York. I was asking them all the same question, "do you feel the grid you're building is delivering a competitive advantage to your business?" (For those that don't know what a grid is, it's a collection of low cost network, storage, computing and software elements, lashed together to do work that historically required very expensive dedicated proprietary technologies). I asked the same question of CIO's in the energy industry, using grids to find oil. In the life sciences industry, using grids to discover drugs or model proteins. In the movie industry, using grids to render movies.

The answers I received, typically delivered by an impassioned CTO that had spent a year building a grid, was always the same: "absolutely yes. Our grid is way better than any of our competitors'."

I haven't stopped asking that question. But about a year ago, after Sun outlined plans to build a public, multi-tenant grid (just like the power companies run), and make it available for $1/cpu-hr, and after a few industry notables began suggesting change was afoot, I started hearing a different tune. "Um... maybe my grid's no different than anyone else's."

Now, since John Gage first uttered the phrase, Sun has been saying "The Network is the Computer." It's one of those rare vision statements that only becomes more true over time. And next week, we're going to prove the point by unveiling the world's first on demand supercomputer. And by on demand, I mean accessible through your browser, with a credit card. This isn't yesterday's definition of On Demand, involving custom financing contracts, prepositioned inventory and a sales rep in a crisp blue suit ready to negotiate. Nope, our definition is just like eBay's: you bring a browser and a credit card, we offer the service. No fuss, no muss. We believe the simplicity, accessibility and affordability of this service changes the face of computing for all organizations, large and small, public or private.

The Sun Grid (which will be officially unveiled in a few days) is an offering we and our partners will be expanding over the months and years to come - like any good product, there's no end to the innovation possible. This represents not only the future of product development at Sun, but like the Java platform and the internet itself, it really represents the future of computing.

As strange as it may sound, consumers are way ahead of most enterprises when it comes to using grids (and paying for them). Most of us live on the grid at home - we use Google and Yahoo!, we love eBay, we upload and share photos and movies, and gather our news from various sources on the web. Most of us bank from home, we leverage network email services - and if you think about it, that transformation all occurred within the last decade. In the blink of an eye.

But behind the corporate firewall, the transformation toward multi-tenant grids has been slower. Frankly, it's been tough to convince the largest enterprises that a public grid represents an attractive future. Just as I'm sure George Westinghouse was confounded by the Chief Electricity Officers of the time that resisted buying power from a grid, rather than building their own internal utilities. But that's not to suggest it hasn't been happening in the business world.

Witness the meteoric rise of Salesforce.com - or RightNow, or PayPal - or any of a number of other services designed to replace traditional infrastructure behind the corporate firewall. Smaller businesses especially have flocked to the grid to spare themselves the headaches of architecting and owning their own datacenters.

But larger enterprises have been tougher to convince. As an example, for the past 15 months, we've been negotiating with one financial institution interested in leveraging our grid for spike loads of portfolio simulations. When their procurement team held up the contract to start negotiating the gauge of chain link we'd use around the grid, and which vendors were approved to supply network cables, we gingerly passed them back to our traditional sales channels - this was clearly a customer that would prefer to build their own infrastructure (can you imagine arguing with PayPal over chain link?). So be it, that's where most IT is purchased today, and will likely be purchased for decades to come.

But there's no denying there's a change occurring.

A good friend of mine, a bioinformatician (love that title), once described how frustrated he was at having to wait for his university's supercomputing facility. "If you had a grid available on line, I'd bring my whole budget to you." Granted his budget was something like $10,000 a quarter, but rumor has it there's a good business in the long tail. My view - most computing will be purchased by that tail. There are, after all, far more small financial institutions than large. The same applies to movie studios, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and nearly every other industry on earth. I'm very comfortable betting on the value in volume - and the willingness of those smaller firms to change culture, process and lifestyle to get a competitive advantage through network services. Just think back ten years - when most enterprises I met laughed at the idea of putting business systems on the internet. Now you're an anomaly if you're "off the grid."

But getting to this week hasn't been without hiccups. After we announced it, we started working with a number of companies interested in negotiating the equivalent of chain link fencing, as above - we saw IBM Global Services (and HP's equivalent) in every one of the deals. We learned a lot, but mainly that most enterprises today define On Demand computing as hosting - they want to give their computers, software, networking and storage to a third party, and rent them back for a fixed price. But that'd be like an electricity company collecting generators and unique power requirements, and trying to build a grid out of them. That's not a business we're in (nor one in which technology plays much of a role - it's all about managing real estate and call centers, as far as we can tell). Grids are all about standardization and transparency - and building economies of scale.

Building a secure, publicly available multi-tenant grid also turned out to be exceptionally complex - there's a reason no one had ever done it before. Most grids are application specific - for search, or auctions or payment. A general purpose computing grid was ploughing new ground - and we wanted to ensure availability and security would be as high as possible. To stress the grid, I actually sent mail to all of Sun's employees challenging them (with the promise of a new workstation) to see if they could bring it down. On the theory I'd rather have a Sun employee, especially a Sun engineer with deep insight into our products, show us how to break it, than a rogue user.

After disappointing a huge swath of our employees who couldn't participate in the contest (our export control policies constrain which elements of our global workforce can be exposed to the grid), we surfaced several vulnerabilities in the very high-scale interaction of hardware, networking and software platforms (again, given that no one's ever done this before, it wasn't all that surprising). We also engaged with the folks who monitor technology export control for the US Government (if there's a harder civil service job in the government, I'd like to know it) - who helped us ensure the grid wouldn't be accessible to people with nefarious intent. They understood we wanted to make this as simple as applying for an eBay account - we'll be close, but we've got to have a higher level of scrutiny (which is why, when you apply for an account, it'll take a few hours, and won't be instantaenous - but that's our goal).

Those are just a few of the hurdles we faced, but now we're ready - ready to release the first, publicly accessible instantiation of the future of computing. And here are a few things to be aware of:

First, in this first release, the Sun Grid will be available only to customers inside the US. Why? Export constraints. Stay tuned for international availability. And yes, we will be doing this globally.

Second, don't expect instant account provisioning. We're shooting for a few hours, depending upon demand, and no worse than 24 hours. But please be patient. We are focused on ease of provisioning, but we're also conscious of the risk and security requirements.

Third, we're opening on day 1 with less than 5,000 cpu sockets (both Opteron and UltraSPARC) - the world's most power efficient servers. As demand emerges, we'll be adding to that capacity - without limitation.

And finally, stay tuned for the web service API's. What you'll see this week is relatively simple, and a version 1.0 foundation for what's in store. Where are we headed? To release computing as a service, to be mashed up with other services (I can hear VC's around the world offering a standing ovation - 'no more having to build one datacenter per startup!')

If you're read this far, here's a final bit of color on the incredibly fortuitous domain name for the future of computing: Network.com.

As it turns out, midway through Sun's due dilligence in the acquisition of StorageTek, we learned they were the owners of Network.com. They hadn't really ever used it - a hidden gem. In hindsight, it may end up being one of the most valuable domain names in the history of computing. And we're certainly going to do what we can to burnish that value...

So have at it! Go to network.com later this week, grab a PayPal account, and experience for yourself what it's like to use one of the world's largest supercomputers. Without having to house it, manage it, power it, administer it, provision it... or buy it.

The Network is the Computer.

Once again, more true by the day.

 
 
  Why Free Standards Matter. Imagine you live on a sleepy street in a coastal town, say Rio de Janeiro. And a hurricane or tsunami hits your shores. And the government agency responsible for telling you how and where to get relief, for provisioning aid and emergency services, sends out a curious message: if you can't afford a copy of Microsoft Windows, we're sorry, we can't help you.

That's exactly what happened in New Orleans a few months back. Which led many folks to see the convergence of telecommunications, technology and media in a very personal, and dissatisfying way - while demonstrating the vanishing distinction between web services, social services and emergency services. The network is all about moving data around, whether purchase orders, tax forms or storm paths.

Last weekend, I had a similar personal experience. I was on my way to show my kids what snow looked like, taking them to Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra mountains. If you know Northern California, you know that means crossing Donner Pass. A place that makes me think of that great Andy Grove quote, "only the paranoid survive." During winter storms, you don't drive through that area lightly - there are even police at checkpoints to make sure you're well equipped - with chains for your tires, or a four wheel drive vehicle. City-folks like me even pack water, food and blankets. Just in case.

Before leaving, I checked the weather. A winter storm was approaching, and knowing the State of California places web cameras in key locations to help monitor traffic, I went off to a search engine, and typed "California highway video" to get a real time view of road conditions.

And what did I see?

A California State Agency web site that required Windows Media 9. I happened to be running my Solaris laptop at the time. So I couldn't receive the video. As a tax paying citizen of the state, my government was inadvertently telling me I could not receive state emergency services without buying a Microsoft product. Governor Schwarzenegger, I don't want my or my employer's tax dollars going to promote a monopoly in California. (Love them though I do as a business partner.)

So now you know why the Open Document Format Alliance is important - in a democratic society, agencies, corporations or individuals that serve the public's interest should be free to do so without burdening their constituents with an obligation to purchase one company's product. That's what the ODF Alliance will help achieve - by creating and making freely available to anyone that wants it, a standard for representing document based information.

It seems plainly wrong for a government to suggest that citizens purchase Microsoft Word before reading a storm warning or ballot initiative. Or that they abandon their Macintosh to run Internet Explorer before applying for disaster relief. Or that they buy a Windows Mobile phone before requesting 911. Or that they have Solaris installed to pay their taxes.

And rather than sit by and complain, several of us - competitors and partners alike, along with a broad cross section of global industry and library associations - are all banded together to promote a standard for the free interchange of document based information. A standard that doesn't require any one company's technology, or a royalty check or fear of patent litigation. A standard that leverages a common interest in having a free, open and neutral standard to which any company, individual or government can subscribe.

A standard that serves the public's interest.

And to put our money where our mouths are, the first application to fully support ODF is the world's most popular free/open source office productivity suite, OpenOffice - which we encourage governments to distribute to their citizens. There's no better way to serve the public's interest than to give them freedom.

And choice.

 
 
  The Future of HP's UNIX.... This morning we sent an open letter to HP's CEO, Mark Hurd. You can find the text of it here.

I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of open letters - but every once in a while, they help explain our position, or motivate customers to engage in driving the industry. And customer involvement has led to some remarkable innovation (my favorite example being here).

With full disclosure, we've been trying for a while to engage HP in a dialog around converging our Unix efforts - their Unix, called HP-UX, was the second most popular Unix behind our offering, Solaris. But HP's customers are increasingly moving away from HP-UX - not because they don't love it (many do, and there are a lot of folks that have a deep respect for it at Sun, as well) - but because HP has limited where customers can use it. As the exclusive OS for HP's Precision Architecture, HP has built up an installed base of more than $100 billion - for a reason. It was a great platform.

But then HP decided to end of life PA-RISC - and in so doing, left their user community with a very tough choice: if you want to preserve your investment in HP-UX, you have to rearchitect your entire datacenter to adopt Intel's troubled Itanium project. But if you want to enjoy HP's high volume Proliant line of x86/x64 computers, you can't run HP-UX - unlike Sun, HP elected not to invest in supporting their Unix, HP-UX, on their own x86/x64 servers.

So we'd like to offer HP, and the HP user community, a third option: to converge Solaris 10 with HP-UX, running on HP's very own Proliant product line. We've spoken to HP about it, thought we saw a glimmer of interest, and now we want to get their customers and partners involved.

To build up to this point, we've been doing our best to faithfully support Solaris 10 on HP's entire Proliant family of servers. They're all qualified - try the download, here.

And we're going to continue extending the olive branch to the HP-UX user community, with tools, technologies and partner support. But we'd like HP to contribute to the effort, on behalf of and in concert with their customers and developers.

So now it's up to you - the HP user and developer community. Talk to your HP sales rep or management contact if you're interested in seeing such a project flourish. You have all the power in this dialog. And Sun would be very supportive - I commit that. You shouldn't have to abandon HP-UX, and we'll gladly work to ensure it.

At bottom, a converged Solaris/HP-UX roadmap would offer our joint customers choice, innovation, and a broad spectrum of qualified hardware - while preserving your investment in skills, your confidence in the underlying intellectual property and technology... and most importantly, given that Solaris is open source, your choices going forward. That's all upside, as far as we're concerned.

Now we just need to get HP on board...

 
 
  Niagara FREE TRIAL - Update. Given the volume of email I'm getting... if you're looking for the Niagara FREE Trial offer, click here.

The terms and conditions are now updated to reflect the fact that Sun pays the postage if you return the system we sent you. There's always been a free packing slip in the box when you received it - our legal agreement was just out of sync (and no, I don't think the agreement is poetically simple, either - that's next week's challenge). If after 60 days you don't like the system we sent, just call the 1-800 number, and someone will come out to pick it up.

We're obviously good at the free software thing. Looks like free systems/hardware might be a bit tougher - but we're going to get it right, and we promise to fulfill every request. Give us credit for running the experiment transparently - warts and all.

And to answer a few of the comment questions - the offer applies to anyone interested - not just corporate customers. We don't care if you're an educator or a park ranger or a blogger or a physicist or a CIO - so long as you're in the market for the fastest/most efficient server on earth.

And just to reiterate - once you receive the system, run your own benchmarks - post them publicly (positive or negative - points earned for thorough and complete), and our marketing team will decide who gets to keep their Niagara systems for free. Free.

ps. to the folks at slashdot, send me your contact data, we're happy to send a Niagara system for you to take a look at. Something tells me you fit the target demographic perfectly... (no floating point, heavy threading, etc.)

pps. just in case you lost track of the promo, it's here.

 
 
  Er.... To those that provided comments highlighting the inconsistency in our Try and Buy terms and conditions (which seem to preclude the very benchmarking that earns a free Niagara, and suggests the recipient is on the hook for return postage (which they're not)) - please stay tuned.

Change is coming to the pdf (which I agree, isn't an ideal format for the T's and C's, Elliotte - bear with us...)

My apologies for the confusion (and thanks for the attentiveness).

 
 
  FREE SERVER (v2.0) - Honest!.

A while back, I announced we'd start making servers available for free trial - the objective wasn't to terrify financial analysts, although I'm certain a few gripped their chest, but instead to drive awareness among customers that hadn't been exposed to Sun. And free seemed like the right price to drive adoption among developers (honestly, we're not too worried about folks who elect not to buy failing to return a $5,000 server (we cover postage both ways)).

The program started off slowly - partly due to internal disbelief (there's a long story, there), but secondarily, our focus group feedback suggested no one believed we'd actually send them a free Niagara. So let me reiterate: go to sun.com, fill out the form, we'll send you the fastest server on earth, absolutely free. If you don't like it, we'll send someone to pick it up.

We were also serious about the following: if you write a blog that fairly assesses the machine's performance (positively or negatively), send us a pointer, we're likely to let you keep the machine. (And before you ask, the marketing team makes the decision about what qualifies for the promotion, not I - although I know they love drama, charts, and compelling competitive analyses.)

The first reaction most folks have to the performance is, frankly, disbelief. A while back I got into a spat with the technologists that built the machine about whether we could fairly call them 9.6Ghz machines (as a measure of clock frequency of the chip). Paul Murphy has an interesting analysis of whether that's a fair descriptor (I say interesting because he says we're underhyping the performance - a first for the industry!).

