Inspired by Michael Arrington over at Techcrunch, (which is really my polite way of saying I totally ripped off his idea), I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the sites and services that I started using extensively in the last year, and would rather not live without. I decided to limit it to my top 5, and checked my history file just to see if anything surprising popped up. Here’s the honors list:
del.icio.us — I can’t imagine how I lived prior to having this. Years ago, I wrote a Perl script to scan and merge my bookmarks files on all my computers so I could post it to my website. del.icio.us does it so much better and so much easier. It meets my ultimate requirement for software (or just about any other product): it does exactly what I’d expect it to do with almost no effort on my part.
MyBlogLog — Another great feature that now replaces an old Perl script (actually since retired for a PHP version. Still, you get the point). Wonderful service, and one I highly recommend.
WordPress — OK, this is one that’s only recently entered my life, but works so much better than Blogger for me. As big a fan as I am of Google as a company, they might want to take a look at what the Open Source crowd is offering these days.
tech.memeorandum — Tells me what I want to know, when I need to know it. It’s replaced Cnet, Engadget, Gizmodo, and Google News’ tech page as the first thing I check. Beat out Digg, which I also like a whole bunch, by a whisker to gain this spot.
LinkedIn — I’m becoming more reliant on LinkedIn all the time. It keeps me connected to any number of people, and has helped me locate others I didn’t know I needed to know. Technology is only one part of the job; people is the other, larger part. Technology that helps me manage the people part more effectively makes my life much simpler. I know it’s not as sexy as MySpace in the whole social software realm, but it works for the world I live in so very, very well. I’ve actually been using LinkedIn for more than a year, but as with all network effect kinds of things, it’s taken some time to achieve critical mass in my world.
The nice thing about writing this post is that I get to make the rules for it. So I’m sneaking in a couple of “honorable mentions,” which are the sites I use a lot, but aren’t necessarily new to me (or, frankly, almost anyone else). Without further ado, I’ve got to give props to both Google and Yahoo, both of which manage to innovate (or acquire innovators and integrate them) succesfully. Google Maps, Flickr (which Yahoo bought), Pixoria (the Konfabulator people, which Yahoo bought), del.icio.us (which Yahoo bought… I’m seeing a trend here), etc., continue to provide useful tools that increasingly shape how I get things done.
So, how many file formats have cost you your job? According to Digg (and yes, I’ve double-dipped Digg, referencing them twice in one night), “Peter Quinn, the man responsible for bringing Open Document to the state of Massachusetts as CIO will resign on January 9, citing the controversy around the decision as well as personal attacks aimed at him as reasons for his departue.” I’m not knocking Microsoft specifically in this, because they’re tring to make sure that their products enter into the consideration set for any purchase. That is their responsibility to their shareholders and employees; however, why should a CIO (even for a government entity) not be able to decide which file formats his organization should support?
Let’s take this discussion out of the IT arena and look at the overall organization, instead. Can a CEO institute a policy that they will only contract with public companies or ones that permit certain levels of due diligence? Sure. So, how’s this different?
And it ain’t who you think it is. According to a story posted on Digg, Amazon is allowing customers to download some artists’ music for free as MP3’s. The original post states, “Here are some pretty good downloads that amazon gives away each week free mp3 downloads from The Strokes; The Pornographers ; The Hives and so many more.” Clearly, Amazon has seen the enemy, and it’s MySpace. In the future of commerce on the web (and, to some degree, its past), who you compete with isn’t the same folks you always thought it was. File-sharing (swapping, piracy, whatever) scared the content producers and now social networking sites might be scaring the online retailers. Looks like we’re getting back in the “sticky eyeball” business of the boom days, with the sites that can draw traffic getting lots of play (see Barry Diller’s recent gobbling up of MySpace for a half-billion dollars).
Back in the boom days, people talked about the concept of “getting Amazon’ed,” where an online upstart would come along and pull the rug out from under an established (offline) player. Seems Amazon is getting worried about getting a taste of its own medicine and is looking for ways to avoid “getting MySpace’d.”
