Monday, February 28, 2005

Red Couch: New Cover?

I would have titled this post something like "Blog or Die Comment 1.1," but it seems that I was far from the only person who dislikes Blog or Die as the title of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's book. Shel's posting of a few hours ago acknowledges this. It also shows how genuine he and Robert are about using the book's blog to solicit feedback.

For the book's title, how about Your Business Needs Blogs? The first paragraph might be something like:
Your business should not blog. That might seem like a strange way to open a book about why your business needs blogs. But blogs are not written by businesses. Blogs, or at least good blogs, are written by people. To be more specific, a good blog post is written by an individual with passion and authority.

The second paragraph might remark on how difficult and dangerous this might seem. Which individual employees? What limits, if any, should be set on their blogging?

I'll shut up about the book itself for now, and close this post with a comment on titles and tagging. I did a Technorati search on tag: blogordie, and found that the tag was not in use. That tag won't be useful if the book's title is going to change. I then did a search on tag: redcouch. It didn't come up with any blog postings. But it did come up with a few photos on Flickr, my favorite of which was this one.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Blog or Die: Comment 1

Blog or Die is the current working title (and likely final title) of the book that Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are currently working on. The book has its own blog (separate from the authors' respective blogs, to which I just linked). The book's blog is called The Red Couch, and was so named before the book had a title.

The authors are posting drafts of chapters to the blog. They recently posted chapter 1. Here is a key quote from it.
Why does blogging work, even as other communications mechanisms fail? Part of it is style. Quite simply, people respond better to lowered voices spoken in credible tones than they do to the aggressive in-your-face marketing-speak that prevails almost everywhere else.
One of my problems with this draft of chapter 1 is that its voice is not as "lowered" as I'd like it to be. Rather, it veers toward what might be termed "aggressive in-your-face bestseller-speak." I'm referring to things such as the claim that blogs "are the best way to make your company more profitable, grow faster, or get your product more rapidly adopted." And of course, there's the very title of the book.

But what Scoble and Israel have posted is chapter 1 of what they hope will be a bestseller. They want their opening chapter to grab the reader's attention. If it does that, they can fill in the details in subsequent chapters. For example, they can expand on their important point that blogging, or at least the type of blogging that the authors recommend, is not controlled from the corporate center.

The authors may, by the end of the book, have substantiated their above-quoted statement that blogs are "the best way." They may even have justified the title Blog or Die. They are not short of impressive statistics (e.g., "number of blogs worldwide today is probably about 10 million"). But even I, as a serial blogger and enthusiast myself, suspect that they overstate their case.

But this is an early draft of the very chapter. I salute the authors' decision to post as they write. And I'll look forward to the rest of the book, much of which I expect will be more balanced and measured.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Tagging Tales

Here are a bunch of thoughts and links on tagging. In order to describe or categorize a post to this blog, I can associate one or more tags with the post. For example, when I recently posted about Jason Kottke giving up his day job to work full-time on his blog, I tagged the posts kottke. Tools such as Technorati allow search of the blogosphere by tag.

I started writing this about a week ago, but was lucky enough to get overtaken by a couple of posts that put things a lot better than I was probably going to. Here's all I had a week ago... Tagging is a hot topic in early 2005. For example, February has already seen an article at Salon, and a post on the Business Week tech blog.

More recently, I've seen this post, which provides an excellent introduction to Technorati tags: what they are, how to use them, why they're good, some problems, etc. Then there are posts all over the place about the more general concept of folksonomy. I've just linked to the Wikipedia entry for it, which provides a definition and links galore. I think I'll leave it at that for now. Apart, of course, from tagging the current post...

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Contributing to Kottke


I recently posted about Jason Kottke, who is making his blog his job. His "fund drive" seems to be going well so far. But there's still time to contribute...

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Post for Profit?