Here's a sample benchmark, (and discussion, too). If you look at the SPEC benchmarks (the column titled "Result"), it's also validated by a neutral body. I'm thinking we should rename Sun to AAA_Sun so our name appears first in the SPEC list.

I had the privilege of making a cameo appearance today at David Berlind's MashUp Unconference - a fascinating experiment to invite a bunch of people interested in a given topic to a conference, charge them nothing, let them create the agenda on the fly at the conference, and have folks like Sun (and other companies) pick up the tab - an inversion of the traditional conference business model. I got to give a Niagara (without obligation to return) to what was voted the most popular Mashup - podbop.org. Taylor McKnight, the individual who received the machine, looked quite pleased - but asked a legitimate question: "how do I get this on the plane?"

Given that the machine is classified as a munition by the US Government, it was a perfectly legitimate question. It probably wouldn't make it past airport security (or into an overhead cabin). So yes, we're covering postage.

Taylor, I'm hoping you'll write a blog about your experience with the system (once it arrives :)... you are, after all, the target demographic.

 
 
  Coffee, Keynotes and Linux on Intel vs. Solaris on Opteron. Webcast of a keynote I just delivered at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) can be found here. I did have a fair amount of coffee before the speech, which someone in the audience suggested was evident in the pace at which the speech was delivered. Listen for yourself.

There were quite a few startups in the audience - and given that we're beginning to turn our focus to recruiting those startups back to Sun, I thought I'd live up to my (now delinquent) commitment to publish an email I received from Marc Andreesen about his startup's experience with "Linux on Intel" vs. Solaris. Here you go:

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: followup
Date: Thu, 02 Feb 2006 15:51:28 -0800
From: Marc Andreessen < >
Organization: Ning Inc.
To: Jonathan Schwartz < >, Anil Gadre < >

Hi guys -- below is the writeup of the data I spoke about on stage yesterday.

We (Ning) are fine with you all using this however you want.

Marc

Ning Server Platform Analysis

The following data is based on an analysis we did in support of the implementation of our production environment. Ning had deployed a beta system based on a commercial Linux distribution running on whitebox (aka local system integrator PC clone) AMD Opteron servers. This infrastructure is hosted in our own cage at a commercial co-location facility. We pay a monthly fee based on the total sqft of the cage as well as the total power delivered to the cage (measured in amps).

The space and power costs are blended averages for our area (San Jose, CA):

Monthly space cost: $27.00 per sqft
Monthly power cost: $17.00 per amp

A 4-post rack (or cabinet) occupies approximately 20sqft. Each rack/cabinet has approximately 40 rack units (RU; 1RU = 1.75") of useable space. Thus:

Monthly cost per rack: 20 sqft * $27/sqft = $540
Monthly cost per RU: $540/40 = $13.50

For purposes of our analysis, let's assume all servers are of equal cost:

Server price: $3,000.00

Next we need to consider the operating system for the server, so we need to include the purchase price plus any maintenance fees. We compared a commercial Linux distribution (enterprise class) vs Solaris:

Commercial Linux annual subscription fee: $900.00
Commercial Linux per-incident charge: $380.00
Total: $1,280.00

Sun Solaris subscription fee: $120.00
Sun Solaris per-incident fee: $0.00
Total: $120.00

Given that we are in a hosted environment which imposes certain constraints (total space and power available), the acquisition cost is only a part of the equation. As Paul Harvey would say "this is the rest of the story".

Our co-location provider imposes a per-rack limit as to how much power they will provide. In our case this is 60A. The rule of thumb is to only load a circuit to 80% of the total capacity. Thus:

60A * 80% = 48A useable per rack

Now we need to determine how many systems we can fit in a rack. We know we have 40RU available and 48A of power available per rack. But how much power do the systems require? Let's see:

Sun x2100 (model 175; dual-core Opteron): 1A
Whitebox AMD (2x AMD Opteron 248): 2A
Intel dual Xeon: >3A

To determine the maximum number of systems we can deploy per rack:

Intel: 48A per rack / 3A per system = 16 systems per rack
Whitebox AMD: 48A per rack / 2A per system = 24 systems per rack
Sun x2100: 48A per rack / 1A per system = 48 systems per rack.

Given there are only 40 RU in a rack, the real limit for the Sun systems is 40 systems per rack. Next we need to determine the monthly cost of operating the systems:

60A per rack * $17 per A per month = $1,020.00 per month
Monthly rack cost: $540.00

Intel (@ 16 systems per rack):
power: $1,020 / 16 = $63.75 per month
space: $540 / 16 = $33.75 per month
total: $97.50 per month

whitebox AMD (@ 24 systems per rack):
power: $1,020 / 24 = $42.50 per month
space: $540 / 24 = $22.50 per month
total: $65.00 per month

Sun AMD: power: $1,020 / 40 = $25.50 per month
space: $540 / 40 = $13.50 per month
total: $39.00 per month

Looking at a straight line analysis of the combined costs of server + OS + space + power over 36 months we end up with:

Intel + commercial Linux:
$3,000 + (3 * $1,280) + (36 * $97.50) = $10,350.00 over 3 years

whitebox AMD + commercial Linux:
$3,000 + (3 * $1,280) + (36 * $65.00) = $9,180.00 over 3 years

whitebox AMD + Solaris:
$3,000 + (3 * $120) + (36 * $65.00) = $5,700.00

Sun AMD + Solaris:
$3,000 + (3 * $120) + (36 * $39.00) = $4,764.00

Based on this analysis the Sun solution is less than half the cost of running Linux on Intel hardware.

A key consideration: data center space is a limited commodity over which we have minimal control. We can "reserve" space for expansion, but this requires additional expenses. A solution that allows us to maximize the space we purchase is a significant advantage, as this allows for much more cost effective growth.

------------------

ps. note comments have been turned on.

pps. And to that point, The Register just published an excellent analysis - and given the increasing scrutiny under which Gartner and IDC now find themselves, it'd probably help their credibility if they, like the financial analyst community, started disclosing revenues they receive from the vendors they cover. At their scale, vs. the smaller boutiques, I think it's going to become an imperative.

And personally, it may end up being a determinant of whether we're willing to do business with such firms. Transparency's a good thing.

 
 
  Recommended Reading. The Wisdom of Crowds. It's a quick read, quite good.

Once you've read that, this is interesting reading, too...

Both for its content, and the context. Thanks for the pointer, Tim.

 
 
  The Death of the Cold Call. I started my technology career at a startup, running sales. Now "running" is probably generous, given that I was the only sales guy (my partners were busy creating products). But every morning, I'd get up, roll out of bed to my desk (which was in my bedroom - this was before raising venture capital became like raising your hand), and start down my call list. We'd get leads from anywhere we could - but at a startup, all sales are basically cold calls. And in all honesty, I hate cold calls. But hold that thought.

We just finished up Sun's annual Analyst Conference - where we bring financial and industry analysts together (they never seem to sit on the same side of the room), and present our updates and perspectives on the marketplace. (The above link is video and slides.)

The central topic of my presentation was free software - trying to answer the questions, especially from among the financial community, surrounding its impact on our financial results. Some still believe "free" can't be good for business - despite a rush of businesses predicated upon free. My point was that free software doesn't decrease revenue - it amplifies adoption. And radically simplifies customer acquisition and qualification.

To make the point, I invited Marc Andreesen to join me on stage - to talk about one of his (many) companies, Ning. Ning is all about accelerating the emergence of social software through the delivery of its infrastructure as a service (with some really inspired thinking about cloning and tipping effects). It's a very cool idea, run by some very smart people. And Ning is ground zero of the coming revolution in the IT marketplace: social software will drive more infrastructure and transactional volumes than the entirety of last decade's ERP build out. To prove the point, Sun runs its ERP implementation on a partially used 5 year old computer - vs. our developer communities and customer portals, which serve millions of users 24 hours a day requiring far more infrastructure.

But what's interesting to me about our relationship with Ning is that no one from Sun had ever paid them a visit. No one had ever made a sales call, cold or otherwise. Marc assumed he'd simply run Linux on a whitebox platform - yet it turned out to be twice as expensive as running Solaris on a SunFire server (a point many customers find surprising, which is both a good, and a bad, problem to have). See C|Net's coverage, here. And now he's become a Sun customer (I'll post his email to me detailing the math next week).

It's my view that the growth in front of Sun won't simply be from stabilizing and growing our existing customers. It'll be from acquiring new customers. Large customers as well as small. The important point is we won't be able to meet most of them - there aren't enough sales executives on the planet to call on each of the 4 million Solaris licenses we've distributed to the world. But so long as the internet connects us to them, the distribution of free software allows them to discover us - and for us to invest in building a bi-directional link, ultimately driving revenue from only those who want added services and infrastructure (vs. those who don't).

Which allows me to believe (perhaps hope) that the days of cold calling are numbered...

 
 
  Thinking About GPL3.... Customers appreciate choice. Here's proof: in less than a year, developers have requested nearly 4 million Solaris licenses - and 65% of the downloads are running on non-Sun hardware. Which means we're reaching new customers, because we gave them the freedom to choose the hardware they like.

With that volume building, you've no doubt seen that HP has joined ranks with IBM to support Solaris on their x64 platforms - creating even more options, and leaving only one tier 1 vendor (based in Texas, rhymes with swell) without a committed Solaris support plan.

Having Solaris available on all these systems creates options for customers - as legacy systems near end of life, or as with Intel's Itanium, inch toward decommitment.

We also recognize that diversity and choice are important - which is why we've begun looking at the possibility of releasing Solaris (and potentially the entire Solaris Enterprise System), under dual open source licenses. CDDL (which allows customer IP to safely comingle with Solaris source code) and under the Free Software Foundation's GPL3. It's early days, but we're looking at two things as we make that decision.

First, we're looking at how to reach developers and customers who prefer the GPL - as a large GPL contributor, we want to do what we can to drive more efficiency and cross-pollination between Linux and OpenSolaris. (Why recreate the wheel with technologies like dTrace and ZFS - or GRUB and Xen.)

Second, bear in mind we've yet to pick the open source license under which the core intellectual property behind our multi-threaded Niagara systems will ship (although we're biasing to GPL). Is there opportunity for the two communities (OS and system) to interact? Surely...

In thinking through these issues, we've had help from a number of folks around the free software community - for which I want to express my appreciation. And there's obviously discussion that will continue. By everyone who values freedom of choice (and unfettered Fair Use, but that's another blog).

It's going to be a very interesting 2006 - no doubt filled with interesting choices.

 
 
  Fabulous Team in Sun Mexico. I had a great (if quick) trip to Mexico last week - living in California, traveling to Mexico feels like home (except Mexico City is bigger than nearly every city in California combined. The traffic, if you can believe it, makes what you experience on our major highways feel like a walk in the park - the silver lining to traffic jams is you can ride with journalists and deliver interviews from place to place.

If you want to know what a winning team looks like, it's this:

These folks have been focused on the education sector, and making fabulous progress. We spent lunch talking about augmenting our offer with OpenOffice, totally free of charge to students and administrators - in the classroom, at home, for their friends and families, too. Free software has the potential to save tens of millions of dollars in licensing fees, freeing Mexico and Mexican citizens to focus their investment on connecting classrooms to the internet. Not to mention hiring teachers and building schools. Free software's not about politics, it's about Participation.

I met with a series of customers - from the energy sector to retailing, banking to media. The challenges facing IT executives are becoming more global - and now that the infrastructure and networks can really support global scale, the solutions are coming into focus. And budgets are being freed up - that's obviously country specific, but Mexico is definitely looking to invest.

Before my departure, the local team had arranged a town hall meeting broadcast across Latin America - during the Q&A;, a few folks wanted to know what I was going to write about in my blog. I responded by grabbing a camera, taking a photograph of the audience, and saying "that's what's going in my blog - I'm going to brag about YOU." Here:

The optimism is addictive... and again, great job, Jaime and Eduardo and to the whole team in Sun Latin America. If I were your competition, I'd worry seriously about all the smiling faces in the picture above...

 
 Outlink Creating Passionate Users, 8/25/2006; 1:03:54 AM.
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  Assumptions have a Sell By date

Milkassumptions

We can't expect to innovate new products, services, techniques, etc. without challenging our assumptions. Have some of your assumptions "gone off"? How frequently are you checking? In other words, do you have a plan in place for regularly sniffing the milk ? I swear that half my battles at Sun were about questioning assumptions... many of which had been around long enough to be science fair projects.

When you're stuck with the inertia of outdated assumptions, you're stuck with incremental (not revolutionary) improvements. The Head First books, for example, would never have happened if we hadn't been able to convince Tim O'Reilly that typical programming books were based on an assumption that was just plain wrong .

We all talk about challenging assumptions, but what does that really mean? Because if we don't go deep enough--deep enough to get to the foundation on which all subsequent assumptions are based--we might as well not waste our time. Here's a typical scenario:

Fred: Let's challenge our assumptions here people... are we certain that customers won't like this?

Jim: Yes.

Fred: How do we know? Where's the data?

Jim: It came out clearly in focus group testing.

Fred: But how recent were those focus groups?

Jim: Very recent--less than a year ago.

Fred: But what did they actually test?

Jim: They tested this exact feature.

Fred: OK, then let's move on. Tell engineering to cut that from the spec.



There's a textbook example of challenging an assumption, without challenging the assumptions below . The underlying, unchallenged assumption here is that focus groups work (when we know focus groups are notoriously unreliable for many things).

It's assumptions all the way down.

A few tips:

1) List them.

Yes, that's a "duh" statement, but seriously... how many times do you actually SEE assumptions explicitly called out?

2) Give them a Sell By date.

Slap a date on these puppies and have a system in place for knowing when to sniff them! Whether its a database or spreadsheet or just a big chart on the wall that y'all agree to review once a month or quarter or whatever, the point is to guarantee that you really WILL sniff them all on a regular basis.

3) Challenge them all the way down.

Question something and then question what it's based on, and then what that is based on, and so on... until you get to the bottom. And when you hit bottom, keep questioning until you're absolutely positively sure it's the bottom.

4) When you challenge an assumption, make it fight for its life.

Put it on trial. Force it to defend itself. Be relentless. Be skeptical. Be brutal .

These are all rather obvious tips, yet so often overlooked. But simply listing and challenging our assumptions on a regular basis isn't the biggest problem.

The really big problem is the assumptions which are so ingrained that we don't even know they're assumptions. They become an accepted Law of Physics, as good as gravity.

It does little good to list (and date) our assumptions, if the most crucial ones--the ones that could lead to the biggest innovations and breakthroughs--never make it to the list. It's not enough to say, "So, what are our assumptions here?" We have to ask--and keep asking--"So, what are we accepting as fact and not questioning as an assumption?" In other words, "What are our hidden assumptions? What do we believe implicitly ?"

It's not enough to "sniff the milk." We have to recognize that some of the things which we believe are part of the fabric of our universe might just be milk in disguise.

And while I'm using Fundamental Laws of Physics as a metaphor for the things we believe implicitly about customers, products, etc. it seems that even the real laws of physics need a sniff from time to time.