So, Dan Gillmor, who we last visited with just about a year ago, has been named as a fellow to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The interesting thing about this is that this is Gillmor’s second attempt to study blogging as a social movement. The first, Bayosphere, appears to be plugging along, though doesn’t appear to have caught hold the way Gillmor probably was hoping when he left the Mercury News. What I find most interesting about the move is that it doesn’t look much like he’ll be doing anything different, except that now he’ll be doing it in a non-profit environment. How much does this say about the profit-potential for blogging? It’s tough to say, both because Bayosphere doesn’t have to publish its financials and so could be profitable, and because some folks do appear to be making money (Gawker Media comes immediately to mind, despite Nick Denton’s posturing protests to the contrary).
CNN Money published an article not long ago in which they describe/critique the many business models from which blogs can choose. It’s a decent read, though they’re overthinking it. Blogs, and most online businesses, basically can pursue one of three strategies: focus on content (like what AOL Time-Warner and Disney try to do); focus on distribution (like what Google and MySpace try to do); or attempt some form of hybrid (where to begin — almost everyone’s doing it to some degree, including most of the folks I just named).
In the early days of radio, and then television, individual stations created their own content solely for local distribution. Over time, networks of stations evolved, with the network chosing from the best content created at each of its stations and distributing it to the other member stations (these types of media networks still exist, with PBS one of the best known examples — Howard Stern on ClearChannel was, until recently, another great example). In many cases, the ownership of a large, popular station would buy up a number of stations in other regions, too. Finally, specialized production houses started producing content, with networks buying the content and providing distribution (independent films probably illustrate this model best these days). Obviously, hybrid approaches of just about every stripe exist, too. What’s happening with blogs these days, such as AOL buying Weblogs, Inc. (which itself followed the network model), looks increasingly like history repeating.
Which model will win out? It’s probably too soon to say, though, there’s really no reason that companies following each won’t do well. So, good luck, Dan. For profit or non-profit, we’ve really only just begun figuring out how the world will look down the road because of the Internet. It’s going to continue to be fun to see where that road will take us.
So, how long do you think it is before another OS displaces Microsoft Windows (2000, XP, Vista, what-have-you)? As if there weren’t increasing evidence, such as Apple’s (albeit modest) lift in market share, the key chink in the armor is the increasing utility of the Web displacing the traditional OS. Along those lines, Yahoo has now added aliases to its search mechanisms. They refer to the feature as Search Shortcuts, and it’s pretty cool, actually. Isn’t it interesting that the Web has gone from command line (think the days of Lynx and the like), to GUI (Mosaic, Netscape, IE, Firefox, etc.), and is heading back to command line again? What do you want to bet that if this catches on, Yahoo begins looking for ways to monetize this little bit of functionality, much like AOL does with its keywords? Software as services assumes that someone’s willing to pay for those services.
Richard McManus, who has written extensively about Web 2.0, now is talking about how it’s dead. Kind of. OK, really, it’s the term “Web 2.0” that’s dead. We’re getting all hung up on the semantics, McManus says, getting himself all hung up on the semantics.
The most interesting part of McManus’ post, though, gets lost in all this discussion about what Web 2.0 is, isn’t, or otherwise. He mentions that he plans to discuss “…more media-related Web technologies.” He continues, “many of the things I’m interested in are being done by Yahoo!, which by now is generally recognized as a media company.” Interesting concept, this emergence of the web-as-media, and I think he’s onto something so much that I’ve been working on a piece for the better part of a week about the very thing. The funny thing is, while no one’s willing to admit it yet, we’ve been down this route before. It, too, had a name that many bandied about back in the day that fell out of favor. They called it… convergence. Should we start calling this “Convergence 2.0”?
OK, so until we get things worked out here, you can check out my thoughts and ramblings at Blogspot. Figure I’ll have all this other stuff worked out by Christmas and be back here full time by just after the first of the year. I’ll probably keep the Blogspot space as well for a while, anyway.
By the way, the current design of the site is going away real soon now. So, if you hate this look, hang with me for a bit. It’ll all work out in the end. ‘K?
OK, so Blogger went ahead and blew up my blog. I haven’t been able to post anything for the last couple of weeks, but, rest assured, I’m back. This is the first post of ‘thinks,’ now hosted locally by yours truly. I’ll work to get the template I want and the archived content up within a few weeks. More to follow soon.