- A life lesson
It's not often you learn a life lesson without any pain, but that happened this week, starting with a blog post by Fred Wilson, that I've now applied twice, once successfully, and the second time, we'll find out.
Fred is a venture capitalist. An important part of his job is evaluating and deciding on opportunities to invest. For every company he invests in, he turns down many more. So how do you turn someone down without being personal? Well, you probably can't. So a lot of VCs side-step the problem and never turn anyone down, they just stop returning calls, or blame their partners.
Fred decided to tell people the truth -- not only that he's not going to invest, he'll also tell you why. I think this is a good idea (here's the lesson) because the person might be able to fix the problem, and Fred will get to invest, and the person's idea will get a chance to become a company.
I tried it yesterday in a negotiation at a furniture store, and it worked.
First, when buying furniture you're expected to negotiate, the sticker price is just a starting point. But I hate to negotiate, even though I know I have to. When I hesitated about whether I would make the purchase, the sales person said "Of course you get a ten percent discount." And if I said 15 percent? She said sure. I said to my companion, I bet she would have gone to 20. I looked at the sales person, she put a pained look on her face and said okay.
I didn't feel sorry for her, because they'll still make 40 percent of what I pay as gross profit, if the percentages are the same as when I sold software through retail in the 80s.
Then I decided to add a couple of lamps to the purchase. She said of course since those are accessories I would only get ten percent off. I grumbled to my companion, thought about it for a bit, and said "I'll pay, but I feel really bad about this." I thought some more and decided I wouldn't shop there again.
Then I thought of Fred and his policy of telling the truth, so I told the sales person that I'd not shop there again. She gave me 20 percent off. Telling the truth was the right thing to do because it gave her a chance to fix the problem and keep me as a customer. And I still feel a little slimed, knowing what I know about retail and margins, and I may not shop there again anyway. But that's another lesson.
Guy Kawasaki: The Top Ten Lies of Venture Capitalists.
10/21/07; 9:24:03 AM
- College Ave furniture store
- Problems with expand/collapse
Last night I changed the way Scripting News is rendered in HTML, and while it works in Firefox on the Mac (the browser that I use) it is broken in a bunch of others. This afternoon I'm going to try to get it working everywhere.
The advice from readers, some of it quite confusing, starts here.
I've got MSIE 6 running in Parallels, so as I go I'm testing there and in Firefox/Mac.
Here are the changes I'm making, in order...
1. Apparently the <a name="xxx"> element is causing a problem, the purpose of it is to enable permalinks to work within the archive pages, Colin suggests making this the name of the <div>, so that's what I did. (This got today's elements expanding and collapsing in IE, but not older days. Very weird.)
2. In the stylesheet, added width:400px; to both .show and .hide and padding-left:15px; to .show. (That successfully widened the body of each post in MSIE.)
3. I eliminated the table I was using to indent the body text. (Now the older days expand and collapse. Hurrah!)
4. Added another 5 pixels of padding for a little bit more indenting.
5. At this point it appears to work in both MSIE 6 and Firefox/Mac. I will now download Opera and try it there. (Downloaded and installed, but I can't get it to display any web pages including scripting.com. Very very strange. If you have Opera installed, could you try clicking on the pluses and minuses on scripting.com and let me know if it works. Apparently it does.)
7. Added "min-width:400px;" to the .hide style, per Colin's advice.
10/20/07; 12:48:26 PM
- Validating the validator
Todd Cochrane noticed that feedvalidator.org is reporting problems with feeds it used to pass. I checked it out and verified the problems he reported. As far as I can see there's nothing wrong with Todd's feed, imho the validator should not be warning about the problems it's warning about. Please, would the maintainers of the validator check this out and make whatever corrections are necessary. Thanks!!
10/19/07; 8:21:20 PM
- Thanks to Colin Faulkingham
I added his expand/collapse code to the HTML rendering of Scripting News, per my recent request.
It seems to work nicely.
Does it work in Opera? Please let me know.
10/19/07; 7:57:47 PM
- LobbyCon 2.0 predicts the Newsroom of the Future
The lobby of the Palace Hotel was a hub of activity after lunch yesterday. The picture to the right hardly does it justice. A constant stream of friends, a wide variety of ages and backgrounds, flowed through.
It was unlike anything I had seen before, likely because this conference was held in downtown SF, and not San Diego or Phoenix, and a facet of what we'll have when the Newsroom of the Future is up and running. Every city will have one, but San Francisco will probably be first.
Here's a video I took last week at CUNY that gives another perspective. Lots of tables, video screens, a stage, radio and TV equipment. What you can't see is that the room was saturated with wifi, and while it didn't have a huge presence on the Internet, it could have.
10/19/07; 10:16:13 AM
- Today's new toy
- A mighty torrent of news!