The Guardian is the paper I used to read when I lived in the UK. It's now one of the media web sites I visit most frequently. Today's Guardian includes this article on the business potential of blogging.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tech Beat Beats on Dell

Business Week publishes several blogs, among them Tech Beat. A recent post tells a horror story of Dell technical support. It caught my eye for a multiple reasons. First, it suggests that the tradition of technical support for the personal computer user as somewhere between hideous and nonexistent persists. Second, it's about Dell, a firm often hailed for its execution. Third, it shows how quickly and widely bad news can travel from a single dissatisified customer.

Last, it's a link between the two topics I'll be discussing with my classes on Friday: Dell and business blogging.

From the Office of...


This blog isn't part of my work web site, so it bears no logo for the university at which I work. But here are a few objects from my office, arranged in a way pleasing to me, and perhaps to others. And my work web site is here.

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Trackback is Half-Back

I just found out that there is a way of doing outbound trackback without having to change one's template. It is the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger. I'll try it out by pinging a relevant post at the Wizbang blog, and also the post at Blog Business World that sent me off to see the Wizbang.

For those who are wondering what trackback is, I'll use this post as an example. What I'm about to do is tell each of the posts linked to above that I've blogged about them. Each of the posts will then add the current post (Trackback is Half-Back) to its trackback list. That means that future visitors to the post at Wizbang (and at BBW) will see a link back to the current post.

Blogger does not have trackback. Along with the lack of categories, this is one of the major ways in which Blogger lags competitors such as TypePad.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogging Full-Time

Is it possible to make a living by blogging? Jason Kottke hopes so. His blog is already popular. He posts frequently, and was finding it hard to find room for his blog, his job, and the rest of his life. He considered quitting his blog. Instead, he quit his job.

Jason recently posted about his reasons for making blogging his full-time job, and his hope that it will make him enough money to live on.

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Commenting and Trackback

I have changed the settings on this blog to use the commenting built into Blogger itself, rather than the commenting service provided by Haloscan. The reason for this is that Haloscan limits the length of each comment. I didn't realize this until one of my students tried to do an online assignment by leaving a comment at this blog, and hit the limit of 1000 characters. By upgrading my Haloscan account from free to premium, I could get this limit raised to 3000 characters, but that may not be enough.

So I decided to switch to Blogger commenting, which has recently been enhanced. I checked that it imposes no limit on comment length.

The simplest way of making the switch seemed to be to remove all the Haloscan code from the blog's template. This removes trackback, as well as commenting. I regret the loss of trackback, and hope to be able to reinstate it in this blog. It is high on my wishlist of things I'd like to see in Blogger. If Blogger doesn't add it soon, and I find myself really missing it, I may put Haloscan trackback back in. But right now, I don't have time.

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iUpload: Trying

There is a lot of buzz about iUpload as a firm to watch in 2005 and beyond. Is the buzz merited by the product, or it "just" public relations? Of course, it could be both. One of the places I read about iUpload is at the blog of its PR person, Renee Blodgett. In a recent post she provides pointers to coverage of iUpload. It's an impressive list of sites, including not only bloggers such as Jeremy Wright, but also news sites such as Forbes.com.

So what does iUpload offer? It provides a blog publishing tool/hosting service called iUplog. iUpload starts to sound more distinctive when we add Perspectives, which is a means of directing content from iUplog to multiple channels. This sounds interesting. I could post to my iUplog blog, and use Perspectives to send one post to the "free web" blog you're currently reading, and also to a Yahoo group. Then I could send another iUplog post to my book-oriented blog and also to Ebay (if I was strong-willed enough to be selling books), and so on.

So, as I understand it, just as I use Bloglines to aggregate my much of the content I consume from blogs and other sites with XML (Atom or RSS) feeds, I could use iUplog to aggregate my content production, then use Perspectives to direct each post to the right places. The advantages of centralized content management like this are of course potentially far bigger for an organization than for an individual such as me.

iUpload is currently offering a free trial. I am a serial blogger who finds it hard to resist the chance to start yet another blog. So there's a new blog at iUplog, AndWat's perspective. There are three posts there so far. The first is just an introduction. The second is about iUplog as a blog, and about the difficulties I'm having with its feed, which does not appear to be XML. The third is about Perspectives. The fourth will probably be about iUpload's technical support, with whom I am in touch.

