Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Early Adoptr of 360

I now have a Yahoo 360 page. Thanks to Jeremy for the invite. I'd like to go on record as saying that it was not only because I wanted an invite to 360 that I commented on Jeremy's blog the night before Beta. By the way, has anyone written the poem, "The Night Before Beta," yet?

As you can see, I haven't had time to do much with 360 yet. I've accepted an invite, issued an invite, made one blog post, and done a couple of other things. That means that I have invites to spare. I'll issue invites to those who request them via email or comment on this post. I'm not sure how long the offer will be open for. I'll post again when and if it closes.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

More on Yahoo 360

Since my recent Li-360 post, I've seen a few other postworthy things about Yahoo. Some of them come from Jeremy Zawodny's blog. He has a post on the 360 preview Yahoo ran for "influencers." Apparently Flickr was mentioned time and time again. Jeremy concludes: "So, yeah. We get it. Flickr got a lot of this stuff right."

I hope that Yahoo does get it. The Creative Commons Search suggests that it does. On the other hand, I've seen several reports that the Yahoo Groups interface has become even worse! I found that it became unusable pretty much as soon as Yahoo bought Groups and turned it into a gallery of bad ads. Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr is either an extremely good thing or an extremely bad thing; I expect to know which it before the end of 2005.

Back to the preview... Danah Boyd's post on it includes the following.
I have to say that i’m impressed that Yahoo folks wanted to hear all of our crankiness head-on rather than waiting for it to appear in our random ramblings online. Even better: they didn’t make us sign any NDAs so we can blog all we want...

In fact, a lot of the product is overwhelming for the not-technically-savvy and i think that this will be their major problem... For the techgeek, it will feel like they didn’t go far enough, didn’t have enough features, etc. That’s actually a lot easier to solve than the overwhelming problem.

Jeremy has another recent post in which makes a prediction on the future of the blogging tools market. He focuses on the host-it-yourself segment, as opposed to the hosted segment. He sees it in terms of two subsegments, one comprising personal users and the other coroporate users, and predicts that these subsegments will be dominated by WordPress and Movable Type respectively. Perhaps he's not going out too far on a limb, and his thoughts on the hosted segment, which of course will soon include 360, would be more interesting...

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Yahoo 360 Preview

No, I haven't had a preview. But Charlene Li has, and her post includes a couple of screen shots. It looks as sounds interesting. Beta starts tomorrow. I put my name of the list for the beta. I haven't heard anything yet...

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Green Card Blues

The title of this post overstates the problem, or at least, I hope it does. My wife and I went to the JFK Federal Building in Boston today, having been given 11am today as the time and date for my green card interview. We'd started the process in the summer of 2004 by submitting a bunch of forms and supporting documents.

My name was called at 10:45, i.e., 15 minutes early. That sounded good, until they told us that they couldn't do the interview today because they didn't have the documents. Apparently they had been sent via UPS to Boston from whichever central processing center had centrally processed them. But the box containing my file and a bunch of others seems to have gone missing.

I couldn't resist suggesting that it might have been a good idea to use the United States Postal Service. The very pleasant and apologetic officer with whom we were talking laughed, took our phone number, and said that we'd get a call when the file turned up. Could they have called us before we went to the Federal Building? I suspect that the answer is: no, your phone numbers are in you file, and who knows where that is.

So Judy and I took the opportunity to have a lunch date.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Moglen at FSF

This, the third of four short posts on yesterday's Free Software Foundation meeting, focuses on the talk given by Eben Moglen. It was mainly a summary of the past year (i.e. the 12 months since the last FSF meeting) in terms of legal developments relevant to free software.

One of the biggest such developments was the progress in the SCO litigation. There hasn't been much for SCO. On the contrary, the litigation has served as a useful wakeup call to IT vendors using free software components in the solutions they provide to clients. It made these vendors aware of the need to be ready for future attacks on free software, and of the need to fund such readiness.

This awareness led to the founding of the Software Freedom Law Center. EM, who chairs the center, remarked that there are now a lot of young people who have a technical background and a law degree, and that people like this that the SFLC will recruit.

I was particularly struck by the ways in which EM referred to Microsoft. One of the terms he used most frequently was "the adversary." He also made several references to Microsoft as "the monopoly." A series of references to a coming legal battles put me in mind of Lord of the Rings, and sure enough, one of the ways in which EM emphasized the importance of Longhorn to Microsoft was to use the image of "the Eye of Sauron" being focused on Longhorn, perhaps at the expense of other issues.

This made me realize that, since I got into blogging a few months ago, much of my impression of Microsoft has come from Robert Scoble. I have been paying less attention to the free part of "blogging on the free web" than to the blogging part. Spending a day at the FSF meeting reminded me of a face of Microsoft less friendly than Scoble's.

Finally, I must say that EM was an incredible speaker. He used no overheads or other visual aids, he just presented well-organized thoughts using beautifully-turned phrases. I'd highly recommend hearing him, if you haven't done so already. I'd also highly recommend hearing Larry Lessig, but that's the next post, and it'll probably have to wait until tomorrow.

