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Frustrated by the Bug

The Bug has arrived,  It’s going to be big.

That’s the gist of what I can figure from a flurry of blog-posts on the new Open Source Hardware device to be launched soon.

I still don’t know what the Bug is, but it’s already bugging mesmile_sarcastic.   How is it that after reading top blogs like Fred Wilson’s, Brad Feld’sMashable,  I still don’t know what it is?   These guys all say it’s going to be Big,  but what does it do?   At last Dave Winer has some ideas…

I’m with Henry Blodget on this:

if Bug’s forthcoming product, The Bug, is to become a consumer hit (which is apparently part of the plan), the company first needs to do a better job of explaining what it does.

 

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Microsoft Works 9: Ad-Supported, Free

Download Squad summarily writes off Microsoft Works:

It’s always been sort of an ironic name for a product, because it just barely works.

I strongly disagree – at least with the “always” part. In the late 80’s Works was my main productivity suite: I was happily crunching numbers, generating charts, including them as well as data from my database in word-processing documents. In other words, I had a perfectly working and lightweight integrated office suite at the time when Word, Excel and Powerpoint were part of a suite only in name, but moving data between them was a major pain. It had to be lightweight: my laptop had 640K memory (that’s K, not MB!) and two 720k floppy drives – no hard-disk at all. Yet it was happily churning away with Works.

Once again, Microsoft had a perfectly working integrated suite 20 years ago, they just decided to downplay it favoring the higher margin, high-end but fragmented products, which took years to become a true Office Suite. As a result, by today Download Squad may be right:

Sure, if all you need is a basic spreadsheet, calendar, or word processor, MS Works will do. But since it can’t handle most MS Office documents, Works is barely worth the $50 you’d have to pay if you actually went out and bought a copy.

I doubt a lot of users shelled out $50, since Works has long been the default product OEM’s installed on (low-end) PC’s – but soon it may be entirely free, reports ZDNet:

“If ad revenues exceed 67 cents per year, we could actually give Works away and still make more money,” two Microsoft researchers and one person from MSN stated in a paper presented to Chairman Bill Gates at a Thinkweek brainstorming session earlier this year.”

“This year” in the above quote refers to 2005. It only took Microsoft to make up their minds two yearssmile_wink

Of course the question that everyone asks is whether Works will be enough to fend off Google, Zoho, ThinkFree, the online office suites invading Microsoft’s turf.

bbcI don’t think they are comparable: Works is still just a client-based, personal productivity tool. If you’re looking to get off the desktop, use web-based, anywhere-accessible, sharable, collaborative products – Works just does not cut it. Update: apparently BBC News thinks so, too.

But the ad-supported Works can’t be entirely client-based: MS will have to pipe in those ads somehow. And once you’re connected, they can start serving up more than just ads – could this become a “Software plus Service” offering one day?

Although Software plus Service is a new buzzword, Microsoft has been doing it with years – more about that in the next post.

More on the subject: TechCrunch, Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim, Compiler, PC World: Techlog, One Microsoft Way , IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband, Profy, Lifehack, Phil Wainewright, All about Microsoft, Read/WriteWeb,

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Technorati Authority in Free-fall

Two weeks after I moved this blog from Blogware to WordPress (I’ll write about the migration soon) my Technorati authority is in a free-fall. It dropped about a hundred, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a week or so it bottomed at … zero(?).

