Scripting News for 9/19/07

Next Apple toy isn’t even from Apple! 

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Steve Jobs took the stage and announced a $200 cheaper iPhone. That was pretty bad. And an iPhone that’s just an iPod. Who needs that! The new Nano sure is cute, but cute insn’t enough. I have a 1.5 year old 60GB video iPod that still works (sorry Steve) and I never use the video, so the $300 I have burning a hole in my pocket for my monthly Apple impulse buy (above and beyond the new Mini I bought last week) is going to (drum roll please) Nokia!

Yup, my next iPod/iPhone-alike thingy isn’t even from Apple and it runs Linux, and comes highly recommended by geeks everywhere. I just put in the order on Amazon, I’ll let you know how cool it is in a few days.

PS: This is my way of thanking Ben Bernanke for the huge windfall I got in the stock market yesterday and today. I think the 1/2 percent drop in interest rates is supposed to make us go out and buy stuff to stimulate the economy. Just doing my part Uncle Ben! 🙂

Today’s links 

Paul Krugman has a weblog. Subscribed.

CyberSalon in Berkeley, September 23, “Politics 101 Meets Web 2.0: Democracy or Demagoguery?” 4 to 6PM, Hillside Club, $15 at door for food, drink, and open mike discussion for digital and analog political activists. Political candidates of all stripes now have web sites, participate in social networks, and can respond to folks via YouTube. So are we closer to democracy?

Marc Canter wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg.

OPML 2.0 freezes on Thanksgiving Day (U.S.) 

Mark your calendar: November 22.

That’s the day, barring something unforseen, that OPML 2.0 will move from a draft to a final frozen spec.

If you plan to use OPML 2.0, or you’re already using it, please set aside a few hours to carefully review the spec, between now and the end of September, or at the latest early October, to be sure it makes sense to you.

We’re doing this very slowly and carefully so people will believe in the quality of this spec. If you don’t think it’s a good spec, now is the time to say why. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

You may not like the format, that’s not the issue now — it’s the spec we’re trying to finalize.

Thanks for your help! 🙂

Time to shake up conferences? 

The TC40 conference, which (important caveat) I did not attend, had a big impact on the space I occupy. Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on Techmeme, but it is important, and for the two days of TC40, most of the top articles had something to do with the conference. Yet most of the people in the TechMeme loop were not there. This makes me wonder if we can do better with these conferences that become the cursor for a few days. And the answer is of course we can. But it may mean reconfiguring the conference to take the emphasis off the people in the room and put it on the people on the net.

As Jim Forbes points out, if you wait for hotels to change, you’re going to wait a long time. They’re not really in the conference business, they’re in the bedroom business. So anything that keeps people out of the hotel is likely to stay out of the conference — like really terrific networking. So that suggests a different approach, one that does not rely on hotels.

I’ve done four conferences, three of them at universities, and one at CNET in San Francisco. At two of them, we hosted as many people as they did at TC40, because we had multiple tracks, and a very large facility. And the last three were all very much present on the net. The first, not so much. If I do another conference, we’d try to push the envelope on the net side of things, and probably not try to host as many people in person. Instead of 500 to 1000 people, I’d try for 50 to 100 people. Kind of a middle-ground between the experts at the TC40 conf, and the audience. More like a TV studio than a conference. Everyone would be either a blogger or reporter. All would be encouraged to participate. And everyone would lead a chat room, or a blog comment section, or a video track. We could have much more diverse video nowadays, because of services like and, and I’m sure many others, who provide outbound bandwidth. All we’d need at the facility is enough bandwidth to connect to these services, and if you’re not at a hotel, that’s not at all hard these days. You could do it at Stanford or Cal, or even the Hillside Club. If you’re not deep inside a building with thick walls, EVDO can serve as a backup. If you can’t get on through the LAN, try a WAN instead. 🙂

I’d also like to see less of a focus on the interests and success stories of venture capital. Something has really changed, even the VCs seem to know it. Money is undifferentiated, so why pay so much attention to what the money people say. Let’s get people with big ideas to contribute them, and to disagree with other people with big ideas. That’s not to say I’d exclude the money people. But I would insist that they be people who are participating in the networked conversation, not just at the show, but 24 by 7, on blogs, on Twitter, on whatever.

