A moment too late

19 December 2007

marketing viral web-20

Ever learned of something just a fraction too late behind "everyone else", causing an immediate disregard for that thing?

For me, the incident I remember most was the release of Nirvana's Nevermind album. I prided myself on knowing cool weird bands, then boom, everyone was listening to Nirvana, and I'd somehow completely missed the boat. Not wanting to be a "me too" I ended up never purchasing any Nirvana CDs ever. Of course, now I remember Kurt fondly when I hear Smells Like Teen Spirit on the oldies radio channel ("the greatest hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s, with less talk!").

I feel like something similar may be happening with Spock.com. I don't know if they've somehow suddenly infiltrated my social group, or if they just have a particularly wicked viral campaign (auto-sending invites to your whole address book, like Plaxo did once upon a time). But somehow, I've gotten a dozen invites to Spock in the past week.

I'd looked at Spock a while back. And I didn't get it.

It did not seem particularly accurate, precise or useful. And now everyone I know is inviting me to it.

And I still don't get it.

Some new services have a gentle roll-out, where you build anticipation, hoping to get invited (ie, Dopplr, GMail). Others seem to have a polarizing roll-out. You either immediately buy-in or immediately become a detractor.

I'm not sure what the difference is, really.

But you can stop inviting me to Spock.


29 October 2007

culture politics snack web-20 web-30

A year from today, I'll be 35.

That'll make me eligible to be the President of the United States. I had planned on announcing my web2.0 candidacy, and do a Ze Frank-esque 1-year internship of running for president. I even registered a domain, "designed" a logo, and planned on doing a write-in campaign to demonstrate the power of the hype of New Media.

But in my research, I discovered 4 things:

  1. Stephen Colbert is running for president, so I don't stand a chance.
  2. Even a write-in candidacy requires a crapload of paperwork and signatures and stuff.
  3. Being a libertarian, it'd be ironic to try to be President and force my views of government on the population.
  4. There's this thing called Unity08, trying to do an end-run around the 2-party system. The guy from Law & Order (and TD Ameritrade commercials) is their spokesperson. Getting a Unity08 nomination means that someone else handles the election paperwork.

So, today, I do not announce my run for President. But I'll consider it if someone nominates me for the Unity08 "party".

I do hope I get an invite to Twine today, though.

And maybe some cake. I like cake.

Without us, you are nothing!

01 October 2007

economics events vc web-20

Browsing the website for the Web 2.0 Summit coming up in October, I tripped across the Launch Pad portion. The introduction says, in part

do-not-enter-sm.jpgWhile it’s great to be chosen to launch your new company at a conference like Web 2.0 Summit, the reality of the market is that the majority of successful Web 2.0 companies do more than just launch products. They also often pass the test of VC scrutiny— that's how the market determines who wins and loses in the world of startups.

I may simply be reading it wrongly, but the implication is that the VCs decide the winners and losers in the world of start-ups.

Or maybe having a VC approve of your idea, and vote with his dollars means you have a better chance of winning in the market (of consumers, not venture capitalists).

But I thought VCs acknowledge they only pick one winner out of ten, and hope it goes big. It's also said that 90% of all new businesses fail. Seems like the odds are the same regardless of VC scrutiny.

Mix in the whole web 2.0 concept (this is the Web 2.0 Summit, after all), which implies that we're reaching a point where venture capital means less and less, and it starts to make even less sense to me. Web 2.0 is trying to relight the mythology of two guys bootstrapping in a garage (or trendy downtown condo).

Am I missing the boat, or is this just a case of someone taking themselves a tad too seriously?

Which looks right?

06 July 2007

tools usability web-20

Was signing up to try Remember The Milk, and thought the way they figure out your date-formatting preference was pretty smooth.

Picture 6.png

Well, that's pretty darn simple.

Identity and OpenID

30 May 2007

identity social technology web-20

Picture 15.pngIn a thread on TheServerSide, commentors are discussing how much trust you can put into an OpenID identity. Even the OpenID literature speaks of a server that returns true to all queries. The argument seems to be that since you don't control the OpenID server, you can't trust the identity returned, making it useless.

In the grand scheme of things, does your average app ever truly identify the user? About the best we do is identify an email address that can be used to reach the user today. There is virtually no positive identification going on. On the internet, your identity is simple who you claim to be.