My domain name remained the same, but the permalink structure is different, so I have 301 redirects set up (thanks, PressHarbor Support!), which is the method Technorati recommends. However, I’m starting to believe several bloggers who noted that Technorati does not follow 301 redirects are right… so first my authority will sink to close to nothing, than it may slowly recover. smile_angry

Update (8/7): I need to rely on hearsay from blogs, since Techno Ratty won’t bother responding on their user forum…

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TechCrunch 9(00) at August Capital

The wait is over: what was first dubbed as the Second Annual TechCrunch Meet-up at August Capital is now officially TechCrunch 9. If you attended TechCrunch 7 at August Capital last year, and are wondering what you may have missed… relax: # 8 was the New York Party – proof that there is entrepreneurial life outside Silicon Valley. (is there? smile_tongue)

When Mike Arrington published the participant list, I dropped it in a spreadsheet to get a quick count: it was 809! Considering that last year with 500 on the list we were 700 , I figured 1000 would be a safe bet.. and started to wonder if August Capital’s huge terrace is strong enough to hold 1000 people. Security was stronger than last year, so perhaps that explains why the final turnout was around 900. Here’s a snapshot of the TechCrunch 900, courtesy of Jeremiah Owyang.

I’ve made a strategic mistake: got “stuck” with some long-not-seen friends in a corner, and before I realized it, the party was already winding down. As I browse through the photos by Mike Arrington, Scott Beale, Jeremiah, Thomas Hawk, Dan Farber, Brian Solis and others, I’m surprised to see many familiar faces of friends I haven’t bumped into at the party.

I actually wonder if the best-informed “attendees” were those who were not even present. UStream.tv as well as competitor Kyte.tv broadcasted the event to the World, along with a chat room, so the total number was definitely in the thousands. Centernetwork’s Allen Stern liveblogged the party – from 2958 miles away, based on the Ustream.tv feed and chat room.

What a difference a year makes! Sarah Myers got thrown out last year as party-crasher; this year she was officially invited (hey I like the new hair-stylesmile_wink) what’s more, if anyone is interested in not just the party details, but the (mostly) startups demo-ing their ware, there’s hardly a better summary than Sarah’s video:

Wow, that’s 16 companies in 2 minutes. Congrat’s to Sarah and the interviewees, almost all were concise, delivered the message. If I may give some advice, when you have 10 seconds, don’t waste it on phrases like “revolutionary product”. It may very well be, but it does not tell me what you do…

But I don’t want to be the judge – much rather have you, dear reader pick the best and worst pitch. Please do it in the poll below – you’ll need to scroll down to get the full list, and if you read this in your feed, you may have to click through.

Update (7/30): Please vote based on the video pitch above, not what you’ve seen at the party, if you were there.

Last, but not least, this was the first TechCrunch party where tickets were “sold” for a nominal fee of $10 – the proceeds were matched by TechCrunch and a total of $10,000 was donated to Kipp Bayview Academy towards the purchase of new computer equipment.

See you at TechCrunch 10 martini

Update (7/30): I’ve just noticed a trend:

TechCrunch 3: approaching 300 participants

TechCrunch 5: 500

TechCrunch 7: 700

TechCrunch 9: 900

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TechCrunch: from 5K to 500K

My first TechCrunch party was in October 2005 – back than it was called the 3rd TechCrunch BBQ. The first two, which I had missed were (almost) impromptu backyard BBQ’s with a dozen or so entrepreneurs at Mike Arrington’s house. I’m not sure how I discovered these events, but it may have been Ethan’s blog, which led to a wiki with open signup. I started to monitor the wiki for the next one, and a month or so later signed up for the 3rd event.

The first parking spot I found was half a mile away from Mike’s Atherton house. Wow! This was no longer a cozy BBQ, the pace was cramped with about 200 people. Lots of food in the backyard, a keg that the geek squad could not force to produce beer, and lots of startup product demos inside. It was a great event – probably the last one right-sized for the house. The next one grew to about 300 people, the 5th, and the last at Mike’s place, the “Naked Party” was a crowd of 500. Oh, and Atherton police got smart, setting up a sobriety checkpoint just around the corner from TechCrunch HQ…

The Party is not all that grew… after the 3rd BBQ I wrote about what I considered phenomenal growth back then:

Mike Arrington started a blog in June with the mission of “ obsessively profiling and reviewing every newly launched web 2.0 business, product and service”. Since June, the blog has grown to close to 5,500 Feedburner readers, a Technorati rank of 566, and made it to the CNET Top 100 list.

