Google+ doesn't have permalinks for comments so you'll have to search to find Tom Coates's epic rant vs the idea of federated social networks. It's compelling in many ways but I disagree with his minimization of the achievements of email and IM. It's true that they're not a cash cow for many companies, but from a user perspective I think we're clearly better off with open email rather than stuck in a walled garden.
His rip on standardization also misses the mark for me. What's wrong with having some layers of the app stack stabilize?
On this topic, it would be really interested to understand what happened to Usenet.
The line for the open bar wasn't as long as you'd expect, but the bartenders were mixing complicated drinks designed to impress, so there was a wait. Eventually a circle formed to make space for the belly dancer, pushing the bar line away and moving people closer to the bouncy castle, the fire engine red Tesla and the indoor waffle truck. The music went from hip-hop to something vaguely Middle Eastern. I didn't stay for the fire dancing, but it must have been a trick to thread the poi balls through all the hanging paper lanterns.
Joseph and I goggled.
"Do you have any idea what this company does?"
Next night, Sichuan food.
"Hey Kasima, know any engineers looking for work?" And we laughed and laughed and laughed.
And ... yes, I'm at a startup, again, in a converted industrial space in one of the highest-crime areas in San Francisco. Venture funding inside, 10% unemployment outside. Let's not fuck up.
The thing I’ve always noticed is that no one ever says, ‘I want one of those.’ The proposition is always promoted as an ideal solution for someone else’s computing needs — and almost without exception it’s a use case the speaker has no direct familiarity with.
That's a good point but um let's talk about how enterprise software is sold for a second.
There isn't a lot of good information online about product management, at least compared to related disciplines like engineering, design and marketing. This presentation by Shreyas Doshi is a straightforward, fearless look at what it takes to get a great product manager role.
I read everything he posts is because his signal to noise ratio is very, very good. I'm interested in most of the posts he makes, and I'm interested in most of the words he writes. If he posts a link, he usually has just a few lines of commentary, where the other blogs listed above might pad their entry with a couple hundred words of "analysis". That's excusable, and easily skippable in any feed reader. But what's less forgivable is the number of posts they make I'm simply not interested in. I already subscribe to too many blogs, I don't need to add any junk.
There's a reason post-Gawker blogs work the way they do (post early, post often.) If your readers are web surfers, hopping from site to site, you want to make sure you have new content for them on a regular basis, to maximize page views and ad clicks.
The dynamic for someone using a feed reader is completely different. I have no problem finding new content. There's no way I can read everything in my feed reader, every day. I have to prune poor-performing feeds (poor signal to noise ratio) on a regular basis so I can make sure that I spend as much time as possible reading good stuff.
That means the sites that I'm most likely to subscribe to, read, and stay subscribed to, will be more concerned with quality than quantity. I can follow perfectly blogs that post only once a month, because I'll never miss their new stuff. If it's good, and there's not too much of it, I'll read it all. No offense to the talented pro bloggers out there, but that's not exactly the dominant model. (It's as if they've forgotten their original mandate to be filters of content; now they're just adding sugar and carbonation to the firehose.)
Now, I don't know how popular feed readers are going to get. But I hope they get very, very popular, because once publishers figure out how to serve them, I have a feeling we'll spend a lot less time searching for good writing.
How to make original content production profitable on the Internet
Fantastic Wired piece on Demand Media, a $200 million, profitable, growing-like-crazy company that produces original online content. And it's not porn. How? Algorithmically generated article ideas, written Mechanical Turk-style for about $15 apiece.
But once it was automated, every algorithm-generated piece of content produced 4.9 times the revenue of the human-created ideas. So Rosenblatt got rid of the editors. Suddenly, profit on each piece was 20 to 25 times what it had been. It turned out that gut instinct and experience were less effective at predicting what readers and viewers wanted — and worse for the company — than a formula.
Even the comments section has fascinating stuff. From a Demand writer:
We are paid in residuals, which means nickels and dimes trickling in over the long haul. But they add up. I clear about $1,000 a month at eHow, and as I build up my library there, I expect that income to rise by quite a bit.
Which actually ties in with someone Demand's cartoon character CEO said:
Long term, we’ll make more money by increasing quality.
And I bet he means it. Only, can a public company afford to think about the long term?
You feel sorry for Rose, first of all, because not only is Gates smarter, but Rose is in over his head on the technical stuff. He has one good probing question in each area, and then he's done. He has no chance to pin Gates on anything.
(Example: Rose is asking Gates about web-based applications. Gates defines the perfect "web-based app" as basically a desktop app that downloads updates. That's it. And Rose lets that fly. You have to feel sorry for Ray Ozzie, if this is how well Gates understands what he's trying to do.)
But the bigger reason this is a crappy interview is because Gates has no interest in it apart from as a PR exercise. He has no concept of it as a conversation, something that might teach him something or help him reflect. To him it's entirely a one-way exercise, and he's going to use it as a channel to push his goals. His goals are mostly noble, you can't accuse him of being a sociopath, but if you want to see Microsoft's culture problems in miniature, look no further.
"What these new models feel most like is open source hardware: the replicable-for-low-unit-cost part is free (with hardware, that's the design once it's drawn on), and what costs money is where costs are actually incurred."
"...at a product company, for example, if you’re a software developer working on a software product or even an online product like Google or Facebook, the better you make the product, the better it sells. The key point about in-house development is that once it’s 'good enough,' you stop."