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FSF Meeting

Coffee at MIT
Coffee at MIT,
originally uploaded by AndWat.
I was hoping to be blogging steadily throughout the day, but I had to use up quite a bit of laptop battery time in registering for the wireless network. I'm not sure why I was able to get on without registration in the first place.

I heard several comments on the Gates building during the course of the day. The one that sticks in my mind was the assertion that it cost too much and has usability problems.

You can see the schedule for the day at the FSF site. The people listed there spoke in the order listed there, although not always at the exact times listed there. There was one extra speaker: Georg Greve, President of FSF Europe, spoke for a few minutes right after lunch.

I wish I had time to comment on every talk. I hope to see comments from others. I also hope that Peter Brown, Executive Director of the FSF, will post the "Sinclair anecdote" he used.

Since I don't have much time, I'll concentrate on a couple: those by law profs Eben Moglen and Larry Lessig. Each gets its own post.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Live From FSF Meeting

I'm at the 2005 Free Software Foundation Associates' meeting. Strangely enough, it's in the William H. Gates building, and I'm using proprietary software: Blogger and Windows. But at least I'm using Firefox as the browser.

When I booted up my PC, I expected a couple of things to happen. First, I expected a wireless network, but I expected it to be passworded. I was right at the wireless, wrong about the password. Second, I expected to my use of Windows to be detected somehow, and for some horrible example to be made of me. That hasn't happened yet.

Almost time for the first session...

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bloglines, etc.

Richard MacManus' (first?) post for today is even more interesting than I have come to expect from him. It is about the integration of search and feed aggregation. He starts by making the case that Microsoft are among the players who consider this integration important.

He then makes the point that Ask Jeeves/Bloglines is a key player, or at least sees a chance of being one. Bloglines.com now emphasizes search even more prominently than it features aggregation.

I have a few things to add. (1) Bloglines is the leading aggregator, according to data posted by the Feedburner folks (and others, including Richard). (1.1) So Bloglines, rather than Ask Jeeves, may be the more important part of the search/aggregation combo.

(2) Bloglines' home page currently features a very prominent announcement that the firm is hiring software engineers. (3) Bloglines/Ask Jeeves recently sent me a free I (heart) Bloglines t-shirt! (I was was apparently one of the first couple of hundred people to request one after the acqusisition by Ask Jeeves.)

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

They, We, Apple, and Me

Fred the VC recently posted his opinion that Apple has become a "they" company. The post has drawn much comment and trackback, a significant portion of which argues that Apple was never a "we" company, but has always been a "they" company. I'm posting to add to that portion.

In particuar, I'm posting to contribute further evidence of Apple's they-ness. Check out this Guardian article, which describes the greedy and arrogant manner in which Apple's iTunes tried to deal with independent record labels in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. When I first read the article, I was saddened, but not surprised, by Apple's attitude.

Talking of "we" companies, my favorite example is Flickr. But the reason I started using Flickr is that it is a "me" company: it provides exactly what I went to it for. Then I realized that it is a "me-plus" company: it provides more than I went to it for, because Flickr knows about online photos far better than I ever will. Then I realized that it is a "me-plus-others" company: I have got a lot more out of the work of fellow Flickr-ers than I expected to.

I could provide many data points to support my claim that Flickr is a great "we" company. But I'll restruct myself to two. The first of them is Caterina's most recent post to the wonderful Flickr blog. The second is Betsy's intense plea to Yahoo not to ruin Flickr. (I did blog it recently, but Betsy is very insistent.)

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Monday, March 21, 2005

DIY Comics at Gnomz

Gnomz is yet another cool site I discovered via the wonderful Boing Boing. Here's my first creation, The Nominatrix.

Update: I did include the comic in this post, using the Gnomz-generated javascript, but it didn't display properly, so I removed it to leave just the above link. While I'm editing, I'll mention that membership in Gnomz gives you a free-but-with-ads blog. So here's mon blogz.

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IACI Acquires ASKJ

Here's the press release. Here are IAC Interactive's current businesses. I'm unable to get very interested in this transaction, for reasons including the following. It's overshadowed, for me as for many others, by the Flickr acquisition. I probably blogged too much on the acquisition last month of Bloglines by ASKJ. I have no idea what the acquisition of ASKJ means for Bloglines. I hope that the aggregator I use doesn't get ruined by advertism or other corporate vandalism.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Yahoo Acquires Flickr

Betsy From Above
Betsy From Above,
originally uploaded by AndWat.
Well, the much-leaked news is now official. Betsy the hound-dog can do the pleading look better than anyone I know, so I thought I'd use this photo of her to plead... Yahoo, don't ruin Flickr. But however this turns out, thanks and congratulations to the Flickr folk.

After BlogSpot?

In my previous post, I blogged about how I'm probably going to leave Blogger for WordPress. That raises the question of where to host this WordPress blog, along with anything else I might want to put on my personal web space in 2006 and beyond. I guess I have spoiled whatever suspense I might otherwise have built by including that DreamHost button in this post (although I guess the button might not show up if you're reading this via a feed, rather than at the blog itself).

