Archive for March, 2005

GoToMeeting (vs Breeze vs WebEx vs Msoft Live vs ASAP)

March 31, 2005

Interesting 5-way shootout dated March 9th 2005 here on ZDnet

A quick read revealed GoToMeeting as the most minimal, and also insanely cheap. Because it has no video, no voice over IP, (only screensharing and chat — but nice UI and very easy to set up), it turns out to be wonderfully complementary to both Hexagon and FlashMeeting — certainly as a way to run some quick experiments; annual license fee of around $500 so we’ll get a few accounts… in fact we’re looking into their corporate multi-user license right now.

I’ve been using GoToMeeting for a few activities lately, some impromptu, some demo, some mission-critical: IMHO it is awesome – just what the doctor ordered. Very few features, immediately obvious what to do… my kind of collaboration tool!

Last year Robin Good did a nice video review of a few products in this space, which is well worth having a look at.

I’ll comment more about mixing GoToMeeting and other technologies in a future posting – I’ve used it with FlashMeeting, other VoIP, and plain old telephone. For 1-1 sessions, please don’t forget about telephony. One of my remote colleagues in a transatlantic session wanted to know why we didn’t just use Skype or some other tool, including KMi’s own FlashMeeting, and I couldn’t resist reminding him of my old anecdote: “We’ve each got a $1000 worth of hardware, and have spent 2 hours dealing with firewall, soundcard, webcam, and configuration issues, and we’ve used the technology to save 10 cents on a transatlantic phone call.” In other words, it’s not about the money, because calls of any flavour are so ridiculously cheap… it’s about the functionality, and fitness for purpose. IP-based-telephony totally rules for many purposes… but not for all purposes right now.

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PubSub real time alerts…

March 31, 2005

Jon Udell’s recent posting on PubSub’s structured blogging initiative got me all enthused about the real time alert features, with PubSub delivering alerts via XMPP/Jabber. Cool, huh? So I went over to PubSub.com, set up a few alerts, decided to sign up for a proper account, only to discover I have already been a member since December 7th, 2004. Duh….

I think at that moment in December I was having some problems with my NewsGator/proxy settings, and as life goes on this just slipped off my radar screen. Without alerts that really came to me (the precise point of the enterprise) there was no way I was ever going to notice them or ‘log back in to some distant site’ (how quaint). PubSub is designed precisely to avoid that quaint approach, so now I’ve got it set up properly, and I’ll see how it goes.

But to really use its power effectively, I’ll need to use the PubSub sidebar which shows real time alerts in my browser. Yet, that’s not what I want… I want XMPP alerts straight in BuddySpace, my Jabber client … looks like we’ll probably have to implement a custom chatbot to do that… which someone has no doubt done already… I’ll have a look around…

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Brooklyn Springtime Poem

March 23, 2005

My father grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, so it seems only fitting that with springtime finally and gloriously breaking out here in the UK, I jot down this poem I recall from my own childhood (you have to interpolate from the Brooklyn-ese):

Spwing iz here, spwing iz here,
Da boid iz on da wing.

My woid, dat's absoid,
I tawt da wing wuz on da boid!

Meetomatic #2 on Google

March 21, 2005

… that is, if you are searching for: meeting scheduler.
Meetomatic is also consistently in the top 3 via MSN search (was 1st last night, 3rd today). Trust me, that is no mean feat, for such general and popular terms.

Read my posting about the design principles behind it over on Get Real.

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Tribe open profiles

March 17, 2005

I’ve just posted a longer piece on Get Real about this topic, and wanted use this short posting now to link together

a) Mark Pincus’s posting on peopleweb

in the next year we’ll see the more enlightened big players realize that they are better off aggregating and syndicating than trying to stand alone defending their franchises and competing with the overall network. join it and extend. dont fight it and get left behind.

b) Stowe Boyd’s thoughts on unlinking

we will all becoming unlinked from today’s style of networks, when we can instead inhabit our own nodes and become networked through tools that help us find other likeminded souls. But we wouldn’t be forced to have ten thousand tinny fragments of our digital identity spread all over the Internet

c) My thoughts on FOAF vs swarm intelligence

I notice on wikipedia that there are no less than 13 different people named Michael Jackson who have wikipedia entries!!! Yet the ambiguity is easily and nicely dealt with: if you go to the ‘main’ or ‘naive’ Michael Jackson entry the first line tells you “For other people with the same name, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation)” and you follow that link you get to a nice clean listing of the full contingent of 13 Michael Jackson entries, with their own unique URLs. In no case is there anything even remotely resembling FOAF’s popular ‘sha1sum’ hash-coded email address which maps onto a provably-unique digital identity. Who is ‘Michael Jackson’ then? Who owns these wikipedia entries? Answer: No one / everyone.