UPDATE: but the universe appears to persist . Or does it? Assumptions all the way down... ; )

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  You won't regret it

Southisland_1

We've all had the experience: someone talks you into doing something you don't want to do, but afterward you're so glad you did. It could be a last-minute drop-everything dinner with friends when you thought you had too much work to do. Maybe it's a run down a black-diamond slope you didn't think you could handle. It could be a business risk where you had intended to play it safe. Or maybe it's taking the scenic route, when the "better" choice was to take the quicker path.

Now and again, I try to remember some of the things I initially resisted that turned out to be wonderful. Because whenever someone asks if I want to take the scenic route, my first instinct is to say, "I don't have the time for that." Always in a hurry. Can't waste time. Things to do. But when I give in and agree (usually under pressure), I rarely regret it.

There are so many opportunities--big and small, trivial and important--that we dismiss out of habit or fear or simply because we didn't slow down long enough to consider how it might feel if we said yes. At the end of my life, I'll have a lot of regrets, but taking the scenic route isn't one of them. But what about taking risks on a job, relationship, move, business, adventure? If I fail, will I regret trying? Or will I regret not trying?



Opportunities are not unlimited. There are only so many scenic routes we can take. Only so many sunsets. Only so many chances at love or business. Only so many possibilities to send our lives in new directions. Only so many places to explore. Only so many ways to see someone else light up when you help them learn or do something they didn't think they could do. Only so many live concerts. Only so many moments to talk to your significant other or kids without keeping one eye on the television. Only so many dog walks. Only so many new things to learn, and fewer to master.

Only so many chances to make a difference.

The photo at the top is one I took on my recent visit to New Zealand. I had wanted to stay in Queenstown, but someone convinced me that I'd really appreciate the extra trip in to Glenorchy. I was tired and didn't want to push further (especially since it was getting late). But had I not given in, I would have missed what turned out to be a spectacular sunset over the lake.

I have learned that I will never regret taking the scenic route. What about you ? Are there things you didn't want to do, but later were so glad that you did? Are there things you wish you'd do a better job of saying yes to, despite whatever perfectly sound reasons you have for saying no?

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  Geek marketing should be like a good lover

<img alt="Goodbadmarketing" title="Goodbadmarketing" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/goodbadmarketing.jpg" border="0" />

To the typical geek, marketing your wares ranks only slightly higher than selling your soul. It's unethical, compromising, inauthentic. Not Real. One advantage this view offers is an easy way out--we can always claim moral superiority if nobody buys/reads/uses our stuff. After all, we didn't "sell out" to be popular.

I used to live that view. But today I believe it's based on logic you could drive a FedEx truck through. And if we don't get past our marketing aversion, we may have no business whining about our lack of success. This isn't about trying to push something we know is wrong for users--this is about feeling comfortable (and even skilled) at helping people discover and explore the things we believe in.

The real issue is about how you define "authentic", "honest", "real", and "selling out." That's where the marketing-as-good-lover model comes in. A good lover is NOT afraid of finding out what his (or her) partner wants. A good lover does NOT view it as "selling out" if he does things simply because it's what the other person wants. A good lover does NOT believe it's a compromise to try to be more popular, if being popular means making things more stimulating, exciting, sexy, enticing, compelling, appealing, and attractive. A good lover respects that our perception matters. A good lover respects and trusts us. A good lover takes a shower and puts on a clean shirt.

In other words, maybe we should stop assuming that marketing means lying, and start treating our customers/users as people we value and care about enough to make their life a bit more enjoyable. Even if that means little more than sexing up the packaging! Life is short, and a good lover appreciates that a little extra attention to non-essential yet sensual pleasures is being caring, not inauthentic.

So, that's the real test of authenticity: do you genuinely care about the quality of your users' time and experience? Then there's nothing wrong with increasing your chances of "getting laid" (and by "getting laid", I mean, "having users find your efforts delightful").


GEEK MARKETING MYTHS

Geeks hate being marketed to
Truth: Geeks hate being insulted. If geeks hated being marketed to, the tech conferences wouldn't be teeming with iPods and Macs.

Geeks hate being treated as though they're too stupid to recognize when you're lying, so don't bullshit. But if you go out of your way to make something sexy, there's no reason you should be afraid to flaunt it. It's not hype if it's true.


Geeks are logical and rational, and don't care about superficial "sexiness". They care only about the specs
Truth: There's no such thing as a "logical and rational" human, geek or otherwise. Need proof? Throw a centerfold of Miss July in front of a geek (male OR female) and an MRI will show their brain lit up like a fireworks show. We are all human, and caring about the way something looks and feels does not mean we're superficial--it means we're human. We don't need to exploit sex to recognize that a certain amount of sexiness is both pleasurable and natural.


If the product is high quality, the packaging shouldn't matter.
Truth: For many of us, the packaging is part of the experience. Just because you're going to be naked soon doesn't mean the shirt you're wearing right NOW doesn't matter. After all, <a href="http://www.unboxing.com/">undressing you is part of the fun. Trying to be attractive to your partner does NOT mean selling out.

Sometimes, in fact, it can make all the difference. My dentist goes out of her way to make the office feel like a spa. We aren't called "patients", we're called "guests". There is no medical window in the waiting area; there is wine and espresso. The rooms where they do the work are indistinguishable from a salon. All those extras make NO difference to the technical quality of their procedures, but they sure make me enjoy it more (or at least hate and fear it less).


Seduction is evil
Truth: Seduction without a genuine concern for the seducee probably is evil, but seduction-as-part-of-a-fun-experience is one of life's great pleasures. Humans are tuned for seduction and curiosity. Of COURSE seduction can be used for evil, but so can pillows and cornflakes.

Characteristics of a good lover/marketer

DO:

Be desirable
Be appealing
Be creative
Be brave
Be thoughtful
Be attractive (but don't worry about fitting some classic definition of perfection)
Be kind and caring
Be stimulating
Be exciting
Be entertaining
Be encouraging
Be enticing
Be experimental
Be flexible and adaptable
Be playful
Be unique

DON'T:

Be dull
Be rude
Be sloppy
Be selfish/self-centered
Be arrogant
Be abrupt/impatient
Be boring (or bored!)
Be overly formal and dignified
Be exactly like everyone else
Be judgemental
Be depressing
Be rigid inflexible

Why does a lover go out of his way to do things for us? (besides the obvious--that he's hoping for a repeat)

Because it's rewarding. Full stop.


[Bonus link: John Dodds has a great little piece on <a href="http://makemarketinghistory.blogspot.com/2006/08/geek-marketing-101_115529822564302037.html">Geek Marketing 101 you should check out]

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  Give users a Hollywood ending

<img alt="Piechartuserexperience_3" title="Piechartuserexperience_3" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/piechartuserexperience_3.jpg" border="0" />

We can all take a lesson from filmmakers: endings matter. The way we end a conversation, blog post, user experience, presentation, tech support session, chapter, church service, song, whatever... is what they'll remember most. The end can matter more to users than everything we did before. And the feeling they leave with is the one they might have forever.

Think of all the movies where the best song is saved for the ending. A big chunk of "Best Original Song" Academy Award winners have been songs that played only during the closing credits. They want you to leave the theater with the feeling that song evoked. When a movie goes through "beta" (a test screening), the studios aren't looking for feedback on the whole damn movie...they're measuring audience reaction to the end. If the audience hates the ending (too sad, too absurd, too unresolved, etc.), that's what they reshoot.

I was reminded of the power of endings when I went to another Red Rocks concert a few weeks' back--this time it was <a href="http://www.davidgray.com/news.php?id=1168867458">David Gray (with Aimme Mann and Beth Orton). Whatever you may think of David Gray's music, the guy gives good encore. They're like a whole separate show, and he leaves you feeling with a powerful, emotional, energetic, finale.

It's not just filmmakers that appreciate The End--learning theory has <a href="http://www.recallplus.com/Breaks.asp">known this for a long time. Students in a classroom are more likely to remember what they learned/heard/did first and last than whatever happened in the middle. It's the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recency_effect">Recency Effect (along with its counterpart for beginings, the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primacy_effect">Primacy Effect). Good teachers try to have more beginnings and endings by breaking up lessons into small chunks, rather than doing a single 45-minute lecture.

In fact, here's what matters in my blog posts:

<img alt="Endings_2" title="Endings_2" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/endings_2.jpg" border="0" />

From a retention and recall view, middles suck. So let's talk about endings since they're one of my personal weak spots. Even when psychology/cognitive science tells us that the end can matter more than the middle, it feels counterintuitive. We focus so heavily on the meaty-middle while the ending is just a tacked on afterthought. So what if we left the customer feeling frustrated and unsatisfied with our tech support as long as they know we spent a ton of time trying? Who cares if the presentation just... sort... of...fades...out... if the rest of it was killer? And the ending of a chapter is just another paragraph, right?

Yes, I want to think more like a filmmaker on this. As Sacha Molitorisz put it in <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/18/1058035188493.html">Now that's an ending:

"When a film resolves itself well, audiences leave satisfied and content, even if the preceding 90 minutes have been uninspiring. If, however, the climax is forced or implausible, the preceding scenes will be stripped of any poignancy. In other words: a terrific ending can make an excellent film a masterpiece; a dud ending can ruin an otherwise intriguing offering."

But even if you buy into the power of the ending, the next question is, "What kind of ending?" Should it be a Hollywood ending? As opposed to, say, an indie finish? That depends on your definition and the circumstances, of course. There's hollywood endings and then there's HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS.

Not all Hollywood endings must be happy, and not all indie films must end in complete and utter incomprehensability (in that "I'm more unresolved than thou" way.) It all gets back to what we hope our users will think and feel at the end. I need to be asking the right questions about my goals, to figure out how to end:

* Do I want to help my users memorize something?
Then I should stick that at the end, or at least repeat it at the end.

* Do I want to help and motivate my users to do something?
Then I should end with what the sales/ad/preachers refer to as an inspiring Call To Action.

* Do I want my users to think more deeply (or more creatively) about something?
Then I should end with some things still unresolved (easy for me since I've rarely figured anything all-the-way out).

* Do I want my users to be curious?
Then I should end with a teaser... something that hints at what's to come, whether it's new products, new capabilities the user will have, new and exciting ways for them to participate, etc. Leave them with a question...

* Do I want my users to care about something?
Then I should end by giving them a damn good reason... something that touches the emotional side of their brain. (Note: by "care" I'm talking about things like, "care about writing software tests" or "care about creating good user docs" or "care about the importance of endings.")

* Do I want my users to know that we care about them?
Then make sure the user experience has a satisfying ending, and that means every session. (Think of how many times you've bought something online and while the shopping part is compelling, once they've taken your credit card info you're lucky to even get a text confirmation on the screen.)

* Do I want my users to feel like they kick ass?
Then I should focus less on what they think of me or my product, and more on how they'll feel about themselves as a result of the interaction. If they experience frustration, confusion, fear, anxiety, intimidation, and so on, that can be an "I suck" experience.


So, endings are crucial. They're what sticks. But why, then, are there so many examples of bad (or at least wimpy) endings?
What do YOU think?
Do you have any examples of good or bad endings?

[Bonus link: <a href="http://filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/95a45e26914c25ff862562bb006a85f2/394a496e465c4f38882571b900114dc5?OpenDocument">Top 50 Movie Endings]

Oh, and stay tuned because soon we're going to talk about very cool things to do with beginnings, including how to seduce your users into wanting more...

The End.

(or is it?)

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  Are your users stuck in &quot;P&quot; mode?

Slrprogrammode_2

How many things do you own where you can't use more than 10% of what they can actually can do? The home stereo you play CDs on but gave up on Surround Sound. The cell phone that can fry eggs, but you still can't get it to vibrate . The software app where half the menus might as well be Latin. So what are we doing to make sure this doesn't happen to our users?

Several weeks' back I took a one-night Digital SLR class, and at the beginning the teacher asked us each to say why we were there. All 18 of us said the same thing, one after the other: "I know I have an SLR that can do so many things, but I'm still stuck in "P"--Program Mode--and I don't know how to use anything else." In other words, we were all using our pricey bazillion-megapixel cameras like point-and-shoot disposables.

Here we are with all this power and flexibility, and we can't get past AUTOMATIC. Why? It's tempting to just write it off as a usability flaw. But that's not the case with my camera--the Nikon D200 is dead easy to adjust. For most of us, the problem was NOT that we couldn't learn how to use anything but automatic "P" mode. The problem was that we didn't know why or when to use anything else.

It wasn't simply a camera problem--it was a photography problem. The camera manuals describe precisely how to turn the dials and push the buttons, but never tell us why we'd want to. They focus on the tool rather than the thing the tool enables (taking pictures). What good does it do to master a tool if we haven't understood (let alone mastered) the thing we're using the tool for ?

As we've talked about a zillion times on this blog--where there is passion, there is always a user kicking ass. If users are stuck in permanent beginner mode, and can't really do anything interesting or cool with a thing (product, service, etc.), they're not likely to become passionate. They grow bored or frustrated and then that "tool" turns to shelfware.

Capabilitiesvennonebad_1

[Note: I'm not talking about a scenario where the green circle is just too damn big because they've added too damn many features. This is about where the user is stuck not being able to do any of the good stuff. Remember, this is the "passionate users" blog...]



What's your product or service equivalent of "P" mode?

Are your users stuck with a small purple circle of capability within a huge green circle of possibilities? We have to keep asking ourselves:

1) Are we focusing too much on the tool (e.g. camera ) rather than the thing our users are trying to do with the tool (e.g. photography )? And by "focusing", I mean that your documentation, support, training, marketing, and possibly product design are all about the tool rather than whatever the tool enables.

If we want passionate users, we have to help them do something cool... fast. And "do something cool" does NOT mean, "learn to use the interface." (Keep in mind that "cool" is in the eye of the beholder... one man's "really cool pivot tables" is another man's "lame Excel tricks")



2) Is the product just too damn hard to use even if a user does know what they want to do with it?



3) Do we encourage/support a user community that emphasizes mastery of the thing the tool is for ? In other words, does your product/service have the equivalent of a FlickR community... to help give users the motivation for pushing past the "P"?



4) Do we train our users to become better at the thing they use the tool for , in a way that helps make the need for all those other features seem obvious?

If our users are stuck in "P", they'll never get into the flow state. They'll never have that hi-resolution experience. They'll never become passionate .

Soooooo... let's assume we do all that--we help our users get past "P" and into the good stuff. The challenging stuff. They learn, they practice, they master the tool. Then what? What is the implication of a user who does master the tool?

Capabilitiesvennthreewrong

On the surface, simply increasing the size of the user's purple circle relative to the product's big-ass green circle seems like the right thing to do. But is it? Is there a limit? Should there always be a little buffer zone of green just beyond the user's capabilities? And capabilities for what ? How would you label the purple and green circles? Would you include the capabilities of the tool AND the potential things the tool could let you do?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about:

* why users (of some things) are so often stuck in "P"

* how this applies to things other than tools

* what we can do to help push users out of that little comfort/automatic zone and into the more interesting things

* what does it mean when the purple circle starts to fill the green circle, and how we might relabel/rethink these circles as the product and/or user capability matures

* anything else (heard any good jokes lately?)

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  Silver lining on Sun layoffs?

