Scripting News for 8/1/07

Helping Doc transition 

Doc Searls is moving his blog to a Harvard-hosted WordPress site.

I’m helping him do this transition, the first part is done. His editorial tool, an outliner, is working with WordPress, and knock wood, praise Murphy, he’ll be updating that blog, and we’ll be archiving the original blog.

If you’re reading his blog look for new posts on the WordPress site, and you can subscribe to his newly located RSS feed. We’ll be redirecting that as well.

UnGnomeCamp, 8/12/07 in Seattle 

Raines Cohen is organizing UnGnomeCamp for the day after Gnomedex in Seattle, a week from Sunday.

Forrester is wrong, imho 

Forrester analyst Vidya Lakshmipathy claims that the iPhone’s approach to the web eliminates the need for “stripped down sites crammed onto the small screens of devices meant for phoning, not browsing.”

I would love to agree, but I came to the opposite conclusion.

7/25/07: “I think what Apple has attempted is noble, but it’s not going to work. The screens have limited resolution, and even if they didn’t, even if they could cram a billion pixels into every square inch, there’s the limit of how much detail our eyes can see and how big our hands are.”

I’m glad to have the opportunity to elaborate.

The iPhone view of the web is not optimal for the user. GIven a choice between a site well-designed for mobile use, and the extra work you have to do to zoom in and out and scroll in all directions to read a page laid out for a big screen on a tiny one, there’s no choice at all, I’ll go with the one designed for mobile use.

To prove the point, compare the user experience, on an iPhone, of the default NY Times site (as demo’d in the commercial), and the river version. No doubt which one is easier for the user, and isn’t that what counts? (To me as a user, of course it is.)

Now if Forrester had said that many sites aren’t available in mobile versions, or the mobile versions often aren’t any easier than the larger versions, or the problem of where they link to hasn’t been soved, or that there are tradeoffs, of course, as a user and an engineer, I’d have to agree. But a special mobile web will be needed as long as we want to use devices the size of an iPhone.

There is some point, not sure where it is, where the screen gets large enough to work. Maybe that’s the computer Apple will announce next Wednesday.

State of the Platform, 2007 edition 

1. The great thing about the Internet was and is that it’s the platform without a platform vendor. That’s why it has been the engine of growth and innovation for so long, over thirty years now. There’s no entity with eminent domain to forclose on a developer’s relationship with customers. And none of us are incentivized to care for a vendor’s garden in the same way we are with the community garden.

2. Perhaps it’s for the best that the iPhone has no Apple-sanctioned SDK. That has forced developers to create their own, even though results so far haven’t gotten beyond “Hello World.” If Apple had provided an SDK, then Bug Labs would not be quite as welcome, and every developer that gained traction would be wondering when Apple was going to take their market.

3. Facebook is a platform vendor, obviously, and when one develops a Facebook app, one is willingly climbing into the trunk, which has a lock, and only one entity has the key, the platform vendor.

4. What about Twitter?

5. What about Feedburner?

What about Twitter? 

Continuing the Status of the Platform story…

4. Harold Gilchrist asks if Twitter is a platform vendor, and of course it is, but I’m not climbing into the trunk, just studying it, sort of sticking my hand in there. Sure they may slam the lid (I kind of expect they will, actually) but there’s still a lot to learn. And I love their API, as a template for something basic.

Much as RSS 2.0 was a format used to communicate between various UserLand products that turned into a lingua franca for an industry, the Twitter API may end up having significance outside the confines of the startup that’s launching it.

At tech industry parties occasionally there’s talk about cloning it in open source, much the way all the components of Google’s back-end are now being cloned. That should certainly be done. Maybe we should have a two-day camp just for that purpose. Hmmmm.

What about Feedburner? 

Continuing the Status of the Platform story…

5. You know I’ve been writing about Feedburner, and its potential of being a disaster for the RSS micro-industry. An email from Daniel McKeown this morning got me thinking, why don’t we fix the problem? Maybe because most programmers have good log analysis software, or we have our hosting act down, or know how to manage domains, the idea of a creating an open source Feedburner never occurs to us. But if we see an oil spill coming, shouldn’t we be investing in technology to clean up oil spills? Or maybe we should take some steps now to avoid spills?

One of the things I’ve heard over and over from non-technical users who have the same concerns now that Feedburner is owned by Google, is where do we go if we want to switch? Ahh. There is no place to go.