Doc: "A year from now every newspaper will have a newsriver."
I think so too because: 1. The idea is so compelling and 2. It's so easy to implement.
Thanks so much to Doc Searls for writing a great evangelical piece about the power of rivers. The stream is turning into a current, and soon really will be a river.
It’s so weird to see rivers show up in Facebook, and Twitter is just a big river of all the people you’re following.
The idea is actually a descendent of the teletype terminals that used to be in the movies (and for all I know in actual newsrooms). The news was printed on scrolls of paper, and when a new story came in it would push the older stories onto the floor. You could catch up on the news by scrolling back through the news. Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn did it. We’ll all be doing it soon enough. And it really helps to get other people singing the song, esp from within the hallowed halls of Harvard.
The more attention we get focused on it, the more other developers will tune in.
And what may not be so clear from the narrative is that this project got its start from a meeting I had with some technical people at the Times last week in NY. Like most organizations, it's not of one mind, there are people who are scared of what comes next but there are others who know that the Times has to change. By opening up their internal data to me, all kinds of interesting stuff can happen. We've been here before. The Times are the unsung heroes of RSS, without them it never would have solidified, with the publishing industry falling in behind the Times. It was this consensus that created critical mass for RSS 2.0 in 2002 and 2003.
I really hope some of this stuff feeds back into the Times support of RSS. And as you have seen, there are now lots of new opportunities in user interface for news. This is what I do, when I'm in my "flow" -- we're there now again, with a new toy to build and then play with, every day.
Betsy Devine: "Dave Winer has been improving the New York Times for as long as I’ve known him."
Phil Windley: "With more sources, who are themselves continuously updating, the keyword river could be as dynamic as you’d want it to be."
10/19/07; 6:23:53 AM
- The Boston Red Sox
If I were an American League fan there's little doubt that I would be a Red Sox fan. They have it all. Fenway Park. The Green Monster. The Curse of the Bambino. And an ancient legacy of sucking and when it looks like they're not sucking so bad, blowing it in the worst way possible at the last possible moment. The drama of the Red Sox, the agony of their fans. The only more hapless team in baseball is my beloved New York Mets. (And possibly the Chicago Cubs.)
Before last night's game they were down 3-1 in the ALCS, but they won, and now they're down 3-2. These are long odds, but with the Red Sox, you never know. (They were down 3-0 in 2004 and came back, amazingly, to beat the Yankees, a sweet wonderful humiliating defeat.)
For some reason, last night I thought of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring as an appropriate anthem for this moment in Red Sox time. The pioneers have their ups and downs, theres's still hope, but they've suffered greatly. I think of Dowbrigade, hunkered down, feeling sure his team will exceed his worst expectation of disaster.
With the Red Sox, as with Jerry Garcia and Scripting News, it's even worse than it appears!
10/19/07; 6:56:14 AM
- A new view of NY Times news
After spending a day with the old keyword page, and getting bored with it, I came up with a new way to look at news, something I've not tried before, that might be fun and/or useful
Since it's likely to change again soon, here's a screen shot.
How it works. Every hour, as usual, it does the nytimesriver scan. Every story is linked to in the database undern all the keywords it references. Then the report, in HTML, is prepared, with the keywords in the left column, and links to all the stories in the right colum. The list is sorted by number of references, the keywords with the most references appear at the top of the list.
So today, baseball is the top item, with 15 references. The teams, the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies, rank high. For some reason (heh) the Boston Red Sox don't appear, even though they're still in it, and the Yankees, even though they've been eliminated (yay!) are near the top at position 10.
It's another leaderboard! (Oh shit.)
The stories age, and are removed after 24 hours. After all this is news, not olds.
If you have comments, post them under the screen shot, linked above.
PS: Note that since the list just started up today, the initial stories, even though some are already 24 hours old, will remain in the queue until tomorrow morning at this time. So the list will be artificially fat today, it'll thin down tomorrow.
10/18/07; 7:01:06 AM
- North Berkeley BART station
10/18/07; 4:16:34 PM
- Robert Scoble
10/18/07; 1:37:55 PM
- Ted Leonsis
10/18/07; 11:51:16 AM
- Help, I need really solid expand-collapse code
I really need a rock-solid expand-collapse display that I can integrate with Scripting News.
If you're reading this in RSS, flip over to the home page and have a look. See how the pluses and minuses work? There are a bunch of problems:
1. Doesn't work in Opera. Deal-stopper. Opera users are cool folk.
2. I don't like the indentation. I want the text flush-left.
3. Takes too long to display. I want it to be instantaneous.
4. Must be multi-level. I haven't tested the code I'm using with more than two levels.
I know it can be much better, because I see it done better in lots of places.