d) My trial of Tribe.net’s open profiles

it still suffers from being too much of ‘portal’ (EVEN THOUGH I CAN SEE TRIBE.NET IS BREAKING OUT OF THAT MOLD), but for some reason I’m not a ‘portal’ kind of guy – I used to be, but now if I want to (say) check out or contact Stowe Boyd or Marc Canter, just to pick two contacts at random, the only thing that matters realistically is whether they’re on Yahoo/Jabber/MSN/AIM, or what they’re saying on their blogs

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Social bookmarks, interest profiles, bayesian filtering

March 17, 2005

Thoughtful post from Find A Path on “Social bookmarks, interest profiles, bayesian filtering” saying…

I would like to see an inbox that shows me the latest findings of all del.icio.us users that match my profile, as defined by the set of tags that I use, but also, furthermore, by the tags that other users often associated to the sites that I bookmark. … Such a functionality would break the folksonomy barrier…

My quick thoughts on this are that

1. ‘technorati tags’ is already getting ahead of the curve on this: it now shows up a ‘related tags’ list, very much along the lines that Nat (above) is thinking about…

2. a la spam links – a difficult problem indeed… re the naming of it, I would just call it ‘Delicious spam’ (ha… eat that!)…

3. A former KMi colleague, ‘Mr Bayesian Knowledge Discovery’, would be just the guy to work on this… Marco Ramoni who, aside from being Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, also created The Bayesware Discoverer

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Digital identity: FOAF vs swarm intelligence

March 14, 2005

I have a love/hate relationship with FOAF.

Yes, I’ve got my own FOAF file (permanently linked in the lower right of my blog gutter, in fact). Indeed the ability of people to own and maintain their own FOAF files, and for scutter/crawlers and find these files and make N-degrees-of-separation graphs and other interesting connections/deductions, is among the potentially powerful and endearing features of what I like to think of as ‘the FOAF promise’.

You can use FoaF Explorer to browse my FOAF neighbourhood. You can find a ‘FOAF codepiction photo path’ (a chain of photos known by means of some annotation to have the named individuals within them) that links me to Frank Sinatra.

Alas, there are problems.

  • For starters, no less than 4 out of 4 of the first Google finds for foaf browser either have disappeared, don’t run at all, or fail to find people whom I know have FOAF files. Grrrrrrr.
  • The FOAF files of people whom I know to be staunch FOAF evangelists are woefully inaccurate and out of date. Most are ‘trial runs’. My FOAF file lingers there, kind of like my old and no-longer-used Orkut subscription.
  • People who inherited auto-generated FOAF files when Tribe.net became FOAF-compliant now have two FOAF files, often wildly different.
  • I’m not even going to address the unagreed standards and the debates over the semantics of ‘knows’ and ‘has-met’ relations (these may ultimately be resolved, and more lightweight standards such as foafnet are likely to grow in popularit.

In contrast to the above promises-riddled-with-woes (hey, I’m a patient guy, but this saga has been going on for at least five years… and that is a looooooooooong saga on the Internet), consider the improbable case of un-owned and often un-attributed (provenance-free) personal data, editable by anybody/everybody, yet demonstrably stable, sound, and scaleable. Yes, my friends, we’re talking about Wikipedia, noteworthy for its use of swarm intelligence to maintain and update entries.

What has this got to do with FOAF and digital identity?

I notice on wikipedia that there are no less than 13 different people named Michael Jackson who have wikipedia entries!!! Yet the ambiguity is easily and nicely dealt with: if you go to the ‘main’ or ‘naive’ Michael Jackson entry the first line tells you “For other people with the same name, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation)” and you follow that link you get to a nice clean listing of the full contingent of 13 Michael Jackson entries, with their own unique URLs. In no case is there anything even remotely resembling FOAF’s popular ‘sha1sum’ hash-coded email address which maps onto a provably-unique digital identity.

Who is ‘Michael Jackson’ then? Who owns these wikipedia entries?

Answer: No one / everyone, in true wikipedia style; and it seems to work remarkably well! There’s a fantastic lesson buried in here for FOAF/rdf/digital identity hackers, and it so simple as to be rather embarrassingly obvious: You are not, and your friendship relationships are not, nor will they ever be, your FOAF file, no matter how slick, detailed and up-to-date it is. You are probably not even, contrary to current wisdom, what you blog. More likely, in the best tradition of wikipedia and swarm intelligence, you are simply what other people think you are.