Researching web hosts was a strange business. There seem to be a lot of sites running reviews and ratings of hosts. So I'd read at ThatReview.com that they thought that ThisHost.com was great. I'd then search the web for ThisHost.com, usually to find lots of horror stories about ThisHost. I couldn't find horror stories on DreamHost. (Perhaps some will appear in comments on this post!)

I did find praise for DreamHost on the WordPress forums. See, for example, the topic that recently started with the news that DreamHost now offers automatic WordPress installation through the control panel.

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After Blogger?

I like Blogger/Blogspot in many ways. But the drawbacks are sufficient to make me seriously consider taking my blogging elsewhere. I'm thinking this because of Blogger's lack of three things: categories; trackback; and uptime. For the last of these, I'm referring to blogger.com, not to blogspot.com. As far as I know, there have been no problems reading my blog, or others hosted at blogspot, but I know I'm not the only person who's sometimes had trouble posting using Blogger.

So I'm thinking of a replacement for Blogger, which means a replacement for Blogspot, or possibly one service to replace them both at once. I'll discuss the combined blogging tools/hosting options first. I could leave Google's Blogger for Microsoft's Spaces or Yahoo's 360. But I won't, for reasons given in my most recent post on them.

I just tried TypePad. I don't think I'll go there. I'll link to the most recent of my posts on my 30-day trial of TypePad, which in turn links to some other relevant posts, from me and from others. If I had to go with TypePad, I think I'd go for the Plus level, at $8.95/month. But that wouldn't give me access to the template html, which I have with Blogger, and it wouldn't give me my own domain, which I could have if I spent the same $ in other ways.

I am inclined to move to WordPress as the blog publishing tool. There are lots of themes available, so I'm confident that I could find one that's close to what I want, and then work with the html from there. That's what I've done at Blogger; this blog's template is based on Mimina.

WordPress is free, in that it available at no charge, and in that it is free/open source software. Free is good, and so is free.

I am far from the only person thinking along these lines. Bambit has recently switched, and her new blog includes a great comparison of Blogger and WordPress. It also includes a post on switching from Blogger to WordPress. She imported her old posts into her new blog. I might well leave my old posts here. After all, Blogspot is rent-free and, as I remarked above, my problems have not been with Blogspot.

Thanks to Bambit, and to Emily, whose post directed me to Bambit, and who provides a list of WordPress 1.5 themes. She describes themes as "a new system that takes the template to the next level." That word new is important. I don't think that there's been much new and significant in Blogger for a while, and I have no reason to think that there will be in the near future.

Having said that, Blogger could prove me wrong enough that I should stay with it. I don't think I'll move my main blogging activity from here until December. I'd like to get my own domain, and that would make a good Christmas or birthday (December 22, since you didn't ask) present. That raises the question of hosting, which probably merits its own post.

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BlogMap

Here's my blogmap, courtesy of BlogMap, which I found via a ScoblePost.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Blogging: Flightless Fad?

My reading today included some contrasting metablogging. Seth Godin compares blogging with ostrich farming, which turned out to be a fad, or, perhaps, a kind of pyramid selling scheme that laid an egg. He hopes that blogging does not turn out to be like ostrich breeding and, in doing so, implies that blogging on the current scale may be as short-lived as was the ostrich farming boom.

In support of his implication, Seth points out that "more than 20% of blog readers are also blog writers." If he were to find out that more than 20% of people who listen in conversations also speak in them, would he be comparing conversation to some tulip trading or some such bubble from history?

In other metablogging, Jeremy Wright addresses the "Is blogging a fad?" question that he apparently gets asked every other day. He points out that blogging is a communication medium, that it has become mainstream (50+ million bloggers, 200+ million blog readers) and that:
mainstream communications mediums don't die out. They stagnate, or they evolve or they get replaced by something that does the same thing only better. Because the reality is that once people learn to connect in a new and meaningful way they are loathe letting go of it.

I am more convinced by Jeremy's view of blogging as communication than by Seth's view of blogging as bird.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Drawn

One of my favorite blogs is Drawn! The typical post describes the work of one visual artist, with a sample, and a short writeup. For example, here's the post on Michael Bartalos ("just so easy on the eyes"). In a breach of blogging etiquette, I've forgotten whose blog pointed me to Drawn! in the first place.

I think that it was via Drawn! that I found Catia Chien, although there's no post there devoted to her (yet?). I've just spent a few minutes trying to describe what I like so much about her work, and about the way it's presented in her online gallery. I've been unsuccessful enough that I'll stop the attempt at description, and just provide the square detail so that you can click over to the full picture, and to the rest of the gallery.

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The Long Tail

Chris Anderson's Long Tail article is often-cited, and deservedly so. (If you haven't read it yet, click over and do so before you waste any more time on this post.) A couple of the posts from my Bloglines subscriptions today refer to the long tail, and interestingly so.

First, David Sifry discusses the long tail of the blogosphere in part 3 of his current state of the 'sphere series. He defines blog influence in terms of linking activity, and graphs said activity. He concludes that
... even though the amount of influence that a single blog [towards the end of the long tail] may have is less than that of a single blog on the A-list, the aggregate influence of all of the long tail far outstrips even the mainstream media.