If there was only one company that made mail servers or one company that hosted blogs, how quickly would there be a second and third, and how quickly would software emerge that allowed you to host your own? And why hasn’t this happened with Feedburner, and maybe it’s time that it did?

Todd Sawicki likes the idea of an open source competitor to Feedburner.

Why is Technorati so volatile? 

I probably shouldn’t watch the rank of this blog over at Technorati, but I do.

It’s like watching the value of a stock portfolio fluctuate over time.

It seemed to have something to do with what was happening here on the blog.

But last night, in a few hours, the rank went from 122 to 270, after spending a couple of weeks steadily going down (which is really up) from around 150.

What could account for such a huge overnight drop?

We don’t really know how Technorati works, it’s a secret algorithm, and it seems a buggy one at that. Yet the many treat it as authoritative.

Maybe someone can explain why rank can seem so volatile?

PS: As if in response, it now says my site is ranked 120. Geez Louise. What’s next?

PPS: Please, could someone with some logevity and system management expertise buy Technorati. Think of it this way. McAfee in some sense owns the Oakland Colliseum. Monster owns Candlestick. AT&T owns the stadium where the Giants play. Okay, what if IBM owned Technorati, it would then be called the IBM 100. Think about the goodwill you’d buy. You’d be famous as the arbiter of popularity in the blogosphere. You’d be thanked for bringing stability to a metric that desperately needs it. Sifry, if this approach works, you owe me 1 percent. πŸ™‚

You can hear a pin drop 

It’s so quiet in the tech blogosphere because TechMeme is down.

It appears it’s been down since about 4:30AM Pacific, the message at the top of the page says it should be back around 11:15AM 11:35AM.

This is what it was like before TechMeme, there was no central place to find out what’s up. We were all on our own. I kind of liked it that way.

On the other hand, I can’t wait to find out what people are talking about so hurry up and get it back onine Gabe! πŸ™‚

12PM: Techmeme is back, as is Gabe’s sanity.

AlwaysOn conference 

Interesting way to watch a conference, from the comfort of home, if the speakers start droning or boring or self-serving too much, I can easily switch channels.

Do all Sun people look like young versions of Scott McNealy?? πŸ™‚

Disappointed to hear Jaron Lanier (a nerdy rastafarian who laughs giggles like Jerry Garcia) focus the virtual worlds conversation on revenue streams. They all say the same thing, every time the question is asked. Blah blah blah, let’s move on.

18 responses to this post.

  1. Given a long tail with millions of bloggers, perhaps there’s some sanity in ignoring whether you are in the top 99.999999% or the top 99.999998% of all blogs?


  2. > The great thing about the Internet was and is that it’s the platform without > a platform vendor.

    You seem to like Twitter these days. Isn’t Twitter a simple, slim downed platform vendor. Haven’t you jumped into the Twitter trunk? Why is their trunk any cozier then Facebook’s If your effort’s attention grows at gets on Twitter’s radar aren’t you going to be wondering if and when Twitter was going to take your market? Aren’t your investor’s goig to have these same fears?

    It presently looks like Facebook has no shortage of developers jumping into the trunk.

    Like Eddie Murphy once said: “There’s a new sheriff in town, his name is Facebook, you all be cool now.”


  3. > Given a long tail with millions of bloggers, perhaps there’s some sanity in > ignoring whether you are in the top 99.999999% or the top 99.999998% > of all blogs?

    Phil didn’t you know that the Internet was flat and has no A-list.


  4. Isn’t an algorithm-based formula better than some Hollywood Power 100 style human picking system?


  5. Twitter is of course a platform vendor.

    But I’m not jumping into their trunk, I just put my hand in there. They could slam the trunk and it might hurt, but I’m not building a business on it, hiring people, making promises to customers, taking their money, etc.

    Not sure what would convince me to do that, if anything.


  6. Posted by Ann on August 1, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Thanks for posting the link to your earlier discussion on platforms….Ann


  7. Techmeme’s updater, and thus my sanity, is back.

    Too bad it crashed right after I went to bed. Lucky for me though that the landscapers woke me at 9 or else who knows how much later updates would resume.

    The problem was in some library code. I put in a workaround that should do the trick. But to be fair, the real problem is I need a better way to alert myself of situations like this.


