Thursday, November 16, 2006

Habit Forming and Interfacing Features

Isn't it amazing how quickly habits can form?

The last time I used a Mac on a daily basis, OS7 was the new thing and although I've had Macs around since then, my personal machines have all been Windows or Linux (Usually KDE) interfaces. Like many though, Tiger temped me back and so when it came to get myself a new daily machine I went for a MacBook. Given my limited time to spend playing with new toys these days I've been relying on my friend who similarly made the switch a few weeks before me for hints and tips. One of which was the suggestion that I adopt Adium as my IM network aggregator *. Which I did 3 days ago.

Now at first I was a little distressed by the fact that when I opened a new conversation it was realised via a new tab on the conversation window (if one was already open) - that was until I found out that I could grab the tab and drag it off the window to invoke a new one.
This has now become second nature - so much so then when I was writing a paper earlier today with many, many reference tabs open in FireFox I naturally tried to pull one of the tabs off the browser to create a new window so I could view two pages side by side. I'm a long time FireFox user and quite aware of how tabs behave and so it must have been the habit formed through Adium use and the fact that dragging content to form new windows must be such a damned good idea that informed my actions ;-)

Now thinking about this further I pondered how useful it would be to be able to pull bits of web pages or files off of their donor pages to form new instances or even notelets. I await with interest to see what magic micro formats might allow in this area. And that got me thinking about ....

Anyway, I'm looking for other examples of this kind of drag-and-create type functionality if anyone wants to comment any I'd be grateful.

* My next job is to use Growl to aggregate the Adium alerts visually and deactivate the sound, 'cos cute as the little Duckie is, my IM networks have a lot on event traffic (constant stream of people signing on and off) and the constant Quacking is doing my nut!


Jonathan Miller - Leaving AOL

I've historically never quite seen eye to eye with AOL; I was no fan of the walled garden Web model, though I can see the point in the simplicity and handholding that this allow the novice user, and lets not even get into the early stages of the Time-Warner deal.

However, recently I had started to think they were at last getting it right. The embracing of Web 2.0 and their complete about face from walled garden to bastion of openness seemed to me to smack of an organisation with renewed vigour and vision. Thus, it is with some surprise that I read of the departure of CEO Jonathan Miller.
It is partly the fact that I've seen Miller speak twice recently (MIT Technology Review Emerging Technology conference and the Web 2.0 Summit) and been impressed by his approach that had given me such a good feeling about AOL's future.

I'll never understand this business!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Web 2.0 Summit: Quick response

So the usual problem of flaky WiFi and constricted elbow room has made live blogging difficult - not that I'm quite as adept at the verbose note taking blog form as some of my cohorts.

All in all there is a great deal to take in and quite frankly I'm generating a mass of notes that I need to process before posting. I'll get around to this sometime next week.

There is more than meets the eye going on here and I think some of the early reports emerging into the blogosphere are missing the point somewhat - this year is depth not breath. It's easy to skate along the surface here - but diving a little deeper is going to take me some time to phrase so be patient.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Web 2.0 Summit: Day 1 keynotes

Some good stuff here to get us started with the conference proper.


Web 2.0 Summit: Launch Pad

Lauchpad was a quickfire product launch pitch session consisting of 13 produces each getting a 5 minute pitch. The lucky 13 were apparently whittled down from around 150 applicants and hence were all of high quality.

I haven't got time to review them all, so please go and see for yourself:

  1. In the Chair - Online music tutorial/practice system
  2. Instructables - A Make-esque system for sharing how to instructions
  3. Klostu - A system for uniting the boardscape (blogosphere for message boards)
  4. Hummingbird from Sharpcast - An online/offline bridge for syncing document states across platforms
  5. Stikkit - Quick note system with context resolution
  6. TURN - Worlds first automatic targeted ad network system
  7. Sphere - Blog search system with context querying
  8. Omnidrive - Desktop/Online/Cross platform data syncing system
  9. Adify - Platform to create vertical ad networks
  10. 3b - 3D imersive environment for navigating web pages
  11. Odesk - Trust and reputation based staffing and recruitment system - on demand global workforce
  12. Venyo - Reputation management system
  13. Timebridge - Automated meeting scheduling resolution plugin for outlook

(edit - Now with working links)

Web 2.0 Summit: What Does SOA Have to Do with Web 2.0?