Second, Paul Kedrosky says of the long tail conversation that
... people are still missing something important, something that I think Chris Anderson underemphasizes, or maybe doesn't even get himself.

I suspect that it is a question of emphasis rather than of understanding. Paul goes on to emphasize the demand side of the long tail, the "infrequent buyers who want fringe products." Most of the long tail discussion that I've seen focuses on the supply side, the "fringe products." Of course, the two sides are related; the more available the fringe products become, the more frequently these people will buy them.

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YHOO & MSFT (cont.)

I found this cnet article on Yahoo 360 yesterday, but too late to link to in yesterday's post. I was struck by the following quote from Yahoo's VP for network services. Her use of the words "first" and "immediate" worries me, especially in the light of how hideously ad-ridden Yahoo Groups is.
Herendeen said Yahoo had no immediate plans to add advertising to the service. "We're focused on engaging people first," she said.
I think that I can now put into words my objection to MSN Spaces, following Mike Torres' comment to yesterday's post, and a little more time spent with "my" MSN space. It doesn't feel like my space. It feels like MSN's space with content provided by me. For example, MSN grabs a big slice of the top of the page, and puts some of its stuff there.

I can't help drawing the contrast with Blogger/Blogspot. That service grabs the top slice of screen for its NavBar, but it's a fairly thin slice. Because it gives me access to the template HTML, I can hack it off my blog if it really annoys me. Blogger requests that I include their button somewhere in my template, but I don't mind that: it's only 88x31 px, and I can place it anywhere I want.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Yahoo and Microsoft

There's news about each of these two giants. Yahoo 360 will be "an easy way to keep connected to friends and family with blogs, photos, and more." I've put my name on the "beta waiting list" and will try out 360, or at least the blog component of it, when they let me in the door.

That reminds me, I had a little play around with MSN spaces yesterday. I created a blog. My first impression is not good. As you can see, the template seems to leave very little of the screen for the posts, preferring to fill much of it with garish color. The (few) other templates I tried were no better, and I couldn't find much in the way of template customization.

The news from Microsoft takes the form of a leak about Internet Explorer 7.0. Hey, it has tabbed browsing! I've been enjoying tabbed browsing for a while, thanks to Firefox. It also has a built-in feed aggregator. That sounds familiar too... and I don't want my feeds in a browser, I want them on the web, so that I can get at them even when I'm not on my computer.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

TypePad Trial

My 30-day free trial of TypePad ends in a couple of days. It was an interesting trial, and I liked TypePad, but I was never tempted to move to it from Blogger. My recent comparison between Blogger and TypePad gives my reasons for staying with Blogger; it also includes links to my earlier posts on my trial of TypePad.

I'll make just one final note that may be of interest to those who try TypePad and want to stay with it. It appears that changes to the template you make at Plus or Pro levels of service are retained after downgrade to a lower level. For example, I started off my trial at the Basic level. I then upgraded, still within the free trial period, to Plus. I made some changes to the template that had not been available to me at the Basic level. I just downgraded back to Basic. The template changes are still there.

So if you like TypePad at the Basic level except for restrictions on what you can do to the template, you can sign up for the 30-day trial at the Plus or Pro level, set up your template, then downgrade to Basic in time to get the $4.95/month rate. Of course, your template will to some extent be frozen once you go down to Basic, and you may decide that you can't live without one of the Plus or Pro features.

Thanks to Six Apart for the test drive of TypePad. I may return if Blogger doesn't include key features such as categories and trackback soon.

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Red Couch: Microsoft

Scoble and Israel have posted their Microsoft chapter at their book blog. It's currently due to be called "Souls of the Borg" and to be chapter 2. It's a very interesting case study of blogging at Microsoft, and the role that blogging seems to have played in improving Microsoft's public image.

I have two and a half more specific comments. The first is that the chapter, including the stuff about Scoble, is written in the 3rd person. This seems to be a missed opportunity to use Scoble's first-hand perspective to the fullest. I'd consider having Scoble write some or all of the Microsoft material in the first person. Or perhaps I should say that I'd reconsider having this chapter in the third person; I'm sure that the question has already been discussed among authors, editors, etc.

My second comment is that while I think the book should have a Microsoft chapter, I'm not sure that it should be chapter 2. That somehow seems to make Microsoft more prominent than it should be in a book that's about blogging, rather than about Microsoft. I'd consider (again, perhaps I should say reconsider) making this the penultimate chapter.

The half-comment is rather a nitpick, or edit, and it may be silly to make it when I've just made a comment that suggests a radical rewrite. But the phrase "Scoble was posting up to 50 blogs or more on his personal site, Scobleizer, on his own time each night" says that Scoble had 50 blogs at the site, whereas I think it means that he was making up to 50 posts each night.

Thanks to Robert and Shel for posting as they write. I'll look forward to more, and will continue to attempt to be helpful enough to merit a signed copy of the book when it comes out early next year!

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State of the Blogosphere

David Sifry is posting on the state of the blogosphere using statistics from Technorati, of which he is CEO. He has so far posted part 1, on the growth of blogs, and part 2, on posting volume. Technorati now tracks about 8 million blogs; that number has doubled since October 2004.