Yes, that five thousand is not a typo, that really was the readership in October 2005. The next stop is at 50k, in May 2006 – 53,651 to be exact, as so famously called by Josh Kopelman. Fast forward to summer of 2007, and TechCrunch has 450K feedburner subscribers – well, at least last I looked at it. Until this morning, when I saw this:

Yes, TechCrunch has reached the half a million mark. Congratulations, Mike! That’s quite a milestone, and a reason to celebrate tonight at the TechCrunch Party hosted by August Capital.

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NASA’s Bad Hair Day: Drinking, Sabotage, Theft

NASA is having a certified Bad Hair Day: Sabotage, Drunk Cosmonauts, Theft – what else should we expect?

Several sources reported that a computer that is supposed to fly aboard shuttle Endeavour in less than two weeks, was sabotaged.

A NASA panel reported that drunk astronauts were allowed to fly despite warnings about their alcohol consumption. I guess no cops can catch them for DUI up there.

Compared to this the loss of $94M in office equipment is just petty theft. Here’s my favorite explanation, this one referring to a missing laptop, valued $4,265:

This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

Your tax money at work. smile_sarcastic

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Automated Mail Can Be Smart and Friendly, After All

I ranted against stupid, mindless mass-mail before – now Espen Antonsen brings us an example of doing it right. Here’s the full text of his shipping confirmation email, after purchasing a CD online:

Subject: Espen – Your CD Baby Order!
From: CD Baby loves Espen

Espen –

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!
Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Wednesday, July 25th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Sigh…

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
the little store with the best new independent music
http://cdbaby.com cdbaby@cdbaby.com (503)595-3000

Espen, you do have to go back and purchase again – if only to test what their second message is likesmile_wink

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Web 2.0 Blackout

A power outage in San Francisco has just wiped out the creme of the Web: craigslist, technorati, typepad, and I don’t know what other services are all down. Update: Netflix is down, too. (hat tip: TechCrunch)

brb

Blackout!
Our power is down. Technorati will be back up soon.

My own blog is sick today for other reasons (check my site24x7 stats – just on the day when I got linked to by several ZDNet blogs and Techmemesmile_sad ) so I don’t know if this post will make it.

Update:

“There’s a reason we run a ton of servers with a bunch of different Internet providers and put them in a lot of different datacenters.” – says OpenDNS

No wonder they are up thumbs_up

Update: Some, like Netflix and Technorati are back up. Quote from the Technorati blog:

We are working with our co-location facility managers to assess why it is back-up power generators failed to provide the necessary back-up power to prevent our site going down.

Update: Ouch, Valleywag (you know, your most-credible-source-of-information) has another explanation:

Someone came in shitfaced drunk, got angry, went berserk, and fucked up a lot of stuff. There’s an outage on 40 or so racks at minimum.

Take the above with a grain of salt

On a more serious note, this reminds me of one line from NetSuite‘s recent IPO filing:

We host our services and serve all of our customers from a single third-party data center facility located in California… We do not currently operate or maintain a backup data center for any of our services or for any of our customers’ data, which increases our vulnerability to interruptions or delays in our service.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. We’re not talking consumer Web 2.0 here, companies run their entire business on NetSuite. smile_speedy

But let’s finish this story on a lighter note. Techdirt points out that 365 Main, the hosting facility invoked Murphy’s law against themselves in a PR release just hours before the blackout, when they bragged about how a customer gave up their redundant sites after 2 years of uninterrupted service at 365. They trusted 365 Main, since:

“The company’s San Francisco facility includes two complete back-up systems for electrical power to protect against a power loss. In the unlikely event of a cut to a primary power feed, the state-of-the-art electrical system instantly switches to live back-up generators, avoiding costly downtime for tenants and keeping the data center continuously running.”