IBM presented the usual what is Web 2.o stuff before talking in real terms about how the techniques of Web 2.o can and are being adopted within enterprises.

I've been following SOA for quite a while and TBH I always kinda saw Web 2.o as an implementation of SOA and so I didn't fully understand the title of this session, but the point I think that was being made was that was in the focus of internal IT departments and their ability to switch from the notion of large long term projects to deliver systems to a preguessed requirements list to the more iterative and adaptive systems architectural approach.
Apparently most IT integration projects take a minimum of 6 months but the majority of business relationships last no longer than 12 moths - adopting more Web 2.0 approaches to SOA development paradigms can save a huge amount of time.

Enterprise Challenges to adoption

- Security
- if we can't secure it we won't use it
- protecting privacy and including identity mashups
- Manageability
- Overly complex integration
- Development
- Fast and easy versus well designed and engineered
- Lack of standard development methods, tools and design patterns
- Business value
- Broad business value of social networking?

Web 2.0 Summit: Open AOL

AOL has 'enjoyed' the unenviable position for many progressive thinkers in the web space of being the epitome of the closed garden approach, but in the last year they have managed to pull off a complete change of philosophy. Today's session coincided with announcements of AOL's continued move to openness and detailed in particular the APIs and open approach around AIM and video search.
Check out

If even AOL are becoming open (and in a major way to boot) what does that say about shops that remain closed?

The presentation could have done with more usage examples but this is early days and work to date is still impressive.

Web 2.0 Summit: The Next Internet Infrastructure

Its always good to hear Marc Canter speak especially when it's from the front of the room as opposed to bellowing heckles from the floor, and in moderating this panel he was in his element.

A panel consisting of Jonathan Hare from resilient, Chad Dickenson from Yahoo! and Jeff Barr from Amazon discussed with great aplomb the notions of the importance of open, interoperable infrastructures to the ongoing development of the web.
Open was defined as:
- Freely licensed - to anyone
- Freely hostable - by anyone
- Open APIs - to provide extensibility and interoperability

The ideas of what constitutes 'infrastructure' ranged from discussion around the 'undifferentiated muck' that Amazon is seeking to provide though its EC3 to the notions of user data components such as 'reviews' which in many cases are still locked into the systems of the provider.

Yahoo! gave examples of companies based upon its APIs such as Qoop and made the point that now companies are building their systems using yahoo open API's before comming to Yahoo to talk about deals.

There was a lot of discussion over the notion of identify which gave Marc a chance to to outline his people aggregator product but also to challenge the panel on their ideas of where shared identify and related data should or could live.

There was also firm agreement that data ownership should lie with the user/creater and that sucessful systems must allow both imprprt and export features.

The recurrent theme of the session was that openess is its own reward and that companies and systems that fail to open will fall by the wayside.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Covering the Web 2.0 Summit

I'm going to blog the things I'm seeing at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference, but rather than a single post I'll publish sessions or comments individually.

It's a pretty intensive programme so my posts will be more observations than deep thought and analysis - that will come later when I have more brain time.

Conference Swag

So, Web 2.0 starts tomorrow. I nipped down to register this evening to avoid the queues tomorrow morning and in order to collect and sort through my conference goody bag tonight. I don't want to be lugging everything around with me all day tomorrow.