While the graph of number of blogs shows shows that growth is steady as well as impressive, the graph of posting volume is spikier. David highlights spikes around events such as the US Presidential election.

Technorati and other blog-concerned parties have had to spend time recently dealing with spam blogs. As the term suggests, they are blogs made of pure spam. They are the logical, if vile, successors to comment spam and trackback spam.

Talking of Technorati, it has suddenly started to recognize some tags I pinged it about weeks ago. These include googleshare, redcouch, and iupload. I'm not sure why Technorati didn't pick up on them before, but thanks to whoever fixed the previous oversight.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Weather Turns... Orange?

As my regular reader(s) will know, we've had a lot of snow in New England this winter. So it was good to see this bright weather forecast. Thanks to the forecaster/artist/orange for permission to link to it from here.



Hang on, none of those nice warm oranges forecast for much of the USA seem to be on their way to us frozen up here in the top right corner. There is an explanation for this, as you will see if you go to the post in which the image originally appeared. If you do that, be sure to check out the other orangey goodness at the blog. I particularly like the deep seafruit.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blogger/TypePad Comparison

I just discovered Emily's blog, How to Blog, and her recent post comparing Blogger and TypePad. She compares them in order to decide which is the easiest way to get started blogging, focusing on these two because each includes hosting and requires no knowledge of HTML. I found the comparison particularly interesting; I use Blogger for this blog, but have been trying TypePad recently.

Emily comes down on the side of TypePad, having compared the two services under a variety of headings. I'm going to give a few comments under some of those headings, and then add a couple more headings.

Cost. Blogger is free. Emily considers the "nominal cost" of TypePad to be worth it. I presume that she's referring to $4.95/month for the Basic (as opposed to Plus or Pro) level. As I said in a previous post, I found Basic TypePad rather inflexible. In a more recent post, I noted that you can now get a free TypePad blog via Friendster, if you are willing to put up with ads.

Categories. I agree with Emily that this is a very important feature, and that Blogger's lack of it gives a huge advantage to TypePad.

Trackback. Again, advantage to TypePad, since this is another feature that Blogger lacks. By the way, I currently use the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger in order to do outgoing trackbacks from Blogger. In fact, as soon as I've posted this, I'll use it to link back to this post from Emily's blog.

Images. It's hard to disagree with Emily's giving the nod to TypePad again, since, it has far more built-in support for images than does Blogger. However, I find including images in Blogger posts easy, due to the wonders of Flickr. Even if I switched to TypePad, I think I'd still keep my images at Flickr, and blog them from there more often than not.

Templates. Emily gives the advantage to TypePad. But I don't like any of TypePad's templates as much as I like some of Blogger's. For example, I really like Minima, which was the starting point for this blog.

Customization. Emily finds TypePad's templates more customizable. I can see what she means, but I found Basic TypePad extemely inflexible. Plus is better. But you have to go to Pro in order to be allowed to get at the template HTML. In contrast, Blogger lets you at the HTML. There are Help pages telling you how to do some of what are probably the most-requested tweaks to templates. My template for this blog is the product of multiple changes to the original Minima.

Visitor statistics. Emily points out that Blogger does not provide visitor stats, so TypePad's decent stats give it a big advantage here. However, Blogger's lack of built-in visitor stats doesn't bother me very much. Blogger Help points to a bunch of stats add-ons. I'm using StatCounter, which was simple to add to this blog and is working fine.

Now, here are a couple of things that Emily didn't mention.

Number of blogs. Blogger lets you have as many blogs as you want. Basic TypePad restricts you to one, and Plus to three. You have to go to TypePad Pro to get unlimited blogs.

Hosting. At Blogger Forum there are many scathing posts about the low quality of Blogspot hosting. I get the impression that TypePad hosting is better, but I'm not sure.

Emily's post is very fair and informative. She amply justifies her preference for TypePad over Blogger. I still lean toward Blogger. Free is a very good price point. My biggest problem with Blogger is the lack of categories.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogger Buzz Blog

The Blogger team recently started a new blog. To quote Biz Stone, they "decided to launch Blogger Buzz so the Blogger team has an easy way of telling you about stuff that connects to Blogger, blogging, blogs, and bloggers."

It's a one-way street, in that it doesn't take comments or trackbacks. Not that it could take trackbacks, given that the feature is missing from Blogger itself. But I've subscribed to it, and will be interested to read what the team has to say.

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Blogging Value Chain

I've recently been thinking of ways in which to explain the components of the blogosphere to a business-oriented, rather than technical, audience. It seemed to me that the value chain, as described by Michael Porter, might provide a good starting point. The value chain describes business in terms of activities. There are two types of activity: primary and support. Primary activities are those that directly involve the product itself.

In the context of blogging, the product is the weblog, and, in particular, the posts that comprise it. So, in the blogging value chain (BVC), primary activities are those that directly involve the posts. First among the primary activities is writing: the composition of a post. It's what I'm doing now, using Blogger's post editor. I'll edit in a link to this diagram of the BVC.