Unless you're a bank or someone with an out-of-band real-world tie to your customer, really, what are your use-cases for "identity?"

For things I've worked with, they seem to be primarily the following

  1. Keeping "my" stuff separate from "your" stuff. Identity isn't overly important here. Knowing who "you" are isn't as important as knowing that "you" simply are different than "me" and "you" should keep the heck away from my things.
  2. Being able to contact users who don't necessarily visit the site or use the app often. This normally means a verified email address. Once again, identity isn't as important as simply being able to contact the owner of some bundle of stuff, whoever he may be.

From my point of view, OpenID satisfies the first case easily enough, assuming the OpenID server is implemented honestly. And if it isn't, then that's ultimately the user's problem for selecting a crappy identity provider.

OpenID does have a conduit for delivering a user's email address, using the Simple Registration extension. I would not trust that address, so OpenID does not solve my 2nd use-case. But then again, neither does simply collecting an email address at sign-up on my own site. People change jobs, ISPs, universities and spouses. An email address isn't a permanent definite thing. Even if I collect email addresses, I need to periodically verify they are still valid, and have a strategy for dealing with those that aren't. If out-of-band communication is even honestly necessary.

Taking this view of email addresses, it would appear they make poor identities for users, since they could so easily be stripped of it. I like the LinkedIn method of managing user accounts and email addresses, though. I can associate multiple email addresses for my account. And I can login with any of them. I can remove them. My account does not have to be tied to a single non-changing email address.

Given all of this, I think OpenID helps with use-case #1, and no centralized standard will help with use-case #2.

The Dad Threshold

09 March 2007

economics marketing technology web-20

dad_threshold.pngToday Ning crossed the dad threshold. This is the point in time when someone like your dad might actually cross paths with the work you (or your friends) do.

Without you having to say "hey dad, look at this".

I've personally never crossed this point with my own father. He has a rough idea of what I do, in general terms, maybe, kinda, sorta. But my work has never directly impacted his life in the least.

Anyhow, I'm a listener of Neal Boortz, a syndicated libertarian radio talk-show host. I also read his daily news page. Today he announced BoortzSpace, his online community type of thing. Hosted at boortz.ning.com. This is the sort of thing my own father probably noticed and might actually participate in.

I offer congratulations to Brian "Ning" McCallister and the other guys over there at Ning for hitting the beginnings of a possible mass adoption. They've taken this Web 2.0 thing and seem to have created something broadly useful with it.

Facing New Models

05 March 2007

java jboss opensource web-20

I applaud the recent announcement between JBoss (Red Hat) and Exadel.

JBoss, through Seam, is committed to JSF, the standard view framework for Java EE applications. The Exadel components represent a nice set of JSF-compatible chunks to help build rich applications, using AJAX and such.

To be honest, I'm still learning JSF myself.

But from a business model and community point of view, I think this initiative will play out nicely for all parties involved. A picture is worth at least a few dozen words.


Some time ago, Exadel gave the world Ajax4jsf, and released it at java.net. Today, they give the world RichFaces and Studio Pro. And we've shuffled it all over to JBoss.ORG. For JBoss, we've tapped a nice well of compatible top-shelf technology. For Exadel, they've focused on providing professional services instead of sharing their attention with product development and management.

Exadel will of course continue to participate in these projects, committing their current development staff, but ultimately they will be developed The JBoss Way.

I think we'll begin to see more moves like this. Already quite a few companies have opensourced their own products. Many times they will dump them at SourceForge. Other times they'll attempt to host them on their own. Depending on the community and opensource expertise at the company, this may or may not work. Exadel has taken a bold step by seeking a particular existing community to foster their projects in the world of opensource.

Community as Mashup

11 February 2007

community technology web-20

Jeremiah_Morrow_Bridge.jpgCommunities exist independent of any actual connections between people. There's a community of people who have all bungee-jumped off the same bridge as you, even if you've never met them.

But, throw a Bridge Day, and the community becomes visible.

With online communities, this is quite evident. Some communities are purely based around the tools that support them, but many communities have no centralized place to congregate in the virtual world.

The community is happening everywhere. And luckily we have this whole web 2.0 thing happening now, with mashups and remixes. Fantastic.