Well, if this was “continuosly running”, I don’t want to know what happens when there is an “outage”. smile_omg

Update 97/25):  There was a bright side to this, as Good Morning Silicon Valley details:

“Unable to work, Web 2.0 programmers slathered themselves with sunscreen and stumbled into the unfamiliar daylight. Families were reunited as thousands of idled bloggers pushed away from the keyboard and were greeted by loved ones. Global temperature dropped as servers and PCs rested silently.”

Also read: GigaOM, TechCrunch, Data Center Knowledge, PC World: Techlog, Between the Lines, Webomatica, Geek News Central, CNET News.com, O’Reilly Radar., Rough Type, Connecting the dots (me, too!) , Don DodgeBetween the Lines,

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Why Would We Need a New Desktop OS?

I’m glad to see ZDNet agrees with me. David Berlin poses the question: By 2010, will Windows ‘Seven’ (or any desktop OS) really matter? My question a few days ago was: Windows Seven in 2010. Does Anyone Still Care?

David goes on to explain how almost everything he does nowadays is done in the browser – that is online. His experience with installed software is painful – like the recent Vista upgrade. As for myself, I still have to cool off before I can tell you how badly a forced Microsoft Money update scr***d me and all online banking users. Arrogant ignorance by Microsoft, as usual.

On the other hand, are these new Windows versions getting any better? We can read stories of high-profile bloggers switching back to XP, analyst firms advising their CIO clients NOT to upgrade to Vista, but today is the first time we here a major PC manufacturer (Acer’s President) clearly labeling Windows Vista a flop. Technically as well as commercially.

“The whole industry is disappointed with Windows Vista”

“Users are voting with their feet …. Many business customers have specifically asked for Windows XP to be installed on their new machines”

It’s great that he can now openly say this – a few years ago Microsoft would have penalized Acer.
Analysts think the problem is that consumers prefer lower-cost machines that might not work well with Vista.

“Most of the machines I see pitched in catalogs are in the $700 range, certainly under $1,000,”
“Computers with that amount of hardware are a better fit for XP. With Vista’s requirements, people may be thinking about sticking with XP, and putting less money into the hardware.”

Exactly. But this is a chicken-end-egg issue: why would anyone want to buy stronger hardware just to run a new Operating System? It only makes sense for tangible benefits, i.e. gaming, video editing..etc. Otherwise, buying more powerful machines only so they can be bogged down by Vista (or Windows Seven for that matter) is meaningless arms race. For productivity / business use, the trend is just the opposite: with the move to Web Applications, wee need less CPU, storage, memory (well, maybe not that, with zillions of FireFox tabs open…). Since I switched to Web Apps, I barely ever hear the fan come up in my trusted old laptopsmile_wink

I’m confused though:

“Microsoft reports Microsoft itself says Vista has been a smashing success, saying it had already sold 20 million Vista licences by March.”

With consumers not buying, corporate CIO’s not upgrading, manufacturers being disappointed … where did those 20 million customers come from?

Update (7/23): It’s really amazing how Donna Bogatin does not get it. She writes off David Berlind’s article as simply based on the author’s personal computing habits… Web Worker Daily, can you hear this? Microsoft OS extinction case? What are you talking about, Donna? I re-read and re-read the Berlind piece and don’t see it. That’s not what he (and I) are talking about. But here’s another ZDNet-er, Ryan Stewart coming to our rescue: in case it’s not clear, what we’re saying is The desktop OS will still matter, just not which one.

P.S. Donna’s blog does not allow commenting. What a surprise…

Related posts: /Message, Dvorak Uncensored, ParisLemon, Wired,

Update (8/9):  a very good analysis by eWeek: Broken Windows

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Flow vs. Structure: Escaping From the Document & Directory Jungle

I do not think/work/create like a machine.

My thoughts flow freely and I tend to discover relationships between events (hence “Connecting the Dots” above in the Blog Header), so I like linking things – at least mentally. Why would I confine myself to the rigid directory & file structure that computers have forced on us for decades? There are better ways… let’s look at some.