More on iUpload soon...

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Monday, February 21, 2005

Six Apart in 2005

Already, 2005 has been a big year for Six Apart. I'll mention three momentous events, and focus on the third of them.

Six Apart started the year with two main products, Movable Type and TypePad. In early January, it bought LiveJournal. Here is the post in which Brad of LJ commented on the deal. In mid-February, I started a TypePad blog. Well, maybe the LJ deal was rather bigger for 6A than was my taking advantage of its free 30-day trial offer.

The recently revamped 6A web site is also bigger news than having me wandering round the TypePad lot kicking tires. It looks great, and embodies the message that each of the three products (MT, TP, LJ) has its own place in the family, with a balance between individual identity and family resemblance.

I'm particularly impressed by the way that the 6A/LJ page looks very much like 6A and very much like LJ, the adopted sibling. One could argue that it should look like both, and that it's obvious that it should have been designed for that effect. But if good web design was as easy and obvious as it looks when we see it, then it would be far more common that it actually is.

Another page I particularly like is one that provides the chart comparing the three levels of TypePad service (and price). As well as being useful in its own right, it would provide a good starting point for a similar comparison chart I'd like to see. I refer to a comparison between the three big easy-to-use hosted blog publishing tools: TP, LJ, and Blogger. Someone will probably produce one soon. It's unlikely to be me, although I do plan to post a more broad-brush comparison between the three tools in a week or two.

I think that 2005 will continue to be a crucial year for Six Apart, and for blogging in general. Here are a few questions that particularly interest me. Will 6A's actions spur Blogger to improve its product more quickly? Perhaps a better way of phrasing that question might be: Will they spur Google into providing the resources to improve Blogger? Will one of the big portals make a run at 6A?

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Good Sunday

Icy pond
Icy pond,
originally uploaded by AndWat.
We went to the Boston Children's Museum this morning. We shouldn't have been surprised that the place was packed. It was a sunny enough day to convince people they should go out, but cold enough to convince them they shouldn't do anything outdoors. Betsy the dog had to stay at home. Her turn came in the afternoon, when I took her to Jamaica Pond. This is one of the pictures we took. I'm posting it mainly because I'm playing around with my settings for blogging directly from Flickr.

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Gates Parodies

If I had to read just a few blogs, one of them would be Boing Boing, the "directory of wonderful things" maintained by Xeni Jardin and other wonderful bloggers. Xeni has recent posted links to parodies of The Gates. Here's the first post of what I hope will be many in that series.

The second post provides a link to The Crackers, which cracked me up. Follow that link for The Crackers, stay for the rather good pictures of The Gates being enjoyed by orange-clad kids.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

NYT Acquires About.com

A couple of the bloggers I read remarked on this deal today. Fred Wilson remarked that he'd predicted the deal over a week ago, and hailed it as "a very smart buy" for the Times. Jason Calacanis went further:
[T]his will be looked at as the moment the New York Times because a major player in the Internet industry. Yahoo, Google, AOL, and Microsoft are the real losers here, I’m shocked they let About.com slip away.
Here's the NYT's press release.

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Online Assignment

This is an assignment for the class I'm teaching this semester. If you're not one of my students, you are still of course very free to read this post, to comment on it, to link to it from your own blog, etc. If you want to see the syllabus, here's the pdf.

This is one of the things I'm offering as an online assignment in place of class on Feb 25, which is the Friday before spring break. There will be other online options: students, see Blackboard; others, you can't. You can submit the assignment either as a comment to this blog post, or on the appropriate discussion thread on Blackboard.

The assignment is to read recent entries from two "business blogs," and then to write about them. I provide two lists, one of suggested blogs, and one of suggested discussion questions. You are free to find and write about blogs not on the blog list, or to address questions not on the question list.