Mock up a Scripting News home page with your code, and post a pointer, and we'll test it out. When it's done, everyone will be able to use it.
BTW, I know there are people from the Radio community that have stuff in this area, I just don't know how well supported the stuff is these days. It's been a while.
Colin Faulkingham has a mockup that works in Opera, etc.
10/18/07; 6:25:40 AM
- More NY Times digging
Before heading over to the Web 2.0 conference at the Palace Hotel in SF this morning, I couldn't resist doing some more digging into alternate user interfaces for news reading based on the NY Times keywords.
One thing I learned the hard way is that when you access the Times site from a script (not through a browser) if you try to read an article that's too old (not sure what the time limit is) it tries to redirect you to a login page (which is pretty pointless considering that there's no human being around to log in). I hit this problem yesterday, and then hit it again this morning, but couldn't remember what the problem was. So by writing it up this time I hope to remember.
No doubt some debunked hack journalist posing as a tech industry mogul will slander me for this, but the
asshat asshole has no idea how blogging works, and who the fuck cares what he thinks anyway.
10/18/07; 6:07:25 AM
- NY Times topics in OPML, the mother lode?
Amyloo was digging around the NY Times code weblog and found this OPML file, weighing in at a monstrous 3.3MB that contains some mysterious but rich data about the NY Times and a guide to using the Times to cover special topics that I don't think anyone outside the Times knew existed, but there it is, in a public folder, so lets have a look.
1. There are 10522 top-level headlines. There's no structure to the OPML, it's absolutely flat.
Here's an HTML rendering of the list: timestopics.html.
2. It's a subscription list. Each item has four attributes, type, title, htmlUrl and xmlUrl.
3. The htmlUrl for each element points to a page of stories for the topic. For example, here's a page of stories about table tennis. On that page is a link to an RSS 2.0 feed containing the same information.
4. The xmlUrl links for at least some of the elements are broken, the error appears to be very simple, if you replace the ampersand with a question mark, it works.
If you look around at the topics you'll see it's an incredibly rich set of data. Here are just some of the topics that begin with the letter T: Tableware, Taste, Tattoos, Tax Credits, Tax Evasion, Taxation, Taxicabs and Taxicab Drivers, Tea, Teachers and School Employees, TED Conference News, Teflon, Telephones and Telecommunications, Television, Television Sets, Table Tennis, Terra Cotta, Terrorism, Tests and Testing, Textbooks, Thanksgiving Day.
10/17/07; 5:59:03 PM
- NY Times metadata
If you do a View Source on a NY Times story, you'll see that there's lots of metadata in the HTML, including keywords for most of the of the stories.
Behind the keywords is a taxonomy that I haven't seen, but would like to. I asked them to make this public, both at my meeting there last Thursday and in a phone talk this morning. I think there could be a lot of value in the Times taxonomy, it might even set a standard.
In the meantime, I wrote a script last night that tracks the keywords in NY Times stories as they flow through the nytimesriver application. Here's a report that's updated once per hour.
Obviously it would be interesting to be able to click on the keywords to see what articles reference each of the keywords. And it would also be nice to have a cumulative list and a daily list. Right now all we have is the cumulative version.
But it's still pretty interesting, bordering on fascinating to think of the possibilities if they provide the framework behind these keywords.
When the pros try to figure out how what they do will continue to make sense after the Internet achieves all its promise, this may be an example. The metadata is generated by librarians, and we don't as yet have our own librarians in the blogosphere (though some might disagree). And it's possible that after a release of the taxonomy that something like Wikipedia may happen, with the public taking over maintenence of the taxonomy. No one knows what will happen, but one thing seems clear, there can be value in a news organization beyond the reporting and editing it does.
10/17/07; 12:54:06 PM
- Unsung flow-builders
Over the last week, I've been writing about the disconnect between flow and rank. Paradoxically, sites that are ranked high don't always deliver a lot of hits when they link to you.
On the flipside, there are some sites that are rarely on Top 100 lists, or talked about very much, that deliver substantial flow. Two of them stand out, one a veteran site, and the other a relative newcomer.
1. Daring Fireball is a thoughtful blog written by John Gruber that focuses on the Macintosh. Since I've returned to the Mac in 2005, and have been writing more about Mac issues, I've started getting links from this site, and when I do, they usually send between 1000 and 2000 readers my way. And they're generally interesting people with useful information and ideas. I follow Gruber on Twitter and have learned that he is a Phillies fan and therefore disappointed this year. His posts are interesting there too, and irreverent, which I like of course.
2. A Digg-like memetracker, news.ycombinator.com is in the same league as TechMeme, about 1000 hits for a highly ranked piece. I don't know much about the site, I'm not a regular reader, and I don't know much about the people who visit from this site.