Silverlining_1

Today is yet another Big Layoff Reduction-in-Force Day at Sun Microsystems. Between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs are expected to be cut this year, and today 311 jobs were cut from my local Sun Colorado campus. I have only a few friends left there... most of us got the boot one way or another over the last 4 years. But what I think is worse than the layoffs is the anticipation of layoffs. Ever since the first cuts began (the first one was supposed to be the only one, but there have been a gazillion since then), most of the employees who made each successive cut became more and more anxious, and less and less focused on whatever it is we were supposed to be doing to help the company turn things around (after the whole "we're the dot in dot com" thing stopped being Good Positioning).

I suppose I was one of the lucky ones... tossed out fairly early. And had that not happened, I would never have been "forced" to do the only thing I could think of -- write a technical book. So for me, there was a HUGE silver lining. I'm not sure I'd have had the courage to throw my self out of a Regular Paycheck Job.

The bizarre thing that prompted this post, though, was a story on today's cover of our local "Daily Camera" newspaper. It seems that local restaurants and bars have found a silver lining--the anticipation of a huge boost of business normally found only on weekends. In today's story titled, Layoffs Pushing Happy Hours , the anticipated "mass Sun exodus" drove local businesses to staff up and modify happy hour times to be ready for them.

And for those who did get cut today--I'll raise a glass for you. As awful as it might feel today, I'm surrounded now by a dozen of my local Sun Refugee friends who are all--ALL--much happier now. Simon Roberts is now a flight instructor and photographer. Solveig Haugland is now a consultant/trainer/expert in All Things Open Office . Kathy Collina went back to school to become a therapist. Annette went to massage school. And I'm here, and rather than travelling every other week to Baltimore, Kansas City, and Phoenix (no offense--all fine cities) I now get to travel to Spain, New Zealand, and London. I hope and believe that one day soon you'll be able to celebrate.

I learned a lot of wonderful things at my time at Sun--things I'll use forever. But in the end, leaving turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Sappy, I know. But true.

[Update: I forgot to mention a site you should visit if you DID survive this round and are still in the corporate world (or contempating leaving anyway), by someone who knows a thing or two about corporate dysfunction at, say, Sun... David St. Lawrence has a site and a book titled Danger Quicksand! Have a Nice Day! . Highly recommended.]

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  I am not a &quot;woman blogger&quot;

<img alt="Lacebra" title="Lacebra" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/lacebra.jpg" border="0" />

I am "one who blogs" (among many other things). I happen to be a woman. But I am NOT a <a href="http://www.blogher.org/">blogHer, and my male co-author is not a blogHim.

I write code. But I am NOT a programmHer.

I write tech books. But I am NOT a writeHer.

I ride horses. But I am NOT a rideHer. (sounds vaguely sexual... never mind)

I am NOT a skiHer or a skateboardHer or a runHer.

I work on ecological causes, but I am NOT an enviHERmental activist.

And I am NOT typing this on my computeHer (even if it is, I must say, a sexy-yet-adorable black MacBook)

These are my passions, but they reflect the part of me that is about horses, running, skiing, skating, the environment, writing, or creating. If I relabel them to reflect my gender, I believe both (my gender and the labeled thing) are diminished by the "Her" qualifier.

This is just my opinion, and I'm not an expert on women's issues or gender studies or sociology.
But I know quite a lot about being a woman in technology.

And while I cannot speak for all (or even most) women in tech, I am tired of others speaking for ME. And in the recent coverage of the BlogHer conference, I've seen some disturbing sweeping statements that lump all bloggers-who-happen-to-be-women together as the "Women Bloggers", with detailed descriptions of what's it like to be one of "us".
(Ironically, many of those descriptions--even among those who were there--are wildly different and contradictory, sometimes bitterly so.)

[Key disclaimer: it's only a small subset of women from the conference--and reporters writing about it--who've been making the claims. Most of the women who attended--including the smart, savvy, founders--understand, appreciate, and welcome the diversity of the women who make up the BlogHer community. I know and admire many of them.]

I'm tired of being told things about myself that sound as foreign to me as they might to a space alien. I am tired of others describing what it's like to BE me. I'm tired of being told what others think of me. And I'm especially tired of being told how naive I am, and of having my accomplishments diminished by women who insist that to have visibility as a "Woman Blogger" I must have done something, um, special. And by "special", I mean... sucking up, kissing up, or otherwise catering to the "male establishment that's oh so determined to keep me "invisible."

All of you reading this are a proof that--for me--this is absurd. If you're here, I'm most definitely not invisible.

And as for blaming men for our problems, oh if ONLY I had the luxury of believing that when I've failed at work, it was because of my breasts. But when your default assumption is that you probably have nobody to blame but yourself, you're forced to look very hard at yourself. Does this mean I refuse to ever consider the possibility that I was a victim of gender discrimination or at least unconscious gender bias? No. It's always possible, although less often and less signifcantly than in many other domains. (Ask my female firefighter friend... yikes)

I heard several people--male and female--wonder if the small percentage of men at BlogHer would now understand what it's like to be a woman at a technology conference, but I believe this is not a fair comparison. O'Reilly's eTech is not HeTech. Those men aren't there as codeHims. They aren't celebrating their manhood. They are there as programmers. Humans who write code.

I want to be treated, as Maura says in <a href="http://www.notmyself.com/2006/07/im-going-back-to-find-some-piece-of-mind">this post "like a person. Not a woman or a man or a space alien."

The tagline I've used on and off over the past 15 years to indicate how lucky I feel about being in a profession (and in a country) where gender is not nearly as important today as it once was (and yes, I'm extremely grateful for all those who fought to make this happen):

"The compiler doesn't care if the person who forgot the curly brace is wearing a black lace bra."

Yes, I realize that the compiler is not the whole story... and that while the compiler is gender-blind, the context in which you're asked to write that code is loaded with interpersonal issues. Still...
I love being a woman. I love wearing a lace bra. And I love writing code. Personally, I'm delighted at how well these can work together. And my big wish is that more women--especially younger women--will discover the same thing.

I'd also like to suggest two other posts by people who are as confused as I am by this:

Brian Ford's <a href="http://brianford.newsvine.com/_news/2006/07/30/306033-blogher-whats-the-goal#c231995">What's the Goal of BlogHer post (lots of good comments).

Mike Sansone's <a href="http://www.converstations.com/2006/07/blogher_where_t.html">Where the women bloggers are.

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  When the &quot;best tool for the job&quot;... isn't.

Eqappropriate

[sweeping generalization alert]

Programmers / software developers fall roughly into two camps when it comes to choosing languages, frameworks, etc.:

1) Those who want to use the tool they love

vs.

2) Those who say, "use the best tool for the job"

The "best tool" group makes a compelling argument. It's the most logical, for sure.

The "best tool" group (correctly) recognizes that passion for a tool can cloud your judgement... the "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" syndrome.

The "best tool" group is sensible, smart, and unemotional.

The "tool love" group, on the other hand, has a less compelling case. Too much attachment to a particular tool has that tinge of emotional irrationality. Geek street cred goes down as passion for a tool goes up. But given the inherent "rightness" and moral superiority of the "best tool" group, I still think it's worth looking more deeply.

First, just what the hell DOES "best tool for the job" actually mean ? Best at what ? I think we usually take it to mean, "most appropriate for the task"). But is appropriateness-for-task really the best criteria for "best"? That depends, of course, and NOBODY advocates using a tool that completely sucks at the task you're faced with.

But what about learning curve? Available resources? Shouldn't the appropriateness of the tool be balanced against how much expertise you have in that tool? There must a threshold at which using the best-tool-you-don't-know ends up being a less productive and perhaps less performing choice than choosing a tool you know well that while UP to the task, isn't perfect.

There are tradeoffs everywhere, of course. For example, let's say I can tweak and hack a tool to do what I need, more productively than with the tool I don't know... but those hacks might hurt maintenance down the road. But still...

So current expertise has to be factored in and while I believe most sensible project managers do , I've had way too many emails (and students) who were pushed into learning a new tool in a week by someone who has no clue how LONG it takes to get really good at some of this. Learning curve needs to get a bit more respect.

But you knew where this post was going... the "passion" factor. How much weight should the love you feel for the tool get? A lot more than it usually gets. Yes, there's irrationality that must be tempered and challenged by those who don't share that passion. And yes, there's a tendency to frame the problem in terms of the solution you already know. But even with all that, the benefits of passion are so often underrated.

Think about it. From everything we've learned here reverse-engineering passion, the one most consistent attribute we find across things people are passionate about is learning . When people are truly passionate about something, they want to learn more and more and more. They invest time and effort getting better , not just because they're forced to by their job, but because they genuinely enjoy being better at it. (hi-res experience and all that)

I think too many people underestimate the value of that drive to become more expert, and what it could mean to a project.

Now, I'm NOT suggesting that you NEED passion in order to be an expert and do the best job with a tool. I'm saying that passion (or at least a Big Like) should be factored in to the mix when choosing the "best tool for the job".

When we talk about "best tool for the job", we should look not only at "best for the task", but also "best for those who must use it." Ahhhh... you can probably tell that I just returned from OSCON, where Ruby/Rails love (and still a whole lotta Perl love) are in the air.

Once again, I'm reminded that this is a great time to be a programmer, because people ARE starting to care about Creating Happy Programmers (see also David HH's original eWeek article on Programmer Happiness )

So perhaps we're not ready for Emo Programming� , but there's still more to choosing a tool than what's right for the task. We cannot weigh the appropriateness of the tool without factoring in both task appropriateness and user relationship with the tool. ; )

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  Declaration of (job) independence

Declaration

If you're thinking about ditching the corporate job and heading out on your own, you can't do any better than to get help and inspiration from Pamela Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation blog.

And to anyone who feels like a "corporate prisoner", or who has recently taken the leap and could use a gentle reminder of what this is about, I urge you to watch her little Flash movie, Declaration of Independence . It might be the most inspirational 3 minutes I've experienced in quite a while.

Pam told me her goal was, "...a simple desire to spend 3 minutes whispering something positive and encouraging in their ear."

I hear so many people underestimate/devalue/dismiss the importance of motivation. Yet so often, a lack of motivation is the only thing standing between you and something you really want to try.

Once again, I'm reminded that life is just too damn short not to go for it. Or too damn long. Take your pick ; )

- Kathy Sierra
 
 
  We can't leave innovation up to our users

<img alt="Kahn_3" title="Kahn_3" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/kahn_3.jpg" border="0" />

"The world never needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it."
-- Louis I. Kahn

In this Web 2.0-ish world we're supposed to be all about the users being in control. Where the "community" drives the product. But the user community can't create art. (And I use "art" with a lowercase "a" as in software, books, just about anything we might design and craft.) That's up to us.
(<a href="http://www.threadless.com/">Threadless excepted)

Our users will tell us where the pain is. Our users will drive incremental improvements. But the user community can't do the revolutionary innovation for us. That's up to us.

The world never needed the iPod until Apple created it. Now, look how many of us could not live without it.
[And before you snark about how we're just trying to look cool or be fashionable... no, this is about the way in which we're able to integrate music into our lives in a way that wasn't possible before. But that's for another post.]

The world never needed GUIs.
Or digital cameras.
Or cafe mochas.
Or skateboards.

But I have a hard time imagining my life without those things.

I can survive without them. But do those things give me pleasure and enhance my life in ways that I'd rather not give up? Just as Kahn says about Beethoven's Fifth? (Actually, I prefer the 7th, but whatever) Yes. Were these "needs" manipulatively planted in my brain against my will? I don't think so.

The point is that sometimes:

"The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need.
(this is the first part of the quote at the top of this post) -- Louis I Kahn

FYI -- I was inspired to do this by the documentary I saw last night, <a href="http://www.myarchitectfilm.com/">My Architect, a film by Kahn's son (searching for the secret to his father). I highly recommend it.

<img alt="Salk1" title="Salk1" src="http://headrush.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/salk1.jpg" border="0" />
(Picture of one of Kahn's best, the Salk Institute.)

- Kathy Sierra
 
 Outlink The Jason Calacanis Weblog, 8/25/2006; 1:03:51 AM.
XML
 
  Body language Experts discuss Karr/Ramsey case on Netscape. Some nice metajournalism over at Netscape:
http://news.netscape.com/story/2006/08/17/karr-says-he-drugged-and-assaulted-ramsey/
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  AJAX is not a business model.. People are selling their web 2.0 startups on ebay... but it's not a bubble. Nooooooooo..... :-)

To all the first time entrepreneurs out there (who care to listen): page views mean nothing, revenue means something, and earnings mean everything.
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  The Modern Ethicist: Does my pre-order entitle me to bittorrent a CD?. Walt Mossberg and I had an interesting debate recently over users rights and copyright in the modern era. These are complex issues and we went back and forth challenging each other on various scenarios in which users, DRM, and copyright were colliding. Today I had one and i thought I would put the question out to you guys before giving you the right answer (aka my answer :-).

Question: I just pre-ordered Bob Dylan's Moderm Times on iTunes. I'm sure the album will be available on the Internet before the release date, does my purchasing the album ahead of time give me the right to download it now? Is there any harm in me downloading it ahead of time?

Please post your answer on your blog.

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  Ten more navigators makes 20 (or "Proving Benkler wrong one day at a time..."). OK, that's a hyperbolic title, but it's become clear in a very short period of time that hiring the top bookmarkers is a not a good idea--it's a great idea! Benkler is much smarter than I am, no one is gonna debate that, but when it comes to building a business I wouldn't bet on the academics over the kid from Brooklyn. :-)

Voting, comments, and a number of other factors have doubled (or tripled) over the past two weeks at Netscape since we hired our first 10 Navigators. These folks are doing an AMAZING job of not only putting in good stories, but they are building the community by *teaching* and *showing* folks how to be good citizens on a social bookmarking site. That is really what this is about, training folks on how to be members of the community and truth be told I've learned a lot from the Navigators and Benkler on that subject--it is the key.

As a result of the success I'm thrilled to announce we are hiring 10 more Navigators. We've filled five of these ten positions so far, so we have 15 or 20 slots filled. You'll know many of the names:
  1. Muhammad, aka #9 msaleem from Digg
    Digg profile | Netscape profile
  2. Ryan, aka #10 capn-caveman from Digg
    Digg profile | Netscape profile
  3. Roy, aka schestowitz from Digg
    Digg profile | Netscape profile
  4. Kam, aka _kam0_ #2 from Redditt & from Delicious
    Reddit profile | Netscape profile | Delicious profile
  5. Tim Loftis, who has submitted over 1000 posts and counting to Netscape--and is our #1 Member!!!
    Netscape Profile
I'm most proud of that last one. Tim Loftis is our #1 user and he has been a social bookmarking machine having submitted over 1,000 stories in under two months. My plan was to wait for 3-6 months to see which users were really performing, but it's clear Tim is a star and we wanted to recognize that (please join me in congratulating him!).

At this point we're looking for folks outside of the technology space, and if you want to try and land one of these slots the best way to impress us is by participating at Netscape. We're going to try and hire a person a week for the next couple of weeks.