So this year in a weird shopping bag like my Mum used to have (what happened to last year's excellent laptop courier bags) I found:
  • A computer brush - Fox Interactive Media
  • Pen with torch - Yahoo
  • Bottle opener - Open Lazlo
  • Tin of mints - MyDecide
  • $5 Starbucks card - IBM
  • T-shirt -
  • Flex 2 30 day trail - Adobe
  • CD (as yet uninvestigated) - HearHakia
  • Head Rush Ajax - O'Reilly
  • 15"neoprene laptop sleeve
  • 22 fliers - Various
  • Conference materials


Widgets Live: Event Report

Maybe it's my Crusty Punk past, but much as I love Glastonbury I still hanker for the enthusiast run small free festival. There is something about the sub-mainstream event which harbors a sense of community and honest sense of purpose that just can't be maintained as the crowds get too large.
And so it is with the conference ... Some of the conferences I've attended this year have been great corporate rock festivals of affairs which, have suffered in their laudable strides towards spreading the message to a wider audience from a reduced shared knowledge base such a widened attendee scope engenders. This in turn can lower the quality and value of discussion.

In fact a couple of times I've had the feeling of coming away actually knowing less than I started with.

Today's Widgets Live event has been a real shot in the arm. Rather like Web 2.0 paradigm, the technologies and methods enabling widgets have been around for a few years now but its taken the comparatively recent adoption of a common moniker to focus attention on the paradigm and unite developers of such systems under some palpable notion of industry sector. This despite leading proponents and enablers of the technology variously branding their implementations as widgets, gadgets, modules and parts. Thus we are sufficiently far along the hype curve for an event on the topic to attract a decent attendance and speaker list consisting of those with some domain knowledge but not so far along as to appear on the radar of the completely uninitiated. This higher level or lowest common denominator made for a very stimulating and worthwhile event.
My only real criticism would be that even at this nascent stage the notion of widgets is already in need of sub categorizing into browser bound, desk top, domain specific, open etc.

The event, arranged and organized in just a couple of months was sold out and a quick guestimate suggested around 200 attendees in the room.

First up was the keynote from Arlo Rose of Konfabulator (acquired by Yahoo! Aug 2005) fame who gave a potted history of what ended up as Yahoo! Widgets and generally set the scene as to what Web widgets are all about.
The day's first stab at suggesting business models around widgest prompted by a question for the floor had Rose suggesting the twin drivers of allowing users to move their data anywhere and the publishers ability to reach the user without relying on the browser.

Next up Fox Interactive Media (proud new owners of myspace) announced the launch of Spring Widgets a "widget engine for desk top and web". The product grew out of FIM's own requirement to create a horizontal platform for tie its various services together. Spring Widgets was developed by FIM Labs, a division created to look after acquisitions by providing an environment protected from corporate process thus allowing newly acquired companies to continue to work in the rapid, flexible way they had managed as start ups and small companies.
An SDK is available from for PC with a Mac version to follow.

Next were a couple of sessions discussing the realities of engineering widgets, firstly adobe giving a quick demo of the ease of development in Flex and the a look at the possibilities and limits developing with open web technologies.

We were then treated to a couple of sessions telling success stories of widget development. Firstly, a look a MeeboMe and the 'widgetisation' of Instant Messaging. Meebo had created a Web base IM client and with their MeenoMe widget they have given the end user the ability to add an IM channel into their own Web pages. The possible uses of such a platform are numerous and the story very impressive.
Next up in this session was a look at how Photobucket has used widgets to gain a presence on other platforms, most notable MySpace. Peter Pham of photobucket mentioned in passing something that may well really start to effect this space, namely the terms and conditions of target platforms which may well effect what widgets introduced to the environment will be permissibly capable of.