Next comes the publishing of the post to the blog. Once published, it is ready for reading. It can be read using any browser, since a blog is a particular type of web site. However, if you follow more than a few blogs, regularly visiting each web site becomes cumbersome and time-consuming.

This is where syndication comes in. Publishing a post to a blog usually produces not only the web pages that comprise the blog, but also a "feed" that describes updates to the blog. Multiple feeds can be viewed at one web page or within one application; this is known as aggregation. Hence reading can be adjacent to either publication or aggregation in the BVC.

Surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November 2004 suggest that most Americans who read blogs do so using a browser, rather than an aggregator. Hence the three-activity (write-publish-read) path is more common than the five-activity path (write-publish-syndicate-aggregate-read) in terms of users. However, it is likely that the five-activity path is more frequently trodden, since heavy blog readers are likely to use an aggregator. Note that the five-activity path is less work for the reader, since it streamlines the reading activity, and the two extra activities are automated.

The BVC includes three support services as well as the five above-described primary activities. These services do not directly affect the content of the blog (i.e. the posts), but are nonetheless important. First, and closest to the content, is the template, which specifies blog page characteristics such as layout and fonts used.

Next come technical services. This is something of a residual category, to describe components not yet covered. An example of a service fitting into this category is Feedburner. It adds value to a blog's feed by providing statistics on the use of the feed (and in other ways, described at the Feedburner site).

At the top of the diagram are financial services, which pay for the other BVC services and activities, and sometimes enable the BVC to be a profitable system. Advertising is an example of a financial service. Tools such as Google's AdSense are located at the boundary between financial and technical services. Advertising is not the only financial service that may support a blog: the writing and publishing tools may be purchased by the blogger, or they may, like Blogger, be provided at no charge.

So that's the BVC. It illustrates the blogging process in terms of activities and services, and hence in terms of opportunties to add value. The BVC may work well for audiences already familiar with the value chain as described by Porter in Competitive Advantage. The value chain is described in many subsequent books, articles, and web sites (such as this one).

Thanks to: Todd Amicon for producing the above .gif from my scrawled original; Richard McManus for encouraging (although perhaps puzzled) comments on said scrawled original; and anyone who cares to comment, in this blog or by email, on questions such as the following. Are there other frameworks and diagrams with the same objectives as the BVC? Does the BVC work as a means of explanation? Could it be improved so as to be a better one?

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Microsoft Acquires Groove

Was it 10 years ago that IBM acquired Lotus? The story, as I remember it, went something like this. IBM bought Lotus because of Notes. How well the acquisition turns out will depend to a large extent on whether Ray Ozzie, architect of Notes, stayed. In fact he stayed for a couple of years.

Then, in 1997, Ozzie founded Groove Networks, and the firm developed Groove Virtual Office. Yesterday, Microsoft acquired Groove and appointed Ray Ozzie as CTO, reporting to Bill Gates. It seems as though Microsoft is at least as determined to hang on to Ozzie as was IBM. Interesting chap, this Ozzie. It's a pity, although understandable, that he hasn't posted to his blog in almost a year.

Another interesting chap who does blog regularly is Mitch Kapor. His post on the MicroGroove deal makes fascinating reading (to me at least).
When Ray came to me the other week and said that the Microsoft acquisition would keep the current Groove employees in place in Massachusetts and create incentives for them and that it was best way to continue to realize the company's vision of peer-to-peer information sharing, I decided I could support the transaction even though a surface reading of my career might suggest otherwise.

In several press calls I've tried to emphasize that the world looks very different in 2005 than it did in 1998 when Groove started. Now I would say a project like Groove should most likely be started as free/open source software.
I'm wondering whether Mitch tried to persuade Ray to open-source the Groove code. Would this have been better than the Microsoft deal as a way to realize the Groove "vision of peer-to-peer information sharing"?

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Deja Kozmo?

I just saw a post on Fred Wilson's blog about MaxDelivery, which sounds rather like Kozmo 2.0 (take orders on the web, deliver to your home within an hour). Fred has six pieces of advice for Max, two of which I found particularly interesting. First from Fred is the warning not to take venture capital; this from A VC!

Fred's last piece of advice to Max is: "Don't become the cover boy for Web 2.0." Which makes me wonder: which firm(s), if any, should become the cover child?

My own two thoughts for Max: it's not good that many of your pages have tiny type and lots of whitespace; I hope that, against Fred's advice, you make it to Boston.

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The Poster and Technorati

This post may be another member of the "haven't I read about this on lots of other blogs already" club, but I wanted to say a little about the recent episode of Niall Kennedy, the poster he posted, and his employer.

Niall was struck by the resemblance between current corporate concerns about what employees might reveal on their blogs, and wartime worries of the "loose lips sink ships" nature. He found this propaganda poster and edited it to include the logos of some popular blog publishing tools. He then posted his handiwork to his personal blog.

Soon after, he unposted the poster. It began to look as though he had done so under pressure from his employer, Technorati. Many who read about this, including me, started to think of Technorati as some blogger-censoring villan. That's not a good image for a firm that describes itself as "the authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs."