We are looking for folks to take on channels like:
  • Real Estate
  • Autos
  • Love & Personals
  • Religion
  • Careers & Jobs
  • Shopping
  • Do No Evil
  • Music
  • Family
  • Pets
  • Gay & Lesbian
NOTE: This whole "paying folks to bookmark" thing is an experiment. We could cancel the program at any time for any reason. We might expand it at any time--who the heck knows, it's an experiment! We're not gonna hire everyone, in fact we are going to hire very few folks--it's an experiment. We can't guarantee anything--this is an experiment (did I mention this is an experiment?). In order to be considered send your user account information to CK (at) weblogsinc.com (i.e. your newsvine, reddit, delicious, digg, netscape accounts), and be a productive member of the community. We want to hire from the community as much as possible... but this is an experiment and we reserve the right to cancel the program at any time for any reason. (yes, the legal department wants me to be very clear about things if you have not noticed. :-)
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  Looking for NYC-based Preditor (producer/editor). We're looking for a full-time video producer editor in New York City. If you're looking to travel to cool events with the Netscape Anchor team and create video please contact ck (at) weblogsinc.com.

more here:
http://careers.netscape.com/story/2006/07/29/so-you-want-to-be-a-netscape-anchor-and-preditor/
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  email of the day.... From a fellow AOLer:

Jason,

I have to be honest with you, which I know you'll appreciate. When you first came aboard, I was pretty uncertain of you. Your demeanor and manner of speaking didn't seem as though they'd mesh well at AOL.

But as time has gone by, and I've followed your blog, and your messages to the lists, and your actions, I think you're exactly what AOL has needed for a long time. I am impressed and inspired by your vision, your energy, and your boldness; your willingness to say and do whatever you feel needs to be said or done. I may not always agree with what you say, but I'm glad you say it just the same.

You've got brass balls, my friend, and I am glad you're here. Please keep it up.

--
[NAME Removed]
[Title removed--but it's someone who makes stuff]
AOL [Group removed]
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  Noted. Dave: I've seen so many articles on Wikipedia on subjects that I know that are just plain wrong, and when I try to fix it, the fix gets undone within minutes. Sorry I'm not willing to commit my life, or a big portion of it, to a Wikipedia page. So mistakes live on, sometimes big ones.

Fred: Yes companies need to have privacy policies. And yes they need to adhere to them. And yes, they shouldn't be making public people's search queries. And yes, consumers should be able to easily opt out of these targeting approaches.But cookies and stored search queries are good things. They make it possible for web services to deliver relevancy in advertising, something no other media has been able to deliver efficiently and reliably.

Jeff has a great tag on exploding newspapers. I've been thinking about newspapers a lot since Dan Gillmor's journalism event at Harvard 10 days ago. In another 18-24 months newspapers are gonna hit the bottom and I think I'm gonna swoop in and try and buy one, build out the online portion, and buy a local TV station to go with it. Newspapers are not dead, they just have another purpose in life. "I'm watching you" guys (say in DeNiro voice from Meet the Parents/Fockers while pointing the piece symbol into your eyes for extra effect :-).

Filled under "hello?!?!" -- there is no A, B, or C list in the blogosphere people. There is your list, my list, and the entire list. No one is blocking anyone, no one is in a position of power, it's flat... you can do whatever you want--stop crying about it and post something interesting.
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  Scientologists discover social bookmarking.. Looks like Scientologists have discovered social bookmarking a missionary vehical, and it *seems* we've got a group of Scientologists posting a bunch of Scientology stories on Netscape:
http://www.netscape.com/member/_alf/
http://www.netscape.com/member/maverickattack/
http://www.netscape.com/member/jroyce/
http://www.netscape.com/member/=shaun=/
http://www.netscape.com/member/Sk8er/
http://www.netscape.com/member/TurboTad/
http://www.netscape.com/member/JetteroHeller/
http://www.netscape.com/member/bradgpeabody/
http://www.netscape.com/member/jpettyjohn/
This should get very interesting (and I'm glad we have a regligion channel).

Scientology tags are filling up as well:
http://www.netscape.com/tag/scientology/
http://www.netscape.com/tag/dianetics/
http://www.netscape.com/tag/scientologist/
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  No, we did not spam digg (duh?!). There is a story on digg that we (Weblogs, Inc/AOL) have been "spamming" digg because our bloggers participate on the site. Our bloggers submit links to digg all the time, they ask their friends to vote for stories all the time, and this is totally within digg's guidelines. I've had many discussions with Kevin Rose (founder of digg) about the issues of friends voting for each other on social news sites including digg and he has told me over and over again it's not only fine, it's encouraged. When a dozen or so folks digg a story for each other on digg that means they are 12 out of the 500-2,500 diggs on a story.

Spamming is negative word and we would never be involved in that. We specifically tell our folks to only put their best quality stuff on social bookmarking sites. We don't put all of our 10,000 blog posts a month on these sites because we know they are not going to get voted up anyway. It's self-correcting.

Thank you to all the folks who pointed out that we're not "spamming" digg and how stupid this argument is since the top 20 users (and countless other folks) on all these services are constantly voting for each other.

If digg changes their rules and says friends can't vote for each others stories--or they start shutting off stories where the same folks vote for each other--that's totally fine. However, everyone who uses these services knows that getting people to vote for your story is part of the democratic process. It's the lobbying part of the effort. I get IMs all day long from all kinds of quality people asking me to vote for their stories... like A-list folks.

We thought long and hard about these issues at Netscape. The way we manage this issue on Netscape is that if the same folks vote for the same stories over and over again it triggers an alarm (i.e. the same four folks on the same four stories in some short period of time) it triggers and alarm. If too many users complain it triggers an alarm as well (just like digg does). The site in question gets turned off for two weeks while we investigate if it was gaming of the system. We even talk to the publishers of the sites to teach them how not to have this happen and to be better contributors.
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  YouTube down.... I love web 2.0... anything can be down and if you put a funny message up it's all good. Seriously, it's a lot less pressure than the old days when you were absolutely embarrassed and terrified when you blog went down. You know why it's not a big deal for all these Web 2.0 companies to go down? Answer: they don't have advertising or subscription revenue. When you start making $25,000 or $100,000 a day on your website you start taking this stuff seriously.

You can be sure that now that MySpace has a $900M deal with Google they are gonna spend $100M on servers.
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  MuteJason. I think this is gonna make some folks really happy: mutejason.com.

Strange... http://mutejason.com/blog/about/
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  BBC is on it.... The BBC is on it... quoting bloggers on their main pages. Love it!



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  Top 50 domains on Netscape. We just ran a search of the top domains by story submission on Netscape. Some of these are spammers who we have banned.

Ironic that Yahoo News is being submitted more than AOL News and CNN.

Top Fifty Domains
757 news.yahoo.com
460 www.cnn.com
363 entertainment.oneindia.in
348 www.msnbc.msn.com
335 masc2279.no-ip.org
302 news.bbc.co.uk
292 247wallst.blogspot.com
292 www.nytimes.com
285 www.starpulse.com
275 today.reuters.com
209 www.sflorg.com
195 news.com.com
195 www.youtube.com
194 www.nwfdailynews.com
187 abcnews.go.com
180 news.oneindia.in
166 www.cbsnews.com
165 www.bankrate.com
164 www.gadgetell.com
161 www.breitbart.com
149 hosted.ap.org
148 hollywoodgossipwhores.blogspot.com
144 www.theroyalist.net
142 articles.news.aol.com
133 www.exposay.com
129 www.washingtonpost.com
126 www.whatsnextnetwork.com
125 blogcritics.org
118 www.usatoday.com
116 news.aol.com
114 www.foxnews.com
107 www.businessweek.com
107 www.latimes.com
102 autoreview.belproject.com
100 www.thecancerblog.com
98 sports.espn.go.com
98 living.oneindia.in
94 xfile007.blogspot.com
90 arstechnica.com
88 www.engadget.com
81 miscgroups.blogspot.com
79 money.cnn.com
77 www.bradsawyer.com
75 www.forbes.com
72 www.slashfilm.com
71 fifaworldcup.sporati.com
71 www.rawstory.com
70 www.livescience.com
70 www.guardian.co.uk
62 fiucer.blogsome.com
62 www.tmz.com
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  Happy Days: AOL buys Userplane!.

Filed under:

Updates: More at http://www.userplane.com/aol/ and an interview with Userplane's CEO at Downloadsquad:
http://www.downloadsquad.com/2006/08/14/userplane-ceo-michael-jones-download-squad-interview/

Userplane was one of our first advertisers at Weblogs, Inc. They make great communication software and I'm really excited that AOL bought the company today!

This is gonna be a really great shot in the arm for us... I can't wait to start working with them. Welcome aboard team Userplane!!
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  Great new podcast: Less than 3. I found these guys on Technorati after they mentioned me on their first podcast. So, I emailed and and thanked them for their intelligent comments and offered to be on their show. They said sure, and so I taped a show with them this week.

Great stuf...

http://lessthan3.ca/blog/?p=9
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  Smart people are talking about AOL; let's pay them back by listening..

Filed under:

I'm still seething and I'm reticent to blog about my feeling right now for fear I'll say something I regret.

However, there are a lot of smart folks out there talking about us (AOL) and I'm going to highlight them here (note: I'm not going to respond to everything they are saying--I want to, but I'm in my "cool off" period right now and I'm gonna try and stick to it). I've been discussing what these smart people are saying about us with anyone and everyone at AOL who will listen to me. I'm thinking about planning a corporate retreat where we bring these folks in and have them just vent on us and point out all the problems we have. It would be brutal, but as they say "the truth shall make you free." Also, the first step in sucking less, is knowing you suck.

Here are three blogs/podcasts that everyone at AOL need to listen to right now. So, drop what you're doing and listen/read these.

  1. David Strom is a very smart guy who's been thinking and writing about software and the Internet for a couple of decades. He has a great blog post about AOL software on his blog. It's a very harsh post from a very smart person--he has some great points.
  2. Molly Wood, Veronica Belmont, and Tom Merrit do a great podcast that I listen to every single day at CNET called Buzz Outloud. They also have a great conversation about AOL software. They are also very harsh on AOL--but again, these are very smart people. Everyone at AOL should stop what they're doing right now (tell your boss I said it's OK), and listen to this podcast. At 3:46 in they are talking about how great it is that we are giving away free anti-virus software (we're the first major company to do it). They are so excited about it UNTIL they bring up the recent privacy issues with AOL and the ability to uninstall our software. They say: "if you've ever installed AIM you know how hard it is to get rid of" and "it gets it clutches deep within your computer--is this antivirus gonna be the same way?"
  3. Danny Sullivan is a brilliant guy and he does an amazing podcast called the Daily SearchCast. I listen to it every single day. He did a special edition yesterday where he interviews Eric Schmidt and asks him about my proposal for search engines to not keep search data (7:45 in).
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  Hard times at AOL right now..

Filed under:

Ted checks in on what people are calling the "data Valdez." It so nice having Ted blogging, sometimes I feel like I'm alone on the front lines. I wish other senior executives would start blogging at AOL (hint, hint)--or at least commenting (you guys know you can post a comment to Ted's blog or my blog right?).

I have to be honest with y'all: it's hard times at AOL right now, that's for sure.

Every couple of steps we take going forward (Netscape, TMZ, Live8, moving to the free model, AIM Pro, AIM Pages, free five gigs of backup, 40% growth of advertising for Q2--beating Yahoo, MapQuests API, AOL Uncut Video), we seem to get hit back by something horrible like "the call" or "the data Valdez." The truth is the company is moving forward, but these things create a horrible perception problem, and it has a real world impact in that it de-motivates my teams and it makes it so much harder to get new people into the company. Smart folks ask me about stuff like "the call" when I try to recruit them for AOL, and I have to assure them it isn't gonna happen again. It's not easy, and I wish I could tell you I always win that fight--but I don't.

I was so angry today that I had to get off my computer and do a three-mile run. I'm back at my desk but I'm still seething--how could this happen?! Everyone is working so hard to get AOL on the right track, and it all gets forgotten when this kind of thing happens.

I think I'm gonna take the rest of the week off from blogging as a "cool down"period. I don't want to say something I regret, and I don't want to become the spokesperson for the entire company--that's not my job and it's not my desire. I just want to build cool stuff with cool people I respect.

To my team (and everyone at AOL), keep fighting the good fight. Put your anger into your game and stay focused. The darkest hour is the one before the dawn. We're gonna get through this.

[Note: AOL staffers can feel free to post their comments below--anonymous or on the record. I'll turn them on for you if you use a fake email. ]
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  diggScape 2.0 wish list.. Whoever made the very cool diggScape can you make a version which submits to delicious and reddit too?
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  Gaming on Netscape. We're trying to be more transparent than other social news sites about how we ban people.

Details here: http://tech.netscape.com/story/2006/08/09/people-trying-to-game-netscape/
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  Killing yourself to save yourself (or "I don't believe you... you're a liiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaar!". Someone transcribed a portion of the MCN (<--that's an MP3 file) Dave, Doc, and I did at Wikimania this week. Perhaps the best podcast we've all done:

You tend to fall in love with your first brand, and you can't let it go. And I did that with Silicon Alley Reporter magazine, and it's well documented that I could have sold it for 20 million bucks, and I didn't, and I got a fraction of that [when I eventually sold it], and then when the next [opportunity] came around, Weblogs, Inc., I sold it after 18 months, instead of holding the other brand [Silicon Alley Reporter] for six years, and I did much better in 18 months than I did in six years...

You have to always be confident that you are able to create another hit, you're not a one-hit wonder, and that your future is always brighter than your past. You can't live with this fear of losing this monster you created. And sometimes you gotta kill it, and I always give people the example of Bob Dylan, because when Bob Dylan took folk music as far as his interest in it...could go and then he said, "I want to do electric, it's more interesting to me," and there's that famous thing at Royal Albert Hall where somebody yells at him and says, "You're Judas," and [Dylan] says, "I don't believe you, you're a liiiiiiar," [laughter] and then he turns around to his band and he says, "Play real fuckin' louuuuuud," and then he turns around and he plays "Like a Rolling Stone," which is arguably his best song ever and he did some of his best work after that.

You have to reinvent yourself, and sometimes you have to kill your previous persona. I had to kill [my] Silicon Alley Reporter persona to become Weblogs, Inc. I'll have to kill Weblogs, Inc. to be Netscape, kill Netscape to be whatever comes after that. You can't live on your past brand, or else it owns you, and you no longer own it.

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 Outlink The Social Software Weblog, 8/25/2006; 1:03:46 AM.
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  Social software coverage now on Download Squad.

Filed under:

Yes folks, it is the end of an era -- or at least, the end of this blog as we know it. Our Social Software coverage has been subsumed by a larger entity, although without the usual acquisition rumours, inebriated launch party (complete with Flickr RSS feed) or sudden influx of VC money. Our own Download Squad will be proudly taking over coverage of news in the social software space, so tune in over there for your daily fix; set your new bookmarks to the Social Software category or the main Download Squad site, and reorient your voracious newsreaders to the Social Software RSS feed and/or the Download Squad main RSS feed.

Thank you, and good night.
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Sponsored by: Userplane Apps: Live communication applications powering the world's leading online communities.

 
 
  Imagination Cubed online whiteboard.