Here's the list of firms and blogs:
Here's the list of questions:
  • What do the blogs you read have in common with each other?
  • How are they different from each other?
  • Who is writing the blogs?
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • Are they succeeding?
  • What are your more general thoughts on blogging as a business tool? In particular, are there things for which a blog is better than alternatives such as a regular web site or an email newsletter?
There's an enormous amount of material on blogging and business. Some of it's in this very blog; for example, this earlier post points you to a definition of the word blog. Other posts here send you to other blogs, some of which are very good. Here's yet another link to another blog and, in particular, to a post identifying six types of business blog.

I look forward to seeing comments, here or on Blackboard. My thanks to Todd Amicon, my graduate assistant, for providing most of the links I've used here.

Google's CFO (F is for?)

Just saw this post at the Infectious Greed blog. Paul Kedrosky quotes from a NYT story about a recent analyst relations day at Google. Apparently those presenting to the analysts included the chef (Chief Food Officer?) but not the Chief Financial Officer. To be fair, the CFO (in the sense of C$O) was present and did answer questions.

The article quotes the CEO (yes, I do mean Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive) as saying that: "We are moving to a Google that knows more about you." I think that's meant to be good news.

Thanks to Paul for passing this on, for giving us the fun stuff without sending us over to the NYT site (where we may be questioned at the door) and for resisting the temptation to attempt a joke about "cooking the books." As you can see, my willpower is not as strong as Paul's.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Google Share and TypePad

Elise Bauer recently posted an update to her overview of the blog publishing tools market. She used data from Google to generate a measure of blogging tool use. In the update, she introduces the term Google Share to refer to a percentage derived from her measure. (Hey, googleshare isn't yet a Technorati tag... let me fix that!) I won't summarize Elise's article here. It's well worth reading the whole thing, which is short given the amount of good information it contains (although it is considerably longer than most blog postings).

I want to focus on TypePad. In terms of Google Share, it is in third place, behind Blogger and LiveJournal. In terms of growth in share over the last 6 months, it is in second place behind only Blogger. Elise remarks that it is doing very well charging for its tool/hosting, given many of its competitors (including Blogger and LiveJournal) provide a similar service at no charge. Robert MacManus posts a theory about TypePad's success.

I attribute this to the customization features that TypePad offers. Both Blogger and LJ have very limited customization functionality, and MT and Wordpress are generally too difficult for average non-technical users to customize. So TypePad offers a unique service (combining customization with ease-of-use) that is obviously well valued in the market.
I am currently trying TypePad. I posted there yesterday evening that one of my initial reactions was its lack of customizability compared with Blogger. In particular, I wanted more control over the template, preferably in the form of access to the html. Maybe I should try to upgrade my free trial from the Basic level to Plus or Pro . TypePad's comparison chart shows that each of the three levels gives more control over the template.
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Firefox: 25 Mdownloads!

Firefox is the web browser I use. It is free, in two senses of the word. It is free, in that you can download it for no charge; in fact, one of the buttons in the sidebar of my blog invites you to do just that. It is also free in that it is free/open source software; you can if you wish download and modify the code (subject to the Mozilla Public License).

It now been downloaded over 25 million times! See posts from Asa Dotzler and Blake Ross of Firefox, and from Robert Scoble of Microsoft. Yes, Scoble did congratulate the developers of an application that is taking market share from a Microsoft product (Internet Explorer). Good for him; and, I suppose I should add, good for Microsoft for tolerating (and even encouraging?) Scobleizer.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Trying TypePad

I'm currently trying out TypePad. See my blog over there for my comments on it, and comparisons with Blogger.

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Definition: Blog

I intended to include in the very early posts to this blog the definitions of basic terms. For example, what is blogging? What is a blog? What is "the free web"? I seem to have got caught up inblogging about other things, such the the Bloglines acquisition.

So here, better late than never, is a definition of the term blog. It is of course illustrated by this very blog, which is a set of postings, with the most recent listed first, each of which has its own permalink, etc.

In linking to another site, I am not so much being lazy as I am being a good blogger. I haven't just given you a single defintion. I have sent you to a glossary of blogging terms, one that you may find useful in the future.