I had this discussion with Loic last week. I didn’t think and still don’t think that it was a good idea for him to have French politicians speak at LeWeb last year. I didn’t think it was a good idea for Chris to invite John Edwards to speak at Gnomedex in 2006. Why? Because these people don’t have blogs, they don’t understand the net. They want to use it, for sure, to get money and votes, but they don’t have a vision for it, beyond that, so what they have to say is uninteresting. “Give me money. Vote for me.” That’s all they say. If they want to come, great, let them listen and ask questions. And look for politicos (as with the VCs) who are making a difference on the net. People like Fred Wilson or Paul Kedrosky, for example. I’m sure there are many more.

And I’d work to develop more ways for the back-channel to participate, to come to the front. That’s the key to the future of conferences, how to extend them into the net, so the communication path is every way imaginable, not just from the venue out to the world. I want to feel like I’m in a nerve center, whether I’m at the venue or sitting in my living room in Berkeley. I had that feeling, btw, or an inkling of it, watching the AlwaysOn conference eariler this year, which had excellent presence on the net, real-time. The TC40 conference promoters, amazingly, actively thwarted the back channel. I don’t know what their thinking was, but I think it was wrong.

Maybe someday these conferences could host real-time development, where media hackers put together new communication systems and deploy them before the conference is over. The moon mission approach to development, if you want to get something done quickly, make sure you know where you’re going and are excited about it. Sometimes it’s amazing how quickly these things can bootstrap.

I’d also like to see a mix of interviews and debates, and open discussion. Dinners in every major city that wants to have them. The truly great tech conferences of the future will be world wide events, as the web itself is world wide, and will be inclusive, not exclusive, and cost very little to participate in, if not $0.

Mundeemo: “Don’t forget a row of suicide booths..”

Boston vs Silicon Valley 

Doc Searls: “If you’re a fast-growing tech company looking for the maximum quantity of high-quality local talent, there isn’t much choice. Silicon Valley is the place.”

Adam Green, on the other hand, wants to bring the Boston Boomers back into the tech business.

Closing loops 

As predicted, Mint did win the top prize at the TC40 conf.

Fred Wilson, an investor in Wasabe, one of several companies in the market that Mint is entering, thinks we should have a discussion about the security of financial data on the web.

Just in time for my Long Bet with Martin Nisenholtz, the NY Times has opened their archive and eliminated TimesSelect. So now if they broke the top stories of 2007, they will show up in a Google search. If this means I lose the bet, so be it. The money goes to a charity, either way, and I’d rather have the Times content be open.

13 responses to this post.

  1. what has changed is that the web is played out.

    my off one-liner for today.


  2. <>

    Hotels view high bandwidth data pipes as “overly expensive”
    Most conference producers have to live within a budget and big bandidth costs big bucks.

    By the Way, I’m hopeful someone will do a sponsorship discount with Intel/Sprint or ClearWire to bring in wireless at a site. It would be good for the conference and the service provider. Secondarily most hotels are built using rigid building codes that call for huge amounts of RF signal sapping rebar and or odious support coumns that block 700 Mhz signals.
    I completely agree on the VC thing. Very few have anything objective to contribute and th every worse thing a conference can do is to accept a sponsorship from a VC and give over part of the program to them. The best example of tghis that comes to mind is when the Industry Standard gave part of its wireless conference to Mayfield and people began streaming from the room to go play with the javelinas romping through the hotel in Tucson..

    thanks for the attribution, Bubbi.



  3. I’ve thought a lot about conferences and participating virtually. Tony Perkins at his AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford streamed and had chat which was projected live. I participated and can say that a projected backchannel really influenced the course of the conversation.