Filed under: ,


From the same nice people who brought us that dishwasher churning away in the next room comes an exiting new way to visually brainstorm and collaborate with your friends! Ok, so it might not be all that "new," and some of you might not find it particularly "exciting," but dammit, I thought it was cool. Developed by General Electric, Imagination Cubed (hence-force to be known as I^3, for the self-serving purpose of me not having to type it out each time) is another one of them multi-user online whiteboards. As I said, nothing particularly special about that. The cool thing about I^3 that sets it apart from other similar tools is the fact that there are no accounts, and therefore, you never have to go out of your way to make sure your friends and co-workers are registered. Simply visit the site and invite up to 2 other people to simultaneously use your white board. When you're done, you can print your final product, see a replay of what happened, or save the white board for later. I can see this being really useful for those times when you are trying to explain to their mother-in-law how to use tivo to record "Today in Cats," and that she needs to "push the green button, not that one, the other one, I mean the big green button shaped like a rhinoceros, here let me draw it for you!" You can also add text to your drawing, change the background color, and display a grid to help you draw more geometrically.

Wrap all this up in a delicious nougat AJAX interface and you've got yourself a winning web 2.0 application. Now, if only they could find a way to monetize it...

Via Lifehacker
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Sponsored by: Userplane Apps: Live communication applications powering the world's leading online communities.

 
 
  Patent on social networking granted - to Friendster.

Filed under: , ,

"Friend-what?" you might be asking, but it's true: Red Herring is reporting that Friendster, the ill-fated social networking that (I think) started it all, has been granted a patent on social networks. Following a great tradition of painstakingly clear patent language, Friendster owns the patent for a "system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks".

Whether Friendster will use the time-tested 'if you can't beat 'em, take em to court' strategy is yet to be seen, but to their credit: they apparently applied for the patent (issued June 27 of 2006) way back in the day, before they fell from their perch.

[via Slashdot]
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Sponsored by: Userplane Apps: Live communication applications powering the world's leading online communities.

 
 
  Jookster.

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Jookster mashes up web archiving, social networking, and ranked searching to provide a new service that I think has some interesting things going with it. After signing up for a Jookster profile and installing the Firefox tool-bar, users have access to personalized searches and instant web archiving. Clicking on the Jook This button in the tool-bar instantly archives a copy of the page you are visiting and indexes it for search. You can go back at your convenience and search through all the pages you have jooked. The cool thing about Jookster however is not the fact that it can archive and index content, Yahoo MyWeb 2.0 has been doing this for ages. The cool aspect of Jookster is the social aspect. Adding buddies with similar interests expands your search results to include things jooked by them, and their buddies, and their buddies buddies, etc. You can specify how many degrees of separation you want to search. The search results are ranked by how many degrees the person who jooked a page is away from you. This feature brings in a concept that has been much talked about at the Supernova conference this week; the fact that outside of the web, we use trusted contacts so look for information, and judge the quality information based on the what you think of your friends. Jookster brings this idea to the web, and I think it could be the start of something big. Imaging searching for information on the ecosystem of the amazon rain forest and being able to see that a biologist you know had jooked a result; wouldn't that immediately reassure you that the information there would be good stuff?

I think Jookster is a great idea, and even if it turns out that it is one of the many startups that will go belly up in this boom, I'm confident that the underlying ideas it embraces will be something that we are using for years to come.
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  Billy Bragg to MySpace: You'll get nothing and like it!. Rupert Murdoch and Billy Bragg: you have to wonder how these guys got in bed in the first place. It's a notion that'll induce Scanners-esque head explosions and I wouldn't spend much more time it, as the avowed socialist Bragg has taken his toothbrush and, we presume, did not let the door hit him on the way out of avowed capitalist Murdoch's crib.
Irked by terms of service that apparently gave MySpace "a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" his music, British songwriter Billy Bragg pulled his music from the social networking site.
Bragg's MySpace.com page offers this explanation: "SORRY THERE'S NO MUSIC," because "once an artist posts up any content (including songs), it then belongs to My Space (AKA Rupert Murdoch) and they can do what they want with it, throughout the world without paying the artist."
As Publishing 2.0 notes, the falling out is a harsh reminder of the lengths MySpace will go to compensate for not owning any of the content (read: the underlying value upon which much of the enterprise depends) posted on its sites and of MySpace's still-showing Web 1.0 roots.
Naturally, MySpace chalks this all up to a bit of sloppy lawyering.
"Because the legalese has caused some confusion, we are at work revising it to make it very clear that MySpace is not seeking a license to do anything with an artist's work other than allow it to be shared in the manner the artist intends," Berman says. "Obviously, we don't own their music or do anything with it that they don't want."
Whew. Well, I'm relieved; how about you? As we all know, when someone dismisses the tiny print in a contract as "legalese," that part is immediately invalidated, right?
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  Heat mapping your transportation decisions.

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MySociety.org, a British tech nonprofit project that builds and showcases new tools for civic good, has released a beautiful series of maps illustrating various transportation data sets around England.  See, for example, this sample map showing whether public transport (bus, light rail best is in red) or a private automobile (blue) will get you faster from the Cambridge station to any other part of the country.  (Cambridge is in the bottom right hand corner, nearish London.)  The project has created many other maps as well, illustrating a variety of data.

This is interesting, of course, primarily as a proof of concept.  I'm sure it was time consuming and expensive to create, but that won't always be the case.  If organizations like public transportation agencies expose their data via APIs then I can imagine that displays like this will only be a matter of processing power, which is only a matter of time.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to see a map like this for any trip you were planning?  "I'm at 44th and Killingsworth in Portland, and I'd like to go to 15th and Belmont.  If I'm willing to be dropped off within a few blocks, would it be faster to go by light rail or car?  How long is it likely to take me to get to a particular spot?  That particular place I'm headed isn't a public transportation dead zone, is it?"  Oh the questions you could answer!  This is just one of many maps  MySociety has published,  which is a good thing in light of Margaret Thatcher's famous (attributed) quote - "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure."

Found via WorldChanging
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  Social-Mail, Byoms and more: This week's eHub round up.

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"I like your roundups of eHub!" says Emily Chang in an email.  All the more reason to keep doing the darned things.  Emily Chang's eHub is a great resource for learning about new or newly highlighted Web 2.0 services and products, but it can be overwhelming.  In the spirit of helpfulness, I've now done a number of weekly summaries of my favorite items on eHub.  The following is the most recent in the series.  No substitute for reading eHub itself, of course, these summaries are just my favorites on the weeks I find time to do a write up.

Listed in order of my excitement this time instead of chronologically:

Social-Mail

Happy day!  Send emails to an RSS feed.  I feel far more comfortable using this tool, a Big in Japan offering, than I do using my previous stand by, mail2rss.org.  Mail2rss.org has worked well for me so far, but the fact that it's remained in "extreme  alpha" mode since I found it makes me very glad to find an alternative.  I use these tools all the time to create feeds for organizations that don't offer them (many in the nonprofit sector, for example.)

Byoms (build your own mobile search)
Not highlighted directly on eHub, but the product of a company that was (Kozuro).  Custom search via IM with support for natural language queries, search sharing and RSS feeds.  Not sure how all of these will work together yet, but those are some of my favorite features for anything - so I'll be watching closely for the June 5th public beta release.  The company says you'll preselect certain sources you want to be able to search, then you can use IM to query those sources on your computer or mobile device.  Sounds pretty cool to me.

Netvibes ecosystem
Makes ajax homepage modules easy to share.  Netvibes is one of the most popular Ajax homepages, which are themselves very poor ways to read anything more than a few RSS feeds with few items in each one (in my opinion).  But it may be one of the most realistic ways to hope for further RSS adoption, and the ecosystem's sharing does help make tangible the portability of feeds. There's an API that's being used to develop new modules, a Word Press plug-in - the announcement of the ecosystem got a lot of coverage throughout the blogosphere.

Farecast
In private beta, this system will use historical data to allow users to predict future airfare offerings.  Have to wonder if another larger vendor will buy this one out, I'm sure that's the idea.  Probably one of the best examples, in fact, of a technology built to flip.  Landing page visual design at least looks totally hip.

Big Blue Saw
You may have read some of the articles around lately about low cost rapid fabrication from CAD files.  Big Blue Saw is an Atlanta based service that offers just such an affordable service.  I've read about this type of thing being the future of manufacturing in the developing world, for now this service is getting press in Make Magazine at least. 

Spinvox
Turns voice mail into text messages or email.  Sounds great, presuming that it works well.  Discussion at MobileCrunch points to two likely problems:  long voicemail messages and the difficulty of trusting a translation to text of the important subtleties in spoken language (like the world "not").  Not having tested this myself, I don't know whether the text messages I get are going to tell me what the names of the callers are as well as my phone's recognition of contacts.  That would be very important.


That's this week's highlights from eHub according to yours truly.  Don't forget to check out the whole site for hours of fun.
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  eBay to include blogs, wikis - will people use them?.

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Steve Rubel discovers coverage and then goes in depth on eBay plans to incorporate blogs and wikis in their service offerings.  It looks like an impressive implementation, but I have a few questions about it.
  • First, if people wanted more in depth discussion - wouldn't the product descriptions and the buyer/seller feedback be less mass produced than they are now?  "Great customer!  Would sell to again for sure!" over and over again.  What percentage of the auction pages are mass produced by huge eBay store owners?
  • Given that this will be a pure commercial space it seems like the promised land for comment spammers.  Will eBay be able to fight spam in a way that doesn't shut down discussion but works for users?
  • Not sure that these mediums are the best suited for this context.  It seems like kind of an awkward application of two very hip, exciting tools.
  • Tag support makes sense if implemented in conjunction with pre-selected categories and full text search.  Given the nature of this particular market, though, I wonder if this will be the space where we really see tag spam emerge in a big way for the first time.
  • Internationalization of discourse will be an interesting mess to watch, I'm guessing.  Most businesses large enough to do a lot of international business mitigate language and cultural differences by hiring specialists to help with these issues.  Micro-businesses will not have these resources and I'll be curious to see how many miscommunications, previously silent prejudices and other communication issues emerge.
  • Business blogging often helps build relationships between companies and their customers.  How much loyalty do you feel to any particular eBay store?  I'm guessing not very much.  Thumbs up, thumbs down on reputation may be enough reputation/communication system for the vast majority of eBay users.
I'm not sure how much adoption these tools are going to see.  Blogging takes time and energy.  I'm not sure that people will find that investment worthwhile when sprucing up product pages and optimizing for search is already doable.  Does conversation drive commerce, as Rubel says?  Or in this case are we dealing with an intention economy - where people come to eBay intending to purchase something and only need help finding the best option at the best price?   I've never been too clear on how great an option it was to be able to call a seller on Skype, so I'm not sure how great an idea this is.  I've only been ripped of on eBay once, though, so perhaps I don't understand other peoples' need for communication. 
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  IHT, OhMyNews partner.

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Hong Eun-taekI just watched Hong Eun-taek,  Editor-In-Chief of the of South Korea based citizen journalism project OhMyNews speak at the NetSquared conference (disclosure: I work for Net Squared).  Amongst the interesting details of  Eun-taek's talk was a statement that the organization aims to become a global news wire similar to the AP and Reuters.  One of the most recent steps towards that end is a partnership begun in recent weeks to swap headlines between the prestigious International Herald Tribune.

I think there is an important difference between the recent high-profile partnerships between the AP and Technorati and between Sphere and Time Magazine and this partnership.  Specifically, while it is meaningful for a mainstream media organization to include links indicating "what the blogosphere is saying about this topic" - I would contend that it is meaningful in a different way for prominent parties in the citizen journalism camp and in the traditional media camp to permanently display each others' headlines in a box on their sites.  It's an interesting form of mutual recognition that goes beyond the relatively casual link list to the medium in general.

The IHT/OhMyNews partnership is also clearly important because it involves two parties that are not based in the United States.  Ethan Zuckerman from Global Voices Online is speaking now about the huge explosion of content producers from China, Africa, Brazil and the Middle East/North Africa that is on its way.  This partnership is liable to be remembered as a key development in the relationship between old media and new media on the global stage.
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  Four memediggers compared: Digg, Reddit, Meneame and Hugg.

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Call them memediggers, community moderated news sites, or digg clones. User submitted news moderated up or down by other users and available for comments. Call them whatever you wish, this new class of social media warrants close examination in order to make the most of the potential it presents. Which of these sites get the most use, see the most conversation and are most useful to their readers? How should people looking to launch new digg-style sites organize things in order to maximize adoption and impact?

One first step could be to examine a variety of leading sites of this type and that is what I've done below. It's arbitrary, it's unscientific and I think it's interesting. Last Friday evening I looked at the front page of 4 interesting memedigger sites and wrote down some numbers. Digg is clearly the standard, but also examined below are Reddit, the Spanish-language site Meneame and Hugg.com, a project of the hugely popular environmental blog Treehugger. I would have liked to include Newsvine, but was unable to find numbers to compare.

An overview of some observations:

  • Front page items are more commented on in Reddit than Digg, relative to the number of points those items have recieved.
  • Meneame seems to be successful in terms of votes but receives fewer comments.
  • Hugg isn't being used very much. I am curious why.
For each site I counted:
  • the total number of points listed for all items on the front page of the site
  • the number of items listed
  • the age of the oldest and second oldest items on the front page
  • the total number of comments listed on the front page
  • the estimated number of registered users in the system
Based on those numbers I then:
  • divided the average number of points held by each item on the front page of each service by the estimated number of registered users. This could be called the chance that any single item on the front page was given a point by any single registered users. This may serve to roughly estimate the breadth of participation in the system - a system where the items on the front page have received a relatively large number of votes relative to a relatively small number of users is one where there is greater agreement amongst users about what is important. This number may be more precise if it were calculated with the number of recently active users than total registered users.
  • I did the same division as above with the number of comments listed. This may provide some insight into the amount of conversation that occurs on the various sites, at least regarding the items that are on the front page.
Obviously this is very unscientific, just a starting point to look at and talk about the differences in memedigger services and communities. I hope you find it interesting.

Four memediggers compared

Digg

6923 points on 15 items = 461 points per item on the front page

Oldest item listed is from 1 day 3 hours ago, 2nd oldest 21 hours ago.

832 comments = 55 comments per item on the front page.

There appears to be 178,625 total registered users.

Total points on front page divided by total users equals 0.04. That could mean that one out of roughly every 20 registered users has given a point to an item that is now on the front page.

Total comments divided by registered users equals 0.005. That could mean that one out of roughly every 200 registered users has left a comment on an item that is now on the front page.

Notes on Digg:

  • There are 5955 pages of users. Users Thuglife and Diggitydank both appear after the 1000th page of most active users, in case you were wondering.
  • The nearly 180,000 registered digg users is a far larger number than the 60,000 subscribers to Tech Crunch, lest you use the latter number to measure the impact of Web 2.0.
  • Google search for site:http://digg.com/users has aprox 4 to 5 million results.

Reddit

3179 points on 25 items front page = 211 points per item

There are several items listed as from 1 day ago.

777 comments = 51 comments per item

Registered users appears to be undisclosed. Reddit representative has said that the site gets tens of thousands of users every day. Google search for site:http://reddit.com/user gets 209,000 results.

Note: Reddit has many additional features beyond news moderation.


Meneame, Spanish-language digg clone on tech

1882 points on 20 items = 94 points per item

Oldest post is 1 day and 10 hours, second oldest 1 day 5 hours.