[UPDATE: I had intended to mention Stowe Boyd’s recent commentaries on unlinking from Social Networks, and his pointer to Mark Pincus’s thoughts on PeopleWeb, addressing many similar issues. The fantastic paradox is that the wikipedia-style described above simultaneously centralizes (via one common URL) and distributes (via the chaos of swarm intelligence authoring) the ownership.

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Customers ARE the product!

March 14, 2005

Doc writes

At some point, mass market advertisers will start conversing with, and relating to, customers. Inevitably, they’ll discover how much more leveraged that is than spraying "messages" at "consumers" through "channels" between "content" that viewers would rather watch without messages.

There are many analyses of big media advertising (will dig up the proper references one day) that have a valuable perspective on this. Here’s how they go, roughly:

Consider the case when you’re watching on TV, and on comes an advertisement for ‘Toothpaste Y’.

Old school thinking:

  • Vendor = the company that makes the toothpaste
  • Customer = audience watching TV
  • Product = Toothpaste Y
  • Channel ‘goal’ = entertain the customer, i.e. the audience

New school thinking:

  • Vendor = TV station
  • Customer = the company that makes the toothpaste
  • Product = audience watching TV
  • Channel ‘goal’ = maintain the product (the audience!) in a state of readiness

(i.e. the TV station sells ‘advertising eyeballs’ to the toothpaste company, since that’s directly linked to their ‘rate band’ or charge-per-minute advertising costs).

A quick Google search for the quoted string “customer is the product” yields a depressingly large number of hits, but none of the ones I located quickly had the type of analysis I’m referring to.

For better or worse, this thinking forever blots the landscape of how advertisers will coummunicate with customers. Doc is right that they ought to engage in a conversation with us in order to get it right, but first they need to stop thinking of themselves as customers and consumers of ‘eyeball data’.

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Burn, Flip, Burn

March 8, 2005

HP LightScribe … cool idea:

It’s just that simple. Now you can burn your own silkscreen-quality CD/DVD labels using LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling technology*. Create customized laser-etched labels using the same laser that burns your data, right inside your CD/DVD drive.

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Marc Canter joins the Digital Identity Disorder dark side

March 4, 2005

Marc Canter has a nasty Outlook bug with which I can very easily empathize, but I wanted to use this posting make a few side points that this triggered. Marc wrote,

…my corrupted Outlook file – which had hit 1.9G – because of a certain person’s podcasts – and Robert told me of a fix that was “up somewhere”. Well I’ve pinged Robert three times now – and the only sure fire way I knoq of getting his attention – is to blog him.

So Robert – I’m sorry I had to resort to this – but I LIVE in my Outlook – and I promise to NEVER download another podcast again – if you could just PLEASE just send me the magic URL – so I can scrape out the corrupted files and get my old data BACK!

So here are my quick thoughts:

1. This is a compelling example of what I have previously called “Digital Identity Disorder” (see my blog entry about this from a few months ago, having suffered from some very similar problems. When things go wrong like this, you’re really stuffed, and it’s no fun.

2. Just the other day John Naughton wrote (and podcast) an interesting piece in The Observer Blog about “Why Everyone Needs A Nerd” to deal with problems like this!

3. I have been successful in the past, and have observed others (including the aforementioned Marc Canter entry) simply broadcasting their woes into cyberspace via a blog entry, and receiving helpful replies in return! This is an increasingly interesting, albeit rather curious, method of problem solving. Searching Google, Google Groups, vendor knowledge bases, discussion forums, emailing and IM-ing your colleagues, all have their place. But they are also fraught with difficulty in cases when you are really stuck badly. So, you stand on a soap-box, and shout for help! In the past, this would have seemed a rather self-centered and desperate way to solve things. But when helpful replies come back to you quickly, and apparently ‘out of the blue’, it is a self-reinforcing route to success. Marc Canter couldn’t reach the guy he needed to reach, so he blogged his plea for help, for all the world to see.

4. Having wanted to express a couple of side comments to Marc, directly on his blog, I’m now going to use the same shouting method to complain. (Heh: I have of course emailed him privately about this in the past, but now I’m escalating things a bit, in the hopes that someone can solve this one). I cannot make a comment on his blog, because I am required to log in. No problemo: I have a TypeKey identity already. But entering it takes me back to his blog in an endless loop, refusing to recognize me, even though I have demonstrably logged in successfully to TypeKey. So I can’t post a comment. So I’m resorting to shouting to Marc and the guys who support his blogging software to please fix it or explain to me what’s wrong.

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