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Friday, February 11, 2005

Flickr: Day 367

Tracks toward Bellevue
As mentioned in previous posts, Valentine's day is on the way, and the Chinese new year just started. Amidst posting images for each of those occasions, I forgot another important one. I refer to yesterday, the first birthday of Flickr, a good friend to bloggers, photographers, and people who just want to share images online. Here's a picture I took this morning while walking the dog. The thumbnail will take you over to Flickr.com. You may be there for some time. To you, dear reader: enjoy! And to you, dear Flickr: many happy returns!

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Blogging 1.0... and 2.0

This is prompted by a post by venture capitalists Fred Wilson at his AVC blog. He describes what he sees as the difference between Blogging 1.0 and Blogging 2.0. For me, as a newcomer to blogging, but not to the web, 2.0 is what I think of as blogging, or what I see it turning into.

Blogging 1.0 refers to sites like Geocities and About.com. Geocites was acquired by Yahoo, while About.com is apparently about to be acquired by the New York Times company. So two things that Geocities and About have in common are survival (i.e. both still exist) and acqusition. Another thing they have in common is that they are both intolerable, to me at least, due to ads that annoy and distract me.

Fred identifies four main differences between Blogging 1.0 and 2.0. They are:
  1. The post as the unit of content.
  2. The permalink, which makes it possible to refer to a specific post.
  3. RSS.
  4. Cost per click (CPC) ads and contextual ads.
I don't want to paraphrase Fred's four points, since they are his points, and he makes them clearly in the post to which I've linked. Besides, the fact that I am responding to a specific AVC post, and enabling you to click over to it via its permalink, illustrates the first two of his points.

It's Fred's fourth aspect of Blogging 2.0 that concerns me. I'm hoping that Blogging 2.0, and, more generally, Web 2.0, will not be made unbearable by ads. My hope takes something of a knock when I visit the blog of one of the people Fred hails as an important builder of Blogging 2.0. When I visit Jason Calacanis' blog, the above-the-fold portion is so dominated by ads that I just want to get away from the page. If Jason is one of the architects of Blogging 2.0, and the entrance to his office is so bedecked with ill-matched fliers, then I fear that 2.0 is an ugly destination.

I suspect that I'm overreacting to one blog, which is just one of the web sites with which just one of the people seen as important to Blogging 2.0 is associated. My reaction centres only on the fourth of Fred's four differences, and I certainly don't deny the importance of each of the first three. Neither do I deny the importance of the fourth; there's a lot more unobtrusive and even useful advertising on the web than there used to be. I think that my (over)reaction is driven in part by the vehemence of Jason's post on Bloglines, which was driven in part by his objection to Bloglines selling advertising against his blog.

I just hope that, if it's useful to talk of version 2.0 of blogging, or of the web, then the new version will not be rendered unbearable by ads.

Blogger: Wishes, etc.

This post is a list of features I'd like to see in Blogger, the tool I use for this blog. I don't think that there's anything that will surprise support at Blogger, or anyone who's looked around the blogosphere a while, but here's the list, followed by comments on some of the items on it.
  1. Tagging, or something that can be picked up by Technorati tagging and other uses of tagging. This could take the form of categories or keywords; either of these means of implementing tagging would be fine with me. Providing both would be ideal.
  2. Trackback.
  3. Some kind of forum for the Blogger/Blogspot community to discuss wishlist items such as these. Yes, this is a meta-wishlist item.
  4. Categories or keywords. This would have been on my wishlist even before tagging took off, since it makes large blog archives more searchable.

Of these, I'd rate tagging as overwhelmingly the most urgent. If I want to use trackback, I can get it from Haloscan, and in fact I've done just that. I don't know of any equally convienient way of using tagging. The nearest thing I've found via Google is this hack from Laura Limay at limon, but I don't think that it would work for me.

The following will work, and in fact is illustrated by the current post. But it's far too clumsy and laborious to be called a hack. (I believe the term is kludge.) It's based on the procedure described by Technorati.

