Monday, January 31, 2005

Copyright, my ass!

Intellectual property will be a recurrent topic on this blog. It is central to this post, which is about an opinion written by Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals. It sounds serious so far, doesn't it?

Well, D.J. Jubilee was apparently serious when he claimed that his copyright on his song 1997 "Back That Ass Up" had been infringed by Juvenile's similarly-titled hit of the same year. I found much to love in the "financial news" article on the case, but I was particularly enamoured of this bit:

Nathan Gisclair, a partner in New Orleans' Montgomery Barnett Brown Read Hammond & Mintz who represents D.J. Jubilee, says the opinion is disappointing -- it gives little guidance on how plaintiffs should litigate cases such as this one in the future.
Future cases such as this one? I look forward to them!

I became aware of the case via this post on Boing Boing a few days ago. I hesitated to re-blog something that had appeared on such a (deservedly) popular blog, but just couldn't resist. Now, I should make sure before I publish this that I remembered to put the comma in the post title...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Penguins and Pictures

Christmas Penguins, Japan
Christmas Penguins, Japan,
originally uploaded by Piero Sierra.
Inspried by Tux, I went looking for images of penguins at Flickr.com, a site for storing and sharing photos on the web. A basic account there is free of charge. You don't even have to have an account to browse photos. But you may, like me, decide that it's worth having an account once you check the site out.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Typing of Tux...

Peter Penguin resembles Tux
Peter Penguin resembles Tux,
originally uploaded by Damian Cugley.
How could I have missed this when in England for the new year? Marks & Spencer sold these guys as Peter Penguin, but this is obviously Tux in deep chocolate cover.

Linux at Business Week

Linux has been the Business Week cover story a couple of times now. BW online includes for free (no registration required, either) the recent feature on "Linux Inc." and the March 2003 feature on "The Linux Uprising." I particularly like the cover picture from the uprising story, which shows Tux, Linux' mascot penguin, glaring with flyswatter in flipper at the Microsoft butterfly.

Perhaps the reason Linux has made the cover of BW is that Tux is cuter than most CEOs. Or perhaps it's because BW is "tech-savvy," or some such horrible phrase. They even have blogs; let's go to The Tech Beat. Hang on, why can't I just sub with bloglines from my toolbar, and why doesn't that funny button appear at the bottom right of my Firefox window? Oh all right, I'll go to their ugly XML to subscribe.

Leaders: Blogger and Bloglines

There have been recent studies of some of the markets for blog-related tools. Elise Bauer computed a usage index for blog publishing tools, and estimated that Blogger leads, with 30% of the market. Richard McManus, using data from his own blog and from Feedburner, looked at the market for aggregators, and identifies Bloglines as the leader, with 33% (Feedburner stats, or 51% using his own stats). While the authors are quick to add caveats to their numbers, the studies are interesting, and probably accurate in their identification of the leaders in the publisher and aggregator markets.

So I thought it would be interesting to identify similarities between Blogger and Bloglines, the leaders in their respective markets. Each is:
  • Free of charge (although neither is "free software" - see the last bullet of this list.
  • Web-based, not requiring any software to be installed, or data maintained, on the client side.
  • Simple to use.
  • Apparently reaping an early-mover advantage. According to Rebecca Blood's history of blogging, Blogger was launched in 1999, the year that blogging exploded. However, it was not the first or only blogging tool released that year. Bloglines "debuted the world's first free online service for tracking and reading websites and weblogs" on July 1, 2003 (press release), and so had a first-mover advantage, rather than "only" an early-mover advantage.
  • Proprietary software, rather than free/open source software. However, the Bloglines FAQ proclaims that the firm proudly uses and supports Linux, Apache, and other free/open source software.
So it seems that what you have to do to lead your segment of the blog software market is to take the risk of developing and releasing early, make your product free of charge (throwing in hosting as well if your product is a publishing tool), and emphasize ease of use. Now, how can you make money from that? One answer is that you might be bought by Google (as Blogger was). More answers, and a lot more questions, in future posts...

By the way, I currently use both Blogger (obviously!) and Bloglines, for reasons explained by the first three points on the above list. I've used a few other tools to see what they offer. I suspect that I will have a harder look at some of the less simple blog publishing tools at some point soonish.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The End of Free?

I've just been drafting a post on "the free web," using Blogger, a tool that I choose in part because it is free of charge. It was therefore an interesting time to stumble across The End of Free, a blog chronicling a move from free to fee as the basis for online business models, and to note that the first posts were made by Evan Williams, co-founder and former CEO of Blogger.

The blog itself is less provocative than its title. It is about the growth of paid subscriptions and other non-free models on the web. It does not predict the extinction of no-charge models.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

State of the Sidebar

So, what goes in the sidebar? Among the things that the Blogger-supplied template gives me by default are Recent Posts and Archive, each of which makes sense to keep. I think that a archiving by month (the default) will be appropriate, since I doubt that I'll be blogging here frequently enough to merit weekly archiving.

I've replaced the Blogger profile with a link to my home page at my place of work, since the profile is oriented toward a different and less work-related blog. What about other links?

I decided to manage most of the links through del.icio.us. There are two benefits to this. First, it directs my readers to del.icio.us, which they will probably find interesting. Second, it makes it easy for me to maintain the links for this blog, since it's just a matter of setting up links and tags at del.icio.us, which is less cumbersome than editing the template for the blog. On the other hand, it means that readers interested in the links have an extra site to navigate through, and I have less control over the way the links look at del.icio.us than I do over the Blogger template.

The only other initial link, besides the home page and del.icio.us, is to the Atom feed, which Blogger automatically sets up. I'm not sure that this link is necessary, since most people who want to subscribe to a blog do so using a tool that handles the feed url for them (e.g., Bloglines or Firefox).

Then there are the Cool Buttons, each of which is really a link to a site that happens to provide buttons. First is the Blogger button, which arrived with the template. I don't feel inclined to remove it, since Blogger is kind enough to provide both publishing tools and hosting at no charge. Then there's Haloscan, which I use to add trackback to Blogger, which doesn't currently provide it. (If you're wondering what this is, check out Haloscan's trackback FAQ.)

Creative Commons is a fine organization which provides and explains the license under which I publish this blog. Clicking on the CC button will take you to the human-readable summary of the license. The Firefox button is there for a few reasons. It's my browser of choice. It's free/open source software (much more about this in future posts to this blog). Among the fine features of Firefox I used is tabbed browsing. Among the fine features I don't use is Live Bookmarks, which makes it particularly easy to follow blogs in Firefox.

I use Bloglines to read blogs. It's browser-independent, free of charge (although it is not free/open source), and easy to use. The button inviting you to subscribe to this blog through Bloglines is the last thing on the sidebar.

Update, the following morning: a few edits to the above, and two things to add. First, if you're reading this blog through an aggregator such as Bloglines, you won't see the sidebar discussed in this post. Second, this does seem a little like gazing at the navel of one's blog, but this is one of the many blogs that is to some extent about blogging.

Here we go...

Early posts here will include what I mean by "the free web" and what I find useful, interesting, or otherwise good about blogging. But this evening, I'll just get things started with this short post, and a tinker with the template (the starting point for which was the Minima template provided by Blogger).