I now think that this is a complex case of an employee blogging on a work-related subject in such a way as to cause legitimate concern for the employer. If this sounds interesting to you, check out the posts by Niall Kennedy, by Technorati CEO David Sifry, and by Jason Kottke. I think that all three of them come out of it well.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Newspapers and Blogs

No, this isn't another post about whether bloggers can be considered journalists, whether bloggers have the right to protect their sources, whether a blog is a kind of newspaper, etc. Rather, it's about what kind of blog a newspaper is. According to Danae in a recent Non Sequitur strip, a newspaper is a "dinosaur blog." Such a dinosaur might well look like this. The strip and the image are just two of the many wonderful things to which Boing Boing has directed me.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Six Apart in LA Times

Today's LA Times has an article about Six Apart. (I'm not sure how long the link will be good for, since the LA times seems to charge for access to its archives.) I got to it via a blog post by Anil Dash of Six Apart, who seems to recommend the article.

I'm not sure that I can recommend it, since it includes several points with which I'd take issue. I'll focus on a couple. The first is the claim that "it's hard to find many weblogs, save for the most rudimentary, that don't run on Movable Type." I hope that Anil Dash, Ben Trott, Mena Trott, and others at Six Apart will contradict that statement. It is insulting to bloggers who are customers of Six Apart but not users of Movable Type. There are many such bloggers, thanks to the success of TypePad and to the success of LiveJournal.

It's also insulting to bloggers who are not users of any of Six Apart's three blog publishing products. For example, Robert Scoble's blog is far from rudimentary, but Scobleizer manages to scrape by on Radio Userland. And then there are all the blogs in Blogger.

That brings me to the second point in the article with which I take issue. Blogger and its associated hosting service Blogspot apparently "are competitors [of Six Apart's products], but are... aimed mostly at novices." I'm not taking this personally, although a look at this blog will show reasons why I might. I'd disagree with the article's dismissal of Blogger and its users by pointing to fine blogs such as A Consuming Experience and The Mumpsimus.

I'm not trying to be a cheerleader or a diehard for Blogger. In fact, a look at recent posts to this blog will show that I am exasperated with Blogger's lack of categories and other important features, and that I am trying out TypePad. But this LA Times article seems to be cheerleading for Six Apart, and particularly for Movable Type.

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Metablogging

I recently discovered gapingvoid, the blog of Hugh "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" Macleod. He's recently posted twice about "the death of metablogging."

I think that rumours of metablogging's death are greatly exaggerated. We'll continue to see a lot of blogging about blogging. Blogging is big: millions of people blog; many organizations are using blogging as a means of communicating with stakeholders. Therefore, blogging will continue to be extensively written about. And blogging isn't a bad way of writing about it.

In other words, the story of metablogging is far from over. It will be a long tale (as opposed to a long tail, although one could related metablogging to the long tail). And yes, I know that this post is an example of metametametablogging, or something like that...

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Friendster Blogs

Friendster now includes blogging. To be more specific, it includes TypePad. There are four levels of service. The top three correspond to TypePad's three levels of service, in price as well as features. I've previous posted about my trial of TypePad, so I won't repeat my comments in this post. There is also a free, ad-supported level of Friendster blog.

There's already been a lot of blogging about this news. One post describes free TypePad as "fantastic value," and estimates Friendster membership at 13 million. Another post approves of, and predicts the spread of, this "strategy of content sites offering blogs to their users."

As a serial blogger, I signed up for Friendster and created myself a blog. Here is my new, free blog at Friendster. My initial reaction on viewing the blog is that banners grab a lot of prime above-the-fold screen real estate before we get to the posts. I was also irked at the number of ads I had to wade through on my short time at Friendster.

So Blogger is still my preferred blogging service. But I think that the Friendster-TypePad deal is a threat to Blogger and hence to its parent company Google. First, the deal puts those millions of Friendster customers closer to Six Apart, owner of TypePad and Blogger's main competitor. Second, Friendster blogging, even at the free level, offers categories and trackback, two features that Blogger conspicuously lacks.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Apple vs Fifth Estate

The big business and blogging news story today is the preliminary ruling in Apple's case against bloggers who revealed details of forthcoming Apple products, but would not reveal their sources. The ruling is in favor of Apple, stating that the right of the press to protect its sources does not extend to web publishers such as bloggers.

Of course, the story has been extensively covered by traditional media (the fourth estate) and blogs (the fifth estate) alike. For example, there's this post at Business Week's tech blog. As well as presenting a slightly more extensive version of the story, it raises some interesting questions.

If a BW journalist files a story for the magazine, she can protect her sources. If the same journalist blogs the same story using the same words, can she protect her sources?

The link to EFF's coverage of the story is useful, but shouldn't whoever blogged the story know that EFF stands for Electronic Frontier Foundation (not Freedom Foundation, as the BW blog has it as I write this)? Is such a slip more acceptable on a blog than in an article published in a magazine?

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Snowy Scenes

Cleared and winding path
Cleared and winding path,
originally uploaded by AndWat.
It's been a very snowy and photogenic winter here in New England. I've taken a lot of pictures in the Arnold Arboretum recently. I've posted many of them to Flickr, which I continue to regard as a wonderful site/service. I post a link to this particular picture for a couple of reasons. First, I really like images like this, with a path of some kind winding away into the distance. Second, this was the first of my photos on which another Flickr user commented. (Thanks, Catherine!)