First, include in the post you want to tag html such as the following.
<p>Technorati tag: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/wishlist" rel="tag">wishlist</a>
You can include something like the above in a post template for your blog (see the bottom of the Settings/Formatting page).

Of course, you can make the text on your page anything you want, and can use multiple tags. That's what I've done at the end of this very post, so you can view the html source for an example.

Then, after you've posted to your blog, you need to ping Technorati (or whatever site(s) you need to make aware of your tags). You currently need to do this manually. It would be helpful if Blogger allowed you to automate this. I've put the link to the ping page on my bookmarks toolbar.

So you can use tagging with Blogger is you want to. But even with the shortcuts I've suggested (post template in Blogger, ping link on the toolbar) it's rather... I come back to the word laborious. This means that Blogger pages will tend go untagged, and so will not be accessible to some from Technorati and other sites that use tagging. It may be a factor driving bloggers from Blogger to rival tools that implement categories or keywords.

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Update, the following day. It seems that the bookmarklet described in this post from Matt at Oddiophile prompts you for tags and then generates the html code. Let's use it to add another tag or two below...

Technorati Tags: ,

I checked Matt's bookmarklet by previewing the post and clicking on the link to bookmarklet. The first (i.e. at the time most recent) link Technorati listed told me about this post from Ted at Humanize the Earth. Ted had a thought that had also occurred to me: hey, maybe you can use del.icio.us tags to make your Blogger blog seem to have categories, and hence tags. But Ted actually did something about it!

I think that I will use Matt's bookmarket. I link to Ted's as well because some may prefer it due to the integration with del.icio.us. Thanks to both Matt and Ted for sharing!

In closing... I still think that this belongs in Blogger itself, and indeed in any blogging tool other then very small simple ones.

What to sell? Ads or firm?

Yes, this is another post about the acquisition of Bloglines by Ask Jeeves. It's also about one of the main themes of this blog. How do you make money when your product is free of charge?

Making money from free stuff is particularly difficult when you face competitors that are either: also charging zero; or huge . The difficulty increases dramatically when some of your competitors, or likely future competitors, come into both these categories, that is, they are huge, and they change zero for the product that competes with yours.

This is course is one of the big general challanges of e-business. The web includes giants like Google, MSN, and Yahoo. It also includes a vast amount of content, tools, and other stuff available at no charge.

It is also a big challenge in the specific case of Bloglines and of Mark Fletcher. Notice that I say is rather than was. Mark still heads Bloglines. Bloglines, the web-based aggregator, is still owned by a firm, as opposed to a nonprofit. The difference is that it's now owned by a firm that is larger, offers a broader base of products, and sells shares (ASKJ on Nasdaq). So the challenge remains, although the response to it may well be, and probably should be, different now that Bloglines is a subunit of a large organization.

In particular, one way of attempting to meet the challenge is by selling advertising. Bloglines feeds (pun intended, but probably far from original, so track down the person who did it first and shoot them) a lot of people. For example, it knows about me, because it keeps my blogroll and clipblog. It probably tracks how I use this blogroll. It sounds as though contextual advertising could provide a good revenue stream for Bloglines. This is one of the things that doesn't change with the acquisition.

There are of course arguments against Bloglines advertising to its users as it feeds them. Its users might be upset. I certainly would be, unless the contextual advertising was both highly unobtrusive and highly relevant. On the other end of Bloglines' supply chain, the bloggers might be upset. Jason Calacanis certainly would be. In this forceful post, he explains why in no uncertain terms, and also argues that Bloglines "is not a business."

Richard MacManus takes Jason's post, blends it with some of his own previous thoughts, throws in some seasoning, and cooks up the post at Read/Write Web most likely to be made into a movie by Oliver Stone. He posits that Mark may have deliberately "let slip" the prospect of adverts on Bloglines in order to test the waters without actually getting wet. Seeing the reaction from Jason and others, Mark decided that he couldn't turn Bloglines into a money-making business, and that he should sell the firm while he could get a good price for it.