    With all the streaming capabilities that exist today, how hard would it be to setup a camera and connection in each room so people virtually could watch? A backchannel on IRC or chat could easily enable people to ask questions and participate in the conversation. All could recorded and archived for replay too.


  4. i had to check the image properties to see if that fruit was an apricot or a nutmeg… turns out it was a peach!


  5. Posted by Don Jackson on September 19, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I have a Nokia N800 and an iPhone.
    The Nokia is open, and has a bigger screen.

    I use the Nokia to control the SlimServer that feeds MP3s to Squeezeboxes around my house, among other things.
    (Slimserver has a nice NokiaN800 skin).

    The quality of the screen on the iPhone is far superior, abeit smaller.
    Lack of an API is a big problem too.

    The UI of the iPhone is far superior to that Nokia N800 also.

    I cannot imagine carrying the N800 around like I do the iPhone (in my pants pocket).

    I look forward to seeing what you do with the N800.

    Have fun!


  6. Of course, the only bit of that purchase that’s stimulating the US economy is the margins for retail and some distribution – the bulk of the cash is going to Finland and China 🙂 That’s a point that I didn’t get until Mark Anderson pointed it out…


  7. Very interested to see what you make of the N800. I don’t doubt for a second that you’ll get the initial buzz, and you’ll likely see some opportunities.

    One thing to be wary of that doesn’t seem to be getting nearly enough coverage is the amount of people (myself included) experiencing fatal corruption with SD cards (mostly the 4/8GB SDHC variety).

    Nokia are currently walking a line on this, not quite denying the problem, but pretty much denying responsibility. Loads more under “corruption” in the forums at

    Barring this problem, using the N800 is a great experience, and it’s going to continue to improve for the foreseeable future. Enjoy your new toy!


  8. I have an N800 but no iPhone (darn that US-centric selling policy). The Nokia’s great, the stylus works well, the camera’s good for video calls (if a bit angled). Full-screen video playback can be a bit jerky and you can’t get enough storage from SD cards.


  9. I have the earlier version, the N770. It isn’t an iPod (or an iPhone) substitute. The music player is poor (and the open source alternatives not much better) and there’s not enough storage. Not enough storage for video either. But it fits in the hip pocket of my jeans. It’s open, so it runs an ssh client and a vnc client, which means I can reach my servers any time I’m in a wifi environment. It runs gnumeric, gnu’s spreadsheet (which is much better than a calculator). There’s a version of gizmo (and, for the 800, skype, I believe), which means I can make phone calls from it in a wifi environment. Opera comes with it and you can get a cut-down version of firefox (mini-mo). After using both, I found I prefer opera, but you do get the choice.

    All in all, it’s a nice little package.


  10. Interesting, just as you were linking to the item on Boston boomers, I was meeting with the E.D. of Beacon Hill Village (linked off my name), a Boston neighborhood initiative for “aging in community”.

    I stopped by BetaHouse on Sunday and got a brief taste of the event. It’s partly the nature of the SuperHappyDevHouse format with its round-the-clock informal hacking-pizza-coke competitive/cooperative dynamic that appeals most to younger folks with more energy, fewer/more flexible social/family/business obligations, and more to prove. If the event, and the facility itself, included more formal teaching and sharing, valued mentorship explicitly, and did specific outreach to the world of experienced developers/entrepreneurs out there, then I think both young and old(er) would benefit… I see coworking as evolving towards classic business incubators, and adding more of this sort of thing, formally as well as informally. I’ve already seen some of this dynamic at Citizen Space in SF.



  11. Full text Paul Krugman feed

    I know you don’t like Feedburner, Dave, but it *does* serve as a handy feed-anonymizer for when potentially DMCA-able remixing becomes necessary. Pipes is great but its completely open nature means it can’t serve this function.


  12. I think this is good enough. Great job Dave and crew!


  13. Hi Dave,

    Did you know that the New Yorker has blogs too? Like Hendrik Herzberg:

    Ted Gilchrist


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