The core of the afternoon session was split into three panels sessions which each took on a different deployment segment.
i) Desktop Widget engines (Google desktop, Yahoo! Widgets & Windows vista Sidebar)
ii) Homepage widgets (, Netvibes, Google homepage)
iii) Blog side bar widgets (Aim pages, Windows live pages, Six Apart, WordPress)

Each session consisted of product overviews followed by a brief Q&A session, mostly covering the same ground of:
i) business models - extending reach
ii) standards - would be good but takes too long
iii) Security - the need for robust security especially to gain a footing in enterprise solutions
iv) Interoperability between platforms - a bit of foot shuffling and whispered toe starting

The Widget aggregators session came next with a quick whip through demos of WidgetBox and Snipperoo. This contracted nicely with the more proprietary and domain specific approaches of the previous sessions and to me at least smacked of the most desirable focus for user adoption promising a more democratized paradigm.

A brief session on mobile widgets featured Nokia presenting Widsets and Opera introducing their browser extensions for widgets with the presentation slides displayed off of a cell phone.

A session on 'Hardware widgets' allowed for a slight change of though direction by looking at Chumby and some of the ideas for embedding proposed by PortalPlayer, providers of the chipsets and firmware behind the ipod among other things.

The day was rounded off with Lightning sessions - Ten 5 minute overviews of new product launches:

1. Gigya - Enhancing email by adding content widgets aimed at making email attractive to the myspace generation.

This idea seems somewhat anachronistic and with scant regard for the extra load on mail servers and space eating of inboxes.

2. Polldaddy - Poll/Questionnaire widget for your web site

This is a very compelling idea and a great example of how a business (Infacta) can use widgets to extend its value, reach and effectiveness.

3. RockYou - Quick overview of widgets for embedding in social network platform pages

Rockview are the most established purveyors of thirds part functionality personalization capability for MySpace.

4. Zazzle - Presented their widget to allow users to embed their 'Zazzle store' product viewer into a web site.

Zazzle is a provider for the long-tail of physical products, offering made to order T-shits etc.Again – a great example of simultaneously extending reach and offering real user benefit.

5. Feedburner - Excellent feed and OPML handling widgets for embedding in web pages, blogs etc

Feedburner have ‘long’ been providing services to allow users to import RSS steams into their blogs and Web pages.

6. GRAZR - GrazrScript easy widget creation for rest functions returning RSS

Potentially very flexible and easy to use method of manipulating RSS.

7. Yahoo! - Announcing

8. KLIPFOLIO - Announcing 4.0 release of this widget dashboard, with new docking abilities and cross platform synchronization

9. Freewebs presented their Mooglets widget aggregator

This is a viable attempt at producing an Mac OSX-esque dashboard experience for the browser

10. Goowy - Announcement of browser resident desk top widget environment

Goowy provide an excellent browser based desk top environment this widget focused variant looks to be equally useful and well engineered.

A common theme for the day was the importance of synchronizing of widgets across platforms, such that changes in state made to a widget instance on one computer is reflected on different computer, mobile device or browser. This seems like a no brainer, especially for anyone coming from a 'traditional' web apps approach (where the stateless nature of the environment demands a centralized storage or settings - yes cookies break this model but they aren't a valid approach for systems expecting access from multiple clients) but the reiteration of this point belies an important attribute of the multi-modal widget, namely its straddling of the browser and OS native environment. This new split environmental plane of existence demanding its own code of behavior distinct from a web only or OS only resident app.

And today's conference was brought to your by the number 4000, which seamed to be the claimed number of widgets currently available in many of the environments presented.

One of the questions that remains in my mind is that in a industry predicated on success metrics focused on page impressions, not least because of ad serving requirements of the predominant form of monetization, what happens when users get more of their data directly via widgets? The constrained real estate of widget footprint was constantly mentioned today - there certainly isn't room for bunging banner ads on them!

All in all a very interesting and thought provoking day!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not all reputation systems are created equal

Ooops - posting error - editing (will repost soon)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fab Dab

A couple of years ago I had a bit of a rant about the design of DAB radios. In the end I bought the Pure Evoke.

But given my penchant for Marshall I couldn't let this go uncommented. Pure have released a Marshall styled edition of the Evoke. Nearly as nice as my JCM 2000 TSL.