Open Source Marketing

This is a term that I'm starting to see a lot of. Google tells me that there are currently over 54,000 results for "Open Source Marketing."

To the extent that the discussion has a center, it appears to be the article "What is Open Source Marketing?" You can read it as a pdf or as a blog post with comments. James Cherkoff, the author, writes that the values of the open source software movement are now being embraced by mainstream consumers.
The buzz of meeting like-minded people from all over the world: the fun of sharing ideas, however crazy or leftfield; the feeling of empowerment; the can-do, pioneering freedom.
The empowerment arises from control over content. In the context of software, the control comes from access to the source code. In the context of marketing, according to Cherkoff, the equivalent of the source code is brand-related content. Blogs are an important medium in that they make it easy for consumers to create and publish brand-related content.

Many people have commented on Cherkoff's article. Of the comments I've read so far, my favorite is a post by Greg Brooks. He doubts that Cherkoff has really defined open-source marketing. He's not sure that there's anything going on at the moment that is usefully termed open-source marketing, although he regards open-source branding as another matter.

As for me, I'm not sure that software source code and content about brands are similar enough that taking the term open source from the software context to the brand/marketing context is very useful. But over 50,000 Google results suggest that the term is sticking, so I may as well use it, comment on it, and hope that this blog posting gets some of the traffic.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

HBR on Blogging

Harvard Business Review is yet another publication to recently feature blogging multiple times. The February 2005 issue included a list of 20 "breakthrough ideas for 2005." Number 10 on the list is "Blog-Trolling in the Bitstream." There's a page or so written by Mohan Sawhney. It's aimed at marketers, and focuses on the blogosphere as a contrast with traditional media.

The June 2004 issue included a 2-page article by Paul Kedrosky called "Feeding Time." As the title suggests, it's about RSS (and Atom) syndication. It mentions bloggers as early adopters of RSS. But the focus, interestingly, is on syndication rather than on blogging. Paul's last paragraph starts with the following prediction. "As corporate feeds become more visible, your stakeholders will come to expect them and will demand more."

The September 2003 issue included a fictional case study by Halley Suitt, entitled "A Blogger in Their Midst." The viewpoint character is the CEO of a firm who finds out that one of the employees has a blog, and that customers have been reading it...

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Free or Open Source?

One of the aspects of technology I'm interested in is FLOSS: Free/Libre/Open Source Software. The Linux operating system is the best-known example of FLOSS. Linux is also the reason why I post photos of penguins in this blog (see here, here, and here); to be more specific, Tux the Linux penguin is the reason. This blog is currently hosted on a Linux server, according to a Netcraft webserver search.

Few people really like the term FLOSS. But some people strongly prefer free software, while others strongly prefer open source software. Yet others point out that the word libre denotes "free as in freedom" while avoiding the ambiguity of the word free, which can stand for "free as in beer." If we put all these terms together, we get FLOSS.

While writing a paper on the links between FLOSS and blogging, it occurred to me to wonder what term tends to be used in the blogosphere to denote FLOSS. As a test of this, I looked at how many blog posts are tagged with each term. So I used Technorati searches for each of the following tags: free; opensource; libre. I've linked each term to a search on it, so that you can click to see the most recent results available.

The results as of the time of this post are as follows. Free: 201 posts from 47 blogs. Opensource: 171 posts from 59 blogs. Libre: 8 posts from 4 blogs. It is difficult to interpret the results for the first of these searches. I expected difficulty due to the ambiguity of free. I didn't expect that most of the listed posts would be in alphabets I don't understand.

If I establish the eligibility conditition that in order for me to count it as referring to FLOSS, a post must clearly refer to software such as Apache, and must do so in a language I understand, then opensource seems to be the blogosphere's tag of choice.

I accept the criticism that this is very rough. I also realize that I may seem biased, since I refer above to Linux, while the free software folks would prefer the term GNU/Linux. So maybe it's worth running searches for the following tags: GNU; Linux; and, finally, FLOSS. The second of these is at the time of this writing one of the most widely-used tags, according to Technorati.

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Tux Smashing Windows

Tux smashing windows
Tux smashing windows,
originally uploaded by Amidasu.
Another photo of Tux, the Linux penguin... Tags: .

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

From WSJ and BW

I don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. I don't think that I need to, since interesting stuff from it comes to my attention via colleagues, students, blogs, and other valuable inforchannels. For example, I just saw this post to PaidContent, summarizing a WSJ article about differences between Google and Yahoo. Then via a couple of other blogs (I'm sorry, I forget which ones) I found this WSJ online free article on blogging as a tool for business, particularly small business.

Over at Business Week online, there's an article on tagging and its impact on search, with references to del.icio.us and other relevant sites. In the print edition (and also online) there's an article about "the next generation" of media executives, with no mention of blogging. I do subscribe to Business Week, by the way; it's my only dead tree subscription.

I don't post every time the "old media" says anything about blogging, but there seemed to be a critical mass of articles this morning.