192 comments on 20 items = 10 comments per item

There appears to be 4940 registered users.

Total points divided by total users = 0.38 That could mean that there is a roughly 40% chance that any single user has given a point to any item that is now on the front page. This could also mean that a high percentage of registered users continue to engage in ongoing use.

Total comments divided by total users = 0.04 That could mean that approximately 1 out of every 20 users have commented on a front page item.

Notes on Meneame:

Google site:http://meneame.net/user.php gets 22,000 results.

There were items with zero and 1 comment on the front page, both with more than 80 votes.

The site also includes a wiki for discussion of the service.

Hugg

92 points on 15 items = 6 comments per post on front page

Oldest item is from 1 day 3 hrs ago, 16 hrs is second oldest.

8 comments on front page.

There are 93 registered users.

Total points on front page divided by total users = .99 That could mean that every user has given a point to an item on the front page. The fact that this is unlikely demonstrates the inadequacy of this formula. I believe it indicates instead that the many of the relatively few active users find almost every item they give a point to appearing on the front page. Clearly the front page is of far less use to these readers than in other systems.

Total front page comments divided by total users = 0.09 That could mean that 1 in ten users have left a comment on an item on the front page. It is likely one or a few users have left more than one of the 8 comments.

Notes on Hugg:

Hugg is a project of the environmental blog Treehugger, for which Technorati has found 9,298 links from 2,943 sites. This indicates that the large Treehugger community is not into Hugg.

Of the 15 items on the front page, all were contributed by a total of 5 users.

One of the items on the front page when I visited was titled Jesus 'healed using cannabis'. I found that funny.

There are loads of big ads on Hugg, including from some of the biggest environmental organizations in the US.

Other memedigger or community moderated news sites that may be of interest:

Muti "Muti is a site inspired by Digg and reddit but dedicated to content of interest to Southern Africans or those interested in Southern Africa." See also the site's cool mashup of Google Maps and Yahoo News on Africa and elsewhere.

Crispynews Crispynews is hosted digg-clone software used by a wide variety of communities of interest. American Idol fans, Mormons, Brazillian hip-hop fans, etc.

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  Actortracker is an impressive topic-specific affiliate link mashup.

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ActorTrackerActorTracker.com is a very impressive mashup of feeds from TV talk shows, movies and more mixed with affiliate links for videos and other memorabilia concerning your favorite actors.  Most commercially oriented mashups seem a step away from cheesy splogs, but this one is very nice.  Many features and a nice aesthetic let you know that the people behind ActorTracker spent a lot of time on it.  Unfortunately, there appears to be some problem with the  MyTracker feature, as I'm not able to log in to accounts I create.

The site has been around for awhile, but it may take some time before mass media loving consumer audiences are comfortable dealing with data like persistent search results and the like.  If and when that day comes, the right marketing (and a log in proccess that works) could put this site in a good place to get many users.  The service has an unintimidating interface, including e-mail subscription for new results.  It's a good example of the way that RSS could end up being implemented by small players for mass audiences without waving the acronym around too much.

Given the huge amount of consumer goods available online around various celebrities and pop culture, matching affiliate links and listings shouldn't be too hard.  Not always perfect, though, as the 700 Club's listing ends up next to an affiliate link to buy the movie Fight Club.  I suppose millenarians do have to stick together!

Found via Programmable Web.
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  MySpace, Inconvenient Truth partner up.

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Being bought by the owner of the Fox empire hasn't scared MySpace away from partnering with Al Gore's high profile film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."  Announced last week but receiving little play in the blogosphere to date, the partnership appears to be more low-key online than the previous X-Men promotion but set to leverage the online community for real-world public events.  The movie's main site doesn't appear to make any reference to the partnership, as it is described on MediaPost, but MySpace friend to all Tom does have a Truth badge and link to the film's MySpace profile.

According to MediaPost,  "the campaign will culminate in a 10-city MySpace theater buyout on June 16, with free tickets going to select members of the film's MySpace community.  MediaPost also reports that MySpace is contributing a significant amount of ad space to raise climate change awareness.  The MySpace music channel is reported to be planning  an artist-on-artist interview between the former vice president and a to-be-announced rock star who is also happens to be part of the MySpace community. The MySpace movies channel will spotlight an interview with the film's director, Davis Guggenheim.

The partnership between the film and the high profile online social network appears to be remarkably low-profile.  No press releases appear on PR Web, few bloggers outside of MySpace have written about it and a Google News search brings back surprisingly few results.  The MySpace community itself appears to be responding well, however, as almost 45,000 users have added the films as a friend to their profile in just less than a week.

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  EarthLink approved to provide wifi in New Orleans.

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EarthLink announced today that they have been approved to provide wifi service to New Orleans.  According to the company's blog:
"The network will have two tiers -- a free (and ad-free) service at up to 300kbps during the city's rebuilding efforts, and a paid service at 1mbps up/down. EarthLink will also allow other providers to offer their services over the network, allowing for open access and competition."

There was some seriously strange legal wranglings about whether the city would be allowed to contract with anyone to provide this service and apparently it was the local state of emergency that allowed it.  Given that, and the incredible reliance on the wireless network there during the rebuilding - why doesn't the federal government just subsidize the top-tier service for everyone?  That's a silly question, such a policy would obviously interfere with the market's ability to monetize human suffering.  I can't imagine that Earthlink would mind.  At least permission has now been granted for the market  to partner with local government so that some service at all is available.

I'll be watching Esme Vos's Muniwireless.com for analysis of this deal.  See also New Orleans Voices for Peace, a liberal grass roots group "providing Internet access, website hostng, media development and training for partnering organizations and communities effected by the Hurricanes Rita and Katrina."

Update:  There's an email excerpt just added to the Earthlink blog from the New Orleans CIO about he's having people hug him on the street about the fact that free wifi is on its way.  It's an interesting account, nearly a tear jerker.
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  RSS feeds from surprising nonhuman sources: what examples are there?.

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Working on a presentation for a conference where I'm going to talk about RSS and am wondering - what are the coolest examples of nonhuman generation of RSS feeds?  I know that technically every search feed, stock report feeds and things like that are generated without the immediate involvement of humans.  But some time ago Lisa Williams told me about a buoy at sea that publishes a feed of hourly updates to all kinds of weather conditions.   That's from the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS).   She told me she would like to be able to subscribe to a feed that would tell her when her home's heating oil was running low. 

There's got to be more examples out there - anyone care to point to ones you know of?  I know there are systems to track package delivery (like FedEx).  There have to be some RFID systems that utilize RSS.  I know there are quite a number of  innovative examples of RSS feeds generated in libraries.  Limited  traffic reports for particular cities from Yahoo and Traffic.com.  Incidentlog.com is a cool use of police reports, mashing up feeds and Google Maps.

Really far out examples of RSS feeds being generated for a useful purpose without substantial human input is what I'm looking for.  I really believe there will be a lot of this in the future, but the sooner we can find examples the sooner we can prepare ourselves and others for the idea.  Please do post examples in comments if you can think of or find any that I haven't.

To be honest I'd be curious to see peoples' favorite applications of RSS in any context.  Anything already listed by Tim Yang or Basement.org excluded.
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  Edelman acquires PR firm of Mozilla, many other tech companies.

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Steve Rubel just wrote that his employer Edelman has acquired the Silicon Valley PR company A&R Partners.  Rubel says that many of the company's clients are already blogging.  Edelman leadership appears focused on bringing corporate communications into the new world of social media in some very cool ways, albeit learning from mistakes like the Walmart bloggers situation.  Here's a client list for A&R, you might notice that Mozilla is on there.  Interesting.  There are a number of people using these new social media to remake PR and save it from it's unsavory past.  Those efforts are said to be based in honesty - and that's a radical concept.

Valleywag has a more Valley-centric take on this.
Nicholas Carr has a hilarious response to Rubel style cheerleading
of honest conversation as being of central importance.  Fair enough, and don't miss the comments.
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  CA AG candidate launches RSS to IM notification system.

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California Attorney General candidate Rocky Delgadillo doesn't just have a long list of endorsements on his side - he's got new web tools going for him as well.  Delgadillo's campaign just launched a new service offering for supporters wanting to keep up with the campaign - RSS to IM notification from immedi.at

The letters RSS don't appear anywhere on the site, in fact there's not a link to subscribe to news from the campaign in a feed reader - but there is a link that allows you to plug in your IM username and get instant notification of new developments that can be passed on to others.  Timely updates have an excitement that may be more likely to spread by word of mouth.

Delgadillo's "vision" page begins with the sentence: "As I look around our state today, it's not just crime and violence that threaten our families.  It's also the greed and arrogance of corporate power run amok."  Sounds interesting enough to me.  I wonder how extensively the campaign is using RSS to IM internally.
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  Global Voices Online begins compilation podcast.

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The international blog aggregation community Global Voices Online has released its first edition of the Global Voices Podcast, a compilation of clips from podcasts around the world.  The first episode manages to fit in satire from South Africa about the visibility of queer people, coverage of bloggers' take on an upcoming election in Mexico (in Spanish) and clips from Jamaica, Israel/Palestine, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.  Set to music from Creative Commons label Magnatune, the whole thing fits in 17 fast paced minutes!  It's hosted by the very charming Georgia Popplewell, from the Carribian Free Radio podcast (an Adam Curry favorite).

The show reminds me in of a more grass-roots, web 2.0 version of the Global Shortwave Report, a fantastic, long running weekly 30 minute compilation of international shortwave news in English. 

Global Voices recently received funding from Reuters.  Its primary function is to aggregate content from bloggers all around the world.  The project has long published interesting interviews with people from around the world, but this newest foray into the news and culture serialized audio space wil be interesting to watch.  Many Global Voices participants are aspiring mass audience journalists as well, so whether new mainstream media stars emerge from this space or whether it thrives as a niche media project will help make the history of Web 2.0's impact on media.

Found via David Weinberger.
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  boyd, Jenkins MIT interview on MySpace and DOPA.

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MySpace and youth social software expert danah boyd has released the full text of an email interview she and Henry Jenkins, Co-Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, recently did with the MIT News Office on MySpace and the proposed Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA).  Lots of good detail and analysis here, a great example of the usefulness of email interviews.  Helpful in understanding the proposed legislation, MySpace and youth social software in general and the public work of two prominent voices on these issues.  Both boyd and Jenkins are funded by the MacArthur Foundation to do academic work on these topics currently.

Here's how boyd explains her work:

"For my doctoral dissertation, I am investigating why and how youth are engaging in digital publics like MySpace, how this affects identity development and how youth socialization has changed over the last century. This work is being funded by the MacArthur Foundation to help understand the nature of informal learning. Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research."

Jenkins says about his work:
"[My work] seeks to identify the core social skills and cultural competencies young people need in order to become full participants in the cultural, political, economic, and social life of the 21st century. In doing this research, we are reviewing the current state of educational research surrounding participatory culture and examining how teachers are currently deploying these technologies through schools. We want in the long term to develop new curricular materials which help parents and teachers build a more constructive relationship with new media."

Both provide some useful thinking and talking points in regards to the much maligned sector of youth-oriented social software. 
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  Yahoo, eBay partner.

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A multi-year agreement has been made between Yahoo and eBay to bundle many of the two company's services together.  Here's the Seattle PI in case you haven't seen the story yet.  Watch the discussion unfold over the day at Techmeme. 

Update: Mick Weinstein of Seeking Alpha precedes his summary of blogosphere reactions with this noe.  "Note that JP Morgan Securities had a report (.pdf) out just two days ago predicting such a eBay-Yahoo alliance as the most likely deal of its kind among the big internet players."

Thoughts:  I think this is liable to be seen as a less obtrusive partnership than some other search engine/other vendor deals.  As far as I know, nobody's computer or even browser comes with Yahoo or eBay baked-in top-level (Firefox Yahoo inclusion is substantially more low key than that of Google)  so I think this is going to be received as an extension of voluntary use. 

Second, I'm not sure how limited the possibilities are here.  Will people start using Flickr to upload their photos for eBay?  Will future auctions be promoted on Upcoming.org?  Maybe I'm being silly here, but the point is that Yahoo's recent torrent of feature-add-by-acquisition offers a lot of creative potential for a partnership with a huge player like eBay/PayPal/Skype.

Some people have said this is just a trial balloon, that these two companies are really competitors, etc.  But in the face of Google's success and Microsoft's largess I can't imagine that Yahoo and eBay wouldn't be able to work out some really powerful collaboration.  The fact that Yahoo gets more page views than any other site online, has acquired so much hippness and yet is the dark horse in this space is amazing.
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Sponsored by: Userplane Apps: Live communication applications powering the world's leading online communities.

 
 
  FON to split private, public environs in routers.

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FON, the experiment in shared wireless internet access that allows members to use each others' connections and nonmembers to pay for access, has announced a key software adaptation that responds to users' concerns about security.  The company just announced on its blog that its next release will include two different environments using the same router, one public and one private.  By using two separate SSIDs, or service set identifiers, FON appears to be making a technical response to widespread member concerns about sharing internet access with strangers.  I can imagine this will make the system much easier to promote to prospective new members.  Apparently non-anonymity of FON community members and assurances that hosts wouldn't be held liable for activities through their connection weren't assurance enough.  I'm not surprised.

Though funded by some heavy hitters like Google and eBay/Skype, FON seems to be acting like a good Web 2.0 company should - agile, responsive and with frequent updates to its service.  The hardware end of the social web acting just like the software sector Web 2.0 evangelists say should be the modus operandi.  Yet this development demonstrates that it's not all a happy picnic of sharing and love.  Some technical means of user control are still needed at the same time all this sharing is going on.  That's what this looks like to me.


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Sponsored by: Userplane Apps: Live communication applications powering the world's leading online communities.

 
 Outlink O'Reilly Radar, 8/25/2006; 1:03:40 AM.
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  Fantastic elastic. By rael

While in the midst of something that doesn't afford me time to look much more closely, I just had to throw out an attaboy! to Amazon for their new "Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)" service.

Upload par-baked application... Amazon will bake (S3) and serve (EC2).

 
 
  Live's New Video Search and UI (Beta). By brady

Last night I was alerted to a new Beta Video Search and UI for Live Search. It's still definitely in beta, but it shows a lot of promises with loads of additional features. I tested all of these sites with Firefox on both WinXP and OS X and to some extent on IE6, I did not notice any browser-specific issues. Here are some of the highlights:

Video Search:

This is a good Video Search. It has a clean, uncluttered UI with a single column of video results down the middle. The results show an image from the video with the major expected meta-data (title, format, quality, and genre). I was surprised to find the index size to be comparable to Google's and a third the size of Yahoo's for the searches I ran. The results also seemed accurate (I must not have looked in the right nooks and crannies).

video.JPG

Header:
The new header starts you out with 4 tabs (Web, Images, News, & Local).

header.JPG

To the right of those is a More tab that reveals a lot of other search options including Academic, Video, Feeds, and Products (all in Beta), as well as options for managing Search Macros. One thing to note about the Product search is how clearly they have marked that this is coming from the MSN Shopping portal as opposed to a web crawl.

more.jpg

As you select verticals from the More tab they stay pinned to your header providing more control. It’s handy to be able to customize your search experience that way. If Video Search keeps rising in prominence I expect it will be added to the intial tabs on the page.