A while ago Atlassian CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes wrote and excellent piece on how Enterprise Wikis Replace Shared Drives. Shared drives as collective document depositories are a disaster, we typically can’t determine where, to put things, and certainly don’t know where to find them. And if we do find a document, how do we know whether we have the latest version? How do we know who changed what in the dozen other copies with similar but cryptic filenames spread around the shared drive?

Wouldn’t it be easier to use the equivalent of a directory structure with meaningful names, the ability to attach longer narratives to our documents and find them easily via search and tags? That’s essentially what you get when you use an enterprise wiki as your “shared drive”. Think of not documents/files only, but the very reason they exist: in business we typically work on a few “projects” at any one time. If we create wikis / wiki pages for each project / function, the page content becomes the “narrative” that describes what we do, why and how, and further supporting details are in the document attachments. There really is no reason to bury documents (doc, xls, ppt) in some central dumping place (document depository) anymore – they belong to the wiki page (project description) where by definition they are in context. Of course they can be used in several other places, in different context, which is where linking comes handy – linking to wiki pages as well as other content (documents, web sites, etc).

Now that we established the wiki as the “glue” to tie all our documents together, let’s take a step further. As we get comfortable with the wiki, we’ll often wonder when to create a separate document and when to use native wiki pages. If your wiki supports a rich word processor, textual content can easily move in the wiki pages themselves. (Interestingly, Blogtronix, the Enterprise 2.0 platform vendor uses the “document” metaphor for what others call a wiki-page.) Of course whether we call them pages or documents, they should still be easy to share with “outsiders”, by using workspace or page-level permissions, or exporting to PDF and other file formats should you need to “detach” content and email it.
This works well for text, while for other needs we shoot out to the point applications and attach the resulting files (ppt, xls… etc.)

However, like I stated before, I do see the irony of working in an online collaboration platform (the wiki) yet having to upload/download attachments. Atlassian’s Webdav plugin for Confluence is an elegant solution (edit offline, save directly to the wiki), but for most other wikis the process involves far too many steps. Why not directly edit all these documents online? This of course takes us to the old debate whether the wiki should become the new office, or just the “integrator” holding the many pieces together. As a user, I don’t see why I should care: I just want seamless workflow between my wiki, spreadsheet, presentation manager, project management tool …etc. Such integration is easier when all applications/documents are online, and there are excellent applications from Zoho, ThinkFree, Editgrid, Google, to do just that.

Working directly on the Web is not just a matter of convenience. Zoho’s Raju Vegesna points to mobility, sharing & collaboration, presence & communication, auto-Versioning, auto-save, access & edit history as native benefits of web-documents.

As we link web documents to each other, and smoothly transition between applications, a paradigm shift occurs: the definition of what we call a “document” expands. Offline, a document equals a file, defined by application constraints. Spreadsheets, presentations need to be saved in their own specific format, and they become “black boxes”: there’s not much we know about them, other than a short title. There is an overhead in opening every one of them, they need to be virus-checked, then “stitched” together to support the “flow-thinking” I was referring to earlier.
Those boundaries are stretched on the web: a document is no longer a file of a specific type, generated by a specific application: it’s a logical unit, defined by context, which weaves together content created by several applications.

Zoho’s Notebook is an experimental application that allows us to create, merge and store information the way we think, no matter whether it involves writing text, drawing charts, shapes, crunching numbers or recording/playing videos. Experimental in the sense that we don’t know how it will be used. In fact I don’t know what the future web worker productivity / collaboration tools will look like, but I suspect they will have elements of Notebook – multi-format, multi-media – and wikis – user-created structure, everything linked to everything – merged together.

Files, formats become irrelevant: there is only one format, and it’s the Web, defined by URL’s.

Additional reading:

Update (11/13/07): Read I Hate Files on Collaboration Loop. (via Stewart Mader)