So, more generally, you've grown your web-based business by giving away your product. You've got lots of customers, and lots of customer data. Is advertising to your customers a route to profit, or just a way of alienating them and other stakeholders? How do you find out whether advertising will work without actually doing it? If it won't work, do you have any good options, other than selling the business? Will the acquirer be able to make use of it as a broader and profitable range of businesses?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Others on ASKJ/Bloglines

Not surprisingly, it seems as though everyone and his blog is weighing on the deal. Among those commenting are:
  • Jim Lanzone at the Ask Jeeves blog.
  • John Battelle at his SearchBlog. He estimated that the deal was worth $25M or more, but reports having subsequently been told that it was nearer to $14M.
  • Charlene Li of Forrester considers the deal a "win-win."
  • Allen Weiner of Gartner views the deal as a salvo in the "battle for the blogosphere" between the major portals due to rage in 2005. Obviously, the majors include Google, MSN, and Yahoo. During his short article, Weiner seems to change his mind about whether Ask Jeeves is also a major portal.
See also my posts/links of earlier today.

Bloglines CEO Perspective

Mark Fletcher, in addition to being CEO of Bloglines, writes a blog. This post at wingedpig.com (wonderful domain name!) is a sort of personal FAQ from Mark about the Ask Jeeves deal.

I (Andrew) did, in my previous post, promise incisive commentary. But, for now at least, you'll have to make do with the following. I'll comment on each of the three points from the numbered list in Mark's post, and also on a fourth point that he makes.
  1. Mark is staying with Bloglines/ASKJ. Good news! But good luck to him if he changes his mind. His current bio makes him sound like a founder/entrepreneur type. He did leave his previous firm, ONElist, when it was acquired by Yahoo.
  2. Bloglines will remain at bloglines.com, doing "business as usual." Good news, and I believe it, at least for the short term. I don't think that ASKJ bought Bloglines in order to mess with success.
  3. What will change is that Bloglines will have access to more resources. Mark mentions in particular ASKJ's Teoma search technology. I haven't made a particular study of web search, and so I don't know how good ASKJ's technology is compared with, say, Google.
  4. Mark describes the fit between the two firms. In particular, he emphasizes "the start-up/fast moving mentality" of Ask Jeeves, while noting that this is his subjective impression. I suspect that the extent to which it remains his impression will determine whether he stays, or whether he leaves to start another new venture.
In some ways, this deal seems good for each side. ASKJ gets the leading aggregator, at a time when blogging is huge and still growing. Bloglines may well be at a point in its impressive growth at which it could really use more resources, in technological, financial, and other terms.

On the other hand, I have my doubts about the the new, larger, firm--mainly in terms of finance and in terms of ASKJ's position in its main market: search. Competition in search is harsh, with Google as the gorilla, and Microsoft and Yahoo each representing, to say the least, a strong competitor. Will ASKJ remain healthy enough to provide Bloglines with the resources it needs? Will it, over the longer term, be able to retain Mark Fletcher and other factors that made Bloglines what it is today?

My last doubt is rooted in one of the main themes of this blog. How can one make money from free stuff? Each of Ask Jeeves and Bloglines is a free service, with competition including other free services. Will the combined firm be able to turn technology and customer eyeballs into profits?

In closing, I'll be explicit about the perspective from which I am writing this. I am a user of Bloglines. I have previously posted about its success in becoming the leader in the aggregator market. I wish Bloglines, and Mark, well. My impression of Mark, from his blog and from other online sources, is very positive. I don't know him personally.

Ask Jeeves Buys Bloglines

This news broke over the weekend. Now it's official. Ask Jeeves (Nasdaq: ASKJ) has acquired Bloglines.

Each of the two firms (actually, now one firm) has posted about the deal. From Bloglines, there's a press release, and a letter to subscribers/FAQ. From ASKJ, there's a press release.

Incisive commentary to follow...

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Happy Chinese New Year!