Management is a chore, and managers shouldn't make technical decisions
"What I was used to from the west coast was an attitude that management is just an annoying, mundane chore someone has to do so that the smart people can get their work done."
"Your favorite bands, businesses, and products are coming to Facebook. Check out Dave Matthews Band, become a fan of (RED), or search for your favorite brands."
Ooo! My favorite brands? Radical!
("ok, smart guy, how would you do it?" don't even market this feature yourself. the brands will naturally want to spread the words to their fans - let them do it, in a way that works for their people.)
Guy from Elephant Disk is here, they're one of EC2+S3's biggest users. They only use it for non-real time stuff right now. He's terrified of stories about companies that use EC2 as their only web servers.
EC2 instances have no persistent storage - need to code your own persistence solution.
No static IPs - need some sort of dynamic DNS client.
What happens if Amazon pulls the plug or changes something crucial? No SLA.
AWS is actually showing up in Amazon's financials. Helps assuage fears of it disappearing.
Companies built on EC2
The AWS forums have lots of good examples and feedback
Many more companies using just S3
Some companies have started to wrap services around AWS (e.g. RightScale) - check the partners page of AWS.
But: if you have something that parallelizes well, need scalability on demand, and can deal with the constraints, AWS is the shit. "AWS is the perfect startup environment; my credit card loves AWS."
The people who buy enterprise software aren’t the people who use enterprise software. That’s where the disconnect begins. And it pulls and pulls and pulls until the user experience is split from the buying experience so severely that the software vendors are building for the buyers, not the users.
It's a terrible article, but at least someone's talking about design as a CEO-level issue. But this article is still written as if design was a purely conceptual or artistic problem, when there's a critical organizational dimension. Especially for software or software-based products like the iPhone, UI design is linked to technical architecture is linked to your business relationships. Someone needs to view it all as an integrated whole, make the right decisions (does "design" cover hardball negotiations with record companies to ensure flat pricing for digital downloads?) and get the organization to fall in line. That's why a dictatorship like Apple finds it easier to make great products than Microsoft with its warring fiefdoms.
Oh and then he goes completely off the rails: Indeed, your brand is increasingly shaped and defined by network communities, not your ad agency. Brand manager? Forget about it. Brand curator maybe.
Having used Apple as his jumping-off point, he then forgets that Apple succeeded by leading, not following. Apple is even willing to fuck over its users if it thinks the product should change.
Links from Hack the Planet. "Undifferentiated Networks Would Require Significant Extra Capacity", "Data networks are lightly utilized, and will stay that way", and "The economics of the Internet: Utility, utilization, pricing, and Quality of Service".
This whole "less is more" thing can go too far. All else being equal, more features = more customers. Yeah, even for the iPod. The iPod's design would have gotten it nowhere if it didn't have the key features.
(the post that started all this should be required reading in every application design course, although I think his reductio gets a little absurdum ... wait a minute, does application design exist as a discipline at all? programming, database design, UI design, sure ... but application design understood as a very special case of product design?)
Why Microsoft is offering roughly five hundred flavors of Vista
Look, it's not that complicated. Microsoft is engaging in something known as "price discrimination". The word "discrimination" in this case isn't pejorative, it just means they would like to be able to charge every customer exactly what they are willing to pay. The feature differences between the versions of Vista are just their attempt to make the price differences seem reasonable.
This is the dream of the supplier. Offer your product at $69, and you miss extracting cash from people who are either more well-off, or want your product more - people who would have been willing to pay $100 or more for it. You also miss out on customers who would have bought at $68 or $67.
Steve Jobs likes to talk about how he launched the original iMac in a single color in order to give his organization "absolute focus". Microsoft's obviously not headed down that path. They'd probably be better served by more Apple-like discipline in the offering. But there is a reason, well-thought out or not, that they're doing this.
Finally someone tackles the central issue: where's the bottleneck? For what it's worth, I think there's too much money in getting bits to and from the user for this bottleneck to last. In the long run we'll all have multiple competing sources of connectivity.
However there's another point: if the bottleneck is in part an artifact of government-erected barriers to entry (rules on spectrum use, rights to lay fiber) than the government has a positive responsibility to ensure that the oligopoly it created is working for the public good. This pattern crops up all the time - eliminating rent control should increase supply, but not if cities prohibit developers from building low-income housing.
Six Apart gets it. A lot of companies would try to unify TypePad/LiveJournal/Vox to serve nebulous branding objectives. 6A recognizes they're overlapping but separate products that need distinct identities.
Anyway, Vox might be cool. I'm sick of crappy, walled-off social networking sites.
"Today there is rough price parity between (1) one database access, (2) ten bytes of network traffic, (3) 100,000 instructions, (4) 10 bytes of disk storage, and (5) a megabyte of disk bandwidth. This has implications for how one structures Internet-scale distributed computing: one puts computing as close to the data as possible in order to avoid expensive network traffic."
Paper claims this situation is unlikely to change: historically, telecoms prices have not declined the same way chip prices have. (But I thought we had all this dark fiber, and it's the last mile that's the problem?)
Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm
"In this paper I explain that while free software is highly visible, it is in fact only one example of a much broader social-economic phenomenon. I suggest that we are seeing is the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode "commons-based peer-production," to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands."
Productivity software? Wal-Mart has your productivity software right here, pal. Apparently Wal-Mart has been one of the main agents of productivity growth. Obviously I love technology for the pure coolness factor, but hard data on how it's useful to organizations -- think supply chain optimization -- gets me all excited.