Image Search Scratchpad:
The Live Image Search UI is among the best out there. The dynamic scroll, the image pop-outs, and the slider for changing slides really make a difference. In this release they are adding a Scratchpad that will allow you to save collections of images. The index quality still needs improvement, but I definitely see progress in that area.

scratchpad

Live Search is definitely showing a web centric view of the world and trying to turn their product into a serious research app. I hope the Scratchpad feature is added across all of the verticals (I expect this will happen) and then eventually tied into Onfolio (the recently purchased client-side RSS Reader).

 
 
  Why Seth Godin's Web 2.0 Watch List Misses the Point. By tim

Seth Godin's Web 2.0 Watch List, built with alexaholic, is a fabulous idea. I wish I'd thought of it. Rankings are fun and thought-provoking, and as Seth figured, they also get lots of attention!

But Seth completely misses the point of Web 2.0 when he says "For our purposes, my definition is that most of these companies are, as the wikipedia says, sites that 'let people collaborate and share information online in a new way.' So, Google doesn't make the cut, because most of their traffic comes to their search engine. eBay is an "old" company, but the many-to-many nature of the site means that they do."

What a short-sighted definition! It seems to focus much more on the Web 1.0 aspect of explicit "community" than the web 2.0 concept of harnessing collective intelligence. If Google doesn't do this, I don't know who does! PageRank was a breakthrough in search because Google figured out that what people do (make links) is as important as what the documents contain. And Adsense is profoundly participatory. Amazon too is a master at harnessing participation but doesn't make Seth's list. Meanwhile, we see companies like pandora, which are purely algorithmic in their personalization, and zillow, which is database driven without any community features. These sites are incredibly useful applications, but Seth's list sure seems to draw the Web 2.0 boundary in some very odd ways.

In addition, even participation (both explicit and implicit) is only part of web 2.0. Can someone really say that Google Maps or Amazon's Simple Storage Service is not Web 2.0? And why are open source projects like Django and Drupal included but not Apache or Perl's CPAN, or sourceforge and slashdot? And if we're including invididual blogs, why zefrank.com and not techcrunch?

In short, this is a brilliant idea that needs some serious tweaking.

 
 
  Evan Williams surveys Podcasting. By marc

Evan Williams (CEO of podcasting company Odeo) has a great podcasting survey, using Alexa data and his view of the market to evaluate all of the podcasting companies and their traffic. I love seeing his interpretation of the data, and obviously that he's blogged this instead of just sending it around internally.

 
 
  bullshitr. By tim

Don't know why this didn't get noticed before: the excellent Web 2.0 bullshit generator. Not as funny as Web 2.0 or Star Wars character?, but still worth a spin. In the heyday of the last bubble, I remember going into a conference room in a shared-office complex (so I don't know whose bs it was), seeing the business plan brainstorm on the whiteboard, and thinking that someone ought to come out with a magnetic poetry kit (in that case, a magnetic bs kit) for generating the style of business plan that was on that board. This is the electronic version of the same idea.

Ultimately, success in any business is about creating value, not about being buzzword compliant. So sites that make fun of the buzzwords provide a very useful reminder.

 
 
  Smugmug's version of Interestingness. By tim

Chris McAskill of SmugMug wrote in email:

I noticed your fascination with Interestingness (we're fans too) and thought you'd appreciate a pretty compelling variation. We silently introduced this a couple of months ago to see how it would work without telling anyone.

Our customers tend to be families, soccer moms, travelers...not as geeky as Flickr's customers. They understand words like most popular and understand star ratings and thumbs up/down. They hate to be asked to register to leave a comment, even if it means just giving their email, and even writing a comment is kind of a hassle 80% of the time.

So we instituted a not-very-gameable (you could, but you'd have to be determined) simple thing: when you hover your mouse over an image, you get a thumb-up or thumb-down. No need to register.
We combine the thumb ratings with comment ratings and end up with a browse page of most popular photos for the day that gets over a million people per day dropping by to see and cast their votes.

Almost all our subscribers let democracy speak and flaunt their most popular photos on their home pages: [here's mine]. And communities do the same. Here's >a flowers community. You can sort by most popular in any category or keyword, etc.... Pretty nifty? It's a different way to skin the cat for a broad, consumer audience.

Whether it's pagerank at Google, interestingness at Flickr, or diggs, or SmugMug's most popular feature, we see all across the web attempts to incorporate human intelligence into web applications. As I've written many times, harnessing collective intelligence is the very heart of Web 2.0. And that intelligence is distinguished by its bionic nature: we're building applications that are a fusion of human and machine.

 
 
  Web 2.0 Launchpad. By tim

At the Web 2.0 Conference, we have a feature called the Launch Pad, which is the opportunity for a new company to make their debut. This year, John Battelle, the program chair for the Web 2.0 Conference, has recruited a stellar team to help us winnow through the companies applying to be featured. It includes VCs, M&A; strategists from some of the major companies in the Web 2.0 talent hunt, and a couple of Web 2.0 pundits (besides me and John, that is), so it's a great opportunity to get some exposure, even if you don't get selected for one of the Launch Pad slots. For a complete list of the Launch Pad advisory board, and more details, see John's posting, Help us find the companies that will launch at Web 2.0.

We have more than a hundred submissions already, competing for a dozen or so slots on the conference program, but there are so many interesting new companies popping up that we could easily miss some really interesting ones. So, like John, I'm asking you to let us know if you want to be considered for the Launch Pad at Web 2.0.

 
 
  Sewing Patterns over iTunes. By tim

Back at our first P2P conference in 2001, one of the most thought-provoking talks was entitled Napster Fabbing. Marshall Burns and James Howison posited that with the rise of , we could look forward to a future in which not just songs but stuff would be shared over p2p networks. After all, in a world of digitally-driven fabrication machines, what is stuff but a set of instructions?(Biology works that way already.)

We're not there yet for digital fabrication, but in classic news from the future form, we're seeing headlines that show us moving bit-by-bit in that direction. One such headline came from Phil Torrone on the Make: blog, who reported on the first sewing pattern delivered by iTunes.

http://static.flickr.com/57/218953183_6fe0047b38.jpg?v=0


Phil waggishly noted: "ok, we got our CRAFT itunes thing going - at 11:19pm PDT the first sewing pattern over itunes was delivered a "Stretch boob tube with drawstring bottom. Hipster shorts with scoop sides." - and i'm ok with this being how i spend my friday nights. so yes, we used a series of tubes, to deliver a tube top"

(And actually, Make: has been delivering hardware designs as RSS enclosures for iTunes for a while. They're not yet for personal fab labs, just for human consumption, but the trend is coming into focus...)

 
 
  Web Services for Bioinformatics. By nikolaj

The University of Chicago's Rick Stevens has published a lengthy but interesting -- even for an outsider -- survey of how the use of web services is picking up in the realms of bioinformatics and computational biology.

It's interesting how books, papers and journals, the traditional open wares of academia and the sciences are slowly being succumbed by first open source scientific applications, and now open data web services.

It is likely that several of the commercial search engine companies (e.g. Google and Microsoft) will explore the issue of coupling biological searches of open literature and databases with computational services with access to commercial tools and databases. These tools will most likely be emerging examples of coupling commercial tools (web services infrastructure, indexing and search technologies) with the best of the open science literature.

Not only do these new web services help the scientific community, but if Google, Microsoft or others (Wikipedia?) pick up on it as Stevens predicts, it will mean a true revolution for any science fair kid with a computer.

 
 
  Aerial Photography Considered Harmful. By tim

Over on Farber's IP list, Simon Phipps sent in another sobering note about our eroding freedoms, pointing to a blog entry entitled Aerial Photography Considered Harmful:

"On my recent trip back from India on British Airways, I was inspired by Julieanne Kost's recent book, Window Seat...to snap some landscape photos at 35000 feet. I think we were over Iran at the time. After taking several shots, imagine my surprise when one of the BA attendants closed the window shade and informed me that it was against British Airways policy for passengers to take such photos for security reasons. I thought she was kidding, but the head attendant confirmed what I had been told. And that it had nothing to do with where we were flying."

(While I cited this entry because of the civil liberties implications, you should check out the blog entry. The images Josh Simons snapped before he was stopped are stunning. (For that matter, so are Julianne's images in the book, incidentally published by O'Reilly.))

 
 
  Recycled Cellphones. By allison

It's reassuring to know that the technology our culture discards so eagerly lives a full and useful life elsewhere:

With the number of cell phones in use worldwide hitting 2 billion and rising, recycled phones are playing a crucial role in the spread of wireless communications across the developing world, where land lines can be costly or unavailable.

The odds are good that a refurbished cell phone in the pocket of a user in Bolivia, Jamaica, Kenya, Ukraine or Yemen originated with ReCellular Inc. Based in small-town Michigan, ReCellular gets 75,000 used phones a week - most collected in charity fundraisers - and refurbishes them for sale around the world.

 
 
  Home Solar as User Generated Content. By tim

In a conversation the other day, Ed Kummer of Disney made a really thought-provoking observation: the spread of solar energy units to homes and businesses is an analog to other forms of user-generated content, and the overall trend towards a two-way network. While it's possible to set up a solar system completely off the grid, most of the new customers feed power into the grid during sunlight hours, and draw from it when the daylight wanes. If we move to a solar power economy, it will be much more distributed and cooperative than the current one-way model.

It's fabulous to put the internet and Web 2.0 into a broader context, and to think about how the new network economics that we're seeing on the internet may be adopted in other fields. With VoIP, we're seeing the internet subsume the telephone network. With distributed solar, and the kinds of distributed energy monitoring technology that Adam wrote about the other day, will the internet model also colonize the power grid?

Hmmm... What was I saying about the internet as the network of networks?

 
 
  That voodoo that you do.... By rael

Slashdot coincidently celebrates ;-) the opening of our call for participation for the 2007 edition of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and this year's theme, "Sufficiently advanced technology," with an Ask Slashdot open question on "computer voodoo":

A corollary to 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' is that sometimes users have to resort to what I call 'computer voodoo.' You don't know why it works, you barely care how it works, but you find yourself doing the strangest things because it just seems to work. I'm talking about things like: smacking a PC every 5 seconds for an hour to keep it from stalling on a hard drive reformat (with nary a problem after the reformat); or figuring out the only way to get a PC partially fried by lightning to recognize an ethernet card, after booting into Windows, is to start the computer by yanking the card out and shoving it back in (thereby starting the boot processes). What wacky stuff have you done that makes no obvious sense, but just works?

This puts me in mind of the wifi-dowsing performed by attendees at conferences who wander about, open laptop in hand, trying desperately to get a better signal and faster throughput.

And as a further warm-up to this year's focus on technology that's "indistinguishable from magic," I point you at a wonderful bibliography of magic in UI design assembled by Mike Kuniavsky, most recently known for his well-dugg magic wand prototype.

 
 
  The Three Faces of Steve. By tim

There's a very thought-provoking article on the O'Reilly Network's MacDevCenter, reading between the lines of Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote:

After welcoming the audience of developers, Jobs let the audience know that others would help him on stage. This, in and of itself, was unusual. There are often supporting roles in the WWDC and MacWorld keynotes but only one featured artist. Not only did Jobs share the stage with Bertrand Serlet, Phil Schiller, and Scott Forstall, but he allowed them to make many of the morning's announcements. In a way, they represented the three faces of Steve.

In his email newsletter, MacDevCenter editor Derrick Story expanded on this point: "As these Apple heavy hitters made the various announcements that Steve often handles, I couldn't help thinking that Apple once again is planning ahead. Steve Jobs won't be CEO forever. Others are going to have to share the heavy lifting." Thought-provoking.

The article also had a couple of other tidbits that struck me:

  1. Continuing with my thoughts about application dialtone, the new Time Machine feature could be described as dialtone for backups: "This new Mac OS X application is designed to help users backup and restore their data. Forstall said that in their estimation only 26 percent of users back up their data. Most of these, however, do so in a manual and ad hoc way. Every once in a while they burn some files to a CD. Only 4 percent have a regular automated backup strategy. Time Machine is automatic backup for the Mac.... The Time Machine UI is stunning. It allows people to look at a directory and zoom back in time until they find the file that is missing or has been changed."

  2. As further evidence of the trend we've been watching about the importance of power rather than pure performance as one of the key competitive factors in the coming market, "The Mac Pro is built around a pair of Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5100 processors available at 2GHz, 2.66GHz, or 3GHz.... Schiller stressed the improvements in performance per watt saying that this new chip is three times more efficient than the G5." While Apple's is a consumer offering, power per watt becomes even more important in data-center heavy Web 2.0 applications.

 
 
  Round 2: The Internet As Network of Networks. By tim

The other day, I was explaining to a reporter how I could be lumping in cellphones and the next generation of sensor networks into Web 2.0. "Well, Web 2.0 is really not just about the web. It's really about the next generation of internet applications, and includes things like P2P file sharing and VoIP, which aren't based on the web at all. And actually, now that I mention it, it's really not even about the internet, narrowly defined as a class of TCP/IP-based networks. It's really about the internet as it was originally conceived, as a 'network of networks.'"

Those of you who were around in the 1980s will know just what I'm talking about, because that was originally what people meant by "the internet." The term literally came into wide use to refer to a whole set of distinct but increasingly interoperable networks: the ARPAnet, CSnet, DECnet, the UUCPnet, EUnet, NLnet, FIDOnet.... In the late 80s, we actually published a book called !%@: A Directory of Electronic Mail Addressing and Networks, which covered how to address email across 190 distinct networks. (The title !%@ was homage to some of the many special addressing characters that were used before the @ crowded out all the others.) The inter-net was the interoperable network that came to connect them.

It's good to remember this broad definition of "the internet," because the internet is not just about TCP/IP, though it is about the principles that made the TCP/IP based network win out over all the others, and become the lingua franca of interoperability that it is today. We're pushing the boundaries of the old internet, as it comes to include the cellphone network, telematics networks, and other emerging forms of connectivity.

So let's ask, where else can we apply the principles that we're learning from the internet?

Round 2: A series of occasional postings around the theme that patterns and ideas recur, or as Arlo Guthrie said in Alice's Restaurant, "come around again on the gee-tar."

 
 Outlink Chris Pirillo, 8/25/2006; 1:03:33 AM.
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  Outlook Evolution. Evolution finally runs on Windows! Looks like they released something a few months ago, although it just hit my radar this afternoon (in an email from Matt Hartley)...
 
 
  Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud - EC2. Don’t ask me what I’m doing up at 3am - but I’ve gotta tell you about an email I just received from AWS (Amazon Web Services)...
 
 
  John Mark Karr Eats Candy!. Ponzi’s returned from her hiatus, it seems - aided by a desktop publishing tool (no, not Windows Live Writer - which I believe is still at the “barely noteworthy” stage)...
 
 
  The Politics of Security. Online Security is important. Flickr users in China, Iran, and Iraq feel the same way I do - though Microsoft employees in Lebanon and Israel don’t (since they’re all on the Mac)...
 
 
  Cancel Napster. Hey, Napster? Thanks for making it an absolute pain in the ass to cancel our account - yet another reason to abandon your service. I had to call a phone number to tell you that I wanted to quit. Why...