Rooster!
Rooster!,
originally uploaded by kmikeym.
The year of the rooster starts on February 9. Here's an appropriate and cool image; the thumbnail links over to the photo's page at Flickr.

Friday, February 04, 2005

V-Day is on the Way

With Valentine's day only 10 days away, it's time to start thinking about cards, gifts, .gifs, and .jpgs appropriate for the occasion. Such as this one:


You can find more images by the artist, Jason Sho Green, here. The link goes to the page at which you can buy cards from him. (The text link, that is; the image links to Jason's home page.)

At the time of writing, all the cards there are for V-day, which implies to me that the selection may change as different occasions approach. But, assuming that your click gets you to a page similar to the one currently up, I should warn (or promise) you that not all of the images are suitable for Grandma. Of the current V-day images, I particularly like #10, which is one of the unsuitable ones.

Because he's selling stuff, and because he's either smart or generous as well as talented, Jason allows, and in fact encourages, links to his work. It's usually silly to discourage use of your work. People can't buy it, enjoy it, or even experience it, if they don't find it.

Notice that I say (and emphasize) usually. There are exceptions. And even when you want to encourage use of your work, you may wish to set limits on the use. That's why I like Creative Commons, and have a "CC: some rights reserved" button in the sidebar of this and other blogs.

I found Jason's work by following the link from this post by Randa at the moorishgirl blog.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

MoFo and the Global Economy

MoFo is, among other things, the nickname of the law firm Morrison & Foerster. The web site is mofo.com, and it includes this page about the mofo nickname. As you can see if you follow the link, the top of each page identifies the firm as MoFo: lawyers for the global economy. Isn't that hilarious?

I mean, come on, global economy! Barriers to international trade still include: tariffs, terror, anti-terror, currency exchange, etc. We don't have a single global economy, and I doubt that we ever will. Now, I agree that we see evidence of globalization: the reduction in barriers to trade and other interactions between countries. The Euro is one example. But it's the Euro, not the Globo, or whatever ugly name would be applied to the world currency we will probably never have, at least not in the current century.

I have a list of words I think are used too often, and too loosely, often in an attempt to make one's words sound more important than they really are. The list includes: strategic, synergy, and, of course, global. Anyone else have a similar list?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bloggie votes due Feb 3

Hey, that's Thursday! So if you intend to vote, go to the 2005 Bloggies page. My only firm voting intention at the moment is for Flickr as best application. I'll have to surf around the nominees in some of the other categories, which should be fun.

Having said that, I must admit to being a skeptic about awards. Of the many data I could point to in support of this, I prefer to use the 1976 Oscar for best picture. It went to Rocky, one of the worst movies I've ever sat all the way through. Other nominees included Taxi Driver and Network. It seems appropriate to use as a link for this the relevant page at Pop Culture Madness.

Web 2.0 Definition(s)

"Web 2.0" is a much-flung-about buzzphrase these days. But what does it mean? Richard MacManus addresses this question in a recent post to his excellent blog, Read/Write web.

Warning: if you are perplexed by the term "Web 2.0," Richard's post is unlikely to unperplex you. It includes no fewer than 11 definitions, including his own favorite.
Well I prefer the succinct "The Web as Platform", because I can then fill in the blanks depending on who I'm talking to. For corporate people, the Web is a platform for business. For marketers, the Web is a platform for communications. For journalists, the Web is a platform for new media. For geeks, the Web is a platform for software development. And so on.
What I'd like to see is an explanation of the geek definition that makes it interesting and relevant to corporate people, journalists, etc. I think that web as a platform for software development is relevant to such (mainly) non-technical audiences, or at least to portions of them. Chances are, someone has probably written a good, accessible account of why it's relevant. Now, if someone would give me the link...

Inside Higher Ed Web Site

Insider Higher Ed is a new "online source for news, opinion and career advice and services for all of higher education." It states as underlying principles excellence, accessibility, and community. The second of these includes making all content free of charge.

I found out about IHE at the Crooked Timber blog, in a post that compares IHE with The Chronicle of Higher Education.