  8. Dave,
    Why would it be ok for Microsoft to own Technorati but is not ok for Google to own Feedburner?


  9. Vera, who said it wasn’t okay for Google to own Feedburner?


  10. Mobile Versions…I agree & disagree with you Dave. Your river gives me one view of what’s on the NYtimes in an easily scanable list. The NYTimes site gives me a different view where I can somewhat determine what they consider important through placement, size of headlines/text/pictures.
    I think some sites lend themselves to the “river” while others don’t.


  11. Dave,
    I thought you did, but I am making some assumptions based on your postings about the negatives of Google’s ownership of Feedburner, including your note in today’s postings that there’s “no place” else to “go if we want to switch”. Am I reading you wrong?


  12. funny you mentioned Facebook as a lock. Facebook is the new win32 API (get my drift).

    But its also funny you say Internet is the platform, and almost always, that means Web/HTML/HTTP to everyone involved.

    I do pure p2p development, like skype, but with commerce; its cool, fun, and scary.

    really what it’s about is modes of communcation.

    i really wish things like java, and http, and xml, and all the other crap was never invented…so people could once again see the internet for what its for…rather having them create the same redundant website crap over and over again.


  13. I strongly agree with you Dave, that the iPhone doesn’t remove the need to provide users with mobile optimized versions of the site.

    I strongly disagree that “the iPhone view of the web is not optimal for the user.” Right now the mobile versions of most sites provide an impoverished experience that only delivers a subset of functionality (assuming there is a mobile version at all). The iPhone gives users the ability to make use of the features of the main version of the site. It increases their choice of sites they can make use of on their mobile device. It may not be a global optimum, but it creates a new local optimum for this point in time.

    It also helps us move towards an optimal experience more quickly. The iPhone, by expanding the choice of websites available to mobile users, will bring more mobile web users. More mobile web users means a larger potential audience, which means that site owners have justification to invest more in the experience they mobile users, and MobileSafari gives them a richer environment for developing that experience than the former status quo in mobile phone web browsers. This creates a virtuous cycle, bringing more mobile users to the web, justifying more investment in the mobile experience.

    I imagine that you’ll agree, choice and innovation are generally a good thing for users.


  14. Dave:
    The iPhone graphic you’re using is missing the YouTube icon (Forrester is wrong, imho…).
    I love you.


  15. Dave,

    re: FeedBurner – there are plenty of folks out there who can probably do an open source alternative. The first one that comes to mind are the guys at WordPress.

    As an additional thought, the core function of FeedBurner is caching the feeds. There is no reason why feed aggregators such as Technorati, Feedster, Google Blogsearch, IceRocket, BlogLines, etc. cannot come up with an open way to hook into their cached copy. Of course open source is nicer.

    I also wanted to mention another factor. I have a small project that provides tracking data for packages (UPS, USPS and Fedex) via RSS ( One of the biggest problem I am experiencing with it right now is that the demo version running on my own site is getting hit by aggregators literally hundreds and thousands of times every hour even though the specific packages they are tracking haven’t changed. When I approached the FeedBurner folks for help with my project, they refused me out the gate since I wasn’t big enough for them. Something like an open source FeedBurner would help a lot.


  16. I know I’ve said this before, and I’m pretty sure it was comments to you, but I’ll repeat it:

    In the same way the SAT measures your ability to take the SAT and nothing else, Technorati rank measures Technorati rank, and nothing else.

    It isn’t just the wildly variable results — although that doesn’t help. It’s also that it’s opt-in, and it’s highly likely the overwhelming majority of bloggers neither know nor care what Technorati is, so have never opted-in in the first place.

    If they wanted to be transparent in a Cluetrain way, they’d rename it Ouija-rati.


  17. On the topic of cramming as much information as possible on the iPhone screen:

    Have you seen the OLPC’s screen? It’s one of the most amazing things about the children’s laptop: It’s has a resolution of 200 dots per inch brightness, and lower resolution color. So it looks very sharp, and it’s easy to read text (as long as it’s not drawn with color on color of the same brightness). Television works the same way, because the human visual system can see much finer brightness detail than color detail.

    Maybe I’m comparing Apples and Oranges (or rather Limes, since OLPCs are usually green), but I think the OLPC’s hardware and software is a LOT more innovative and exciting than the iPhone. And it’s all totally open, instead of locked up and controlled by the horrible phone company.

    Q: What do you get when you cross Apple and AT&T?

    A: AT&T.



  18. Dave – I would have clicked on the pictures, but they all had the same title text.


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