Mashups allow us to go find the community, where ever it may be, and make it visible and apparent. With appropriate use of RSS, del.icio.us, Flickr or other services, the implicit community occurring across the net gets to have a virtual Bridge Day.

Karma Columnist

16 December 2006

blogging pontificate technology web-20

columns.jpgBlogs and such are supposed to be about both aggregation and syndication. With aggregators such as Bloglines or NetNewsWire, I think we've thus far got a pretty good handle on aggregation. Or at least personal aggregation. In true populist web2.0 form, the user is supposed to cut out the middleman, and just go straight to the blogs he wants.

No intermediaries.

But how does he find those blogs? Technorati? Google? Somehow simply searching for information sources by keyword will cause relevant and worthy blogs to appear? I personally haven't had a lot of success with that.

There are super aggregators, like Javablogs or Ruby Corner, but these aggregate on a very broad topic (ie, Java or Ruby), from anyone who wants to be a part of it. And many times the aggregees don't even bother filtering their feed to assure that Javablogs only gets Java posts and Ruby Corner only gets Ruby posts.

The result? A lot of junk (via javablogs).

Perhaps cutting out the middleman isn't quite so great. The middleman also acts as a voice of authority, helping you to find your way. While technologies may enable populist, expertise is not. Some sites, such as Squidoo encourage these voices of authority. Unfortunately, Squidoo only allows a single authority for each topic.

Maybe the newspaper model isn't so bad.

Editors act as authorities and give personality to the paper. Or at least before the day of the Associated Press, they did.

My corner market has at least 6 different local papers, from the daily paper to the various free weeklies. Every point of view can be expressed on the topic of "the news." Nothing forces a single authority. You can pick your middleman to match your own view.

Growing up, we had "the newspaper" which had a morning and an afternoon edition. With different names. But the same publisher. The morning paper's editorial page contained a conservative slant, while the afternoon paper's editorials were decidedly liberal. You could subscribe to the paper that was more aligned to your liking.

On the web, though, there is no concept of "the newspaper" beyond what traditional newspapers put on the web. Blogs enable anyone to be a columnist. How do these two meet?

Through aggregation.

Individual bloggers continue to blog on their own, but a 3rd party (the hated middleman) optionally gathers up some select subset of blogs on a topic and republishes (syndicates) them in a more cohesive form.

Lazy (or busy) readers can find these aggregations and feel confident that if they trust the editor, they will receive a lot of good posts from a variety of sources.

Why not simply do a group blog, with multiple authors? For one, there's the logistics of setting up a multi-user blog system, authors keeping up with credentials, etc. Secondly, blogging is personal. Even if it's shared and aggregated, the posts are still hand-crafted by the bloggers and they feel a certain attachment to their work.

Personally, I like to keep my work on my own blog.

Keeping up with regular blogging can be difficult. Often bloggers think to themselves "jeez, it's been 2 weeks since I've written anything." If they go write something for a group blog, their own soapbox doesn't show evidence of the effort. If authors truly syndicate themselves to these middleman aggregators, they get to participate in a larger publication while still winning personal blog karma by being active on their own blog. Plus, they can use the tooling they're happy with, and let RSS sort out the differences.

I ultimately feel that the columnist model works. But a columnist without columns to fill is just a blogger on a soapbox. It takes the middleman to bring many columnists together to weave a larger context.

Annc: The Ruby Underground

16 December 2006

blogging java ruby web-20


Following on the heels of my last post, I'd like to announce the Ruby Underground. It's simply a selective aggregator of Ruby blogger content. There's already plenty of sources for generic ruby content. Tons of 20-something youngsters (yes, I'm old) are out there talking about Ruby on Rails and such.

The Ruby Underground tries to address a slightly different audience. Thus far, all contributors to the underground are either current or former Java hackers. They've been around the block a time or two and feel squeamish watching all the SQL that ActiveRecord throws. Yet, they have an affinity to the beauty of Ruby.

While "enterprisey" is typically a derisive term, I think the Ruby community could use some "enterpriseyness" to help bring it, um, to the enterprise.

Anyhow, the Ruby Underground, as noted, is just an aggregator. If you already read Bob, Brian, Dion, Kurt, Lance, Martin, Paul and Simon, it probably has nothing to offer you. On the other hand, you'll miss out when other bloggers are invited to be contributors.