10/17/07; 7:27:56 AM
- iPhone SDK coming in Feb
Apple announced that there will be an SDK for the iPhone.
10/17/07; 9:32:21 AM
- Funny sign at Web 2.0
Thanks to Bijan Sabet!
10/17/07; 2:56:12 PM
- Nokia N810
Just read about this on Engadget.
I know there's a Nokia breakfast in SF starting at 8AM, which I will not be able to make, but as an N800 user, if this product really is coming, I can see two thing right off the bat that address major problems with the previous model. 1. Nokia makes good keyboards, but the old model doesn't have one. On-screen keyboards are a pain, even relatively good ones like the one in the iPhone, but the one in the N800 is not particularly good. 2. The other notable feature is the screen resolution, which looks pretty fantastic.
Anyway, I've asked my contacts at Nokia for info as soon as it's available, but it seems like the Engadget guys are on top of it. If you have any more info, please post a comment here. Thanks.
Nokia did announce the N810 (data sheet pdf).
Here's a high-res picture.
A video showing the N810 in action.
Flors: What the N810 means for maemo developers.
10/17/07; 7:08:33 AM
- Apple's iPhone SDK announcement
Note: There was no permalink for the story on Apple's news website, here's the full text, with permalink. DW
Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.
It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.
Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.
We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.
P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch. [Oct 17, 2007]
10/17/07; 9:45:32 AM
- Beware the exclusive
Web 2.0 companies, observe how Loic rolls his product out. It's done personally. Not with a big bang, but with nurturing, one user at a time, at first, then it will fan out, but it will always have the personal touch, because it began that way.
In contrast, giving an exclusive to one press person or one blogger can be much less effective. It may get you on top of the ladder for a moment, but the glory fades fast, and then what? And your first impression is in the hands of someone else. What if he or she doesn't like you or your product? (Or worse, if they have a conflicting interest, I've seen it happen.) You could get sandbagged.
Most PR firms show you how to do the big bang rollout, because that's all they know. But even the greatest promoters, with the most press credit (I'm thinking of Steve Jobs) won't rely exclusively on the press to carry their product. They guide it, they put their personal signature on it, they create an experience.
No doubt in the next few days there will be a lot of rollouts because of the Web 2.0 conf in SF. The only ones you'll read about here, with any positive juice, are the ones that roll out with personality.
10/16/07; 12:04:37 PM
- Loic is a great promoter
It's been a real thrill to watch Loic Le Meur roll out his new video community tool called Seesmic. He's got the French touch, a bit self-deprecating, he's good at seduction, keeps his ego in the background and puts the focus on the users, where it should be.
As he's been seeding people one by one, they create videos which then appear on Twitter (heh) so people who don't have Seesmic get an idea what it's like through the eyes of people they know. This immediately creates a feeling of envy, but if you beg Loic he gives you an activation code, and off you go -- ready to become his next evangelist. Feeling priviledged to be his next evangelist. It's like Tom Sawyer and the fence.
He reminds me so much of Jean-Louis Gassee in his prime, when he had all the Mac developers wrapped around his finger, and loving it.
I have an idea of where Loic wants to go with this, and it's going to be big. It'll be a fun ride, and fun to watch a master promoter at work.
PS: Here's my latest Seesmic video, a demo of FlickrRiver. You may have to turn up the audio to understand what I'm saying, or use headphones. We're going to do something fun with the people at Le Web 3 and FlickrRivr. Thanks to Loic for also having a curious mind.
PPS: Beware the exclusive.
10/16/07; 7:02:21 AM
- New toy
10/16/07; 10:51:12 PM
- Another bug bites the dust
I just fixed another bug in the category processing in Flickr-to-Twitter. It's amazing that such a small piece of code can have so many bugs.
This time, the problem was if you had two tags on a photo, one of them was the one that was supposed to let your picture pass, and the other was a tag for some other purpose. You'd think the pic would flow through to Twitter.
Well, it should.
But it didn't.
Now it does.
10/16/07; 11:45:04 AM
- That's what I'm saying
- Paolo gets an iPod Touch
I had a great Skype talk with Paolo yesterday. He was driving his car, in Italy near his home in Trieste. The connection was great, it was like living in the future.
One of the things we talked about was the iPhone. At first I talked about it as if Paolo had had one from the outset. He feels that close, and he's the kind of person who would get the latest Mac toy on Day 1, just like me. Later, when he said he just got his iPod Touch, I realized of course, this is one of those things we got here in the U.S. that they haven't gotten yet in Europe. Don't worry, they have some something we don't, a strong currency. :-(
So here's his first writeup of the iPod Touch.
10/16/07; 6:49:47 AM
- The small picture
Why is it that the highest-rated sites, some with supposedly hundreds of thousands of subscribers, only generate a couple hundred hits when they link to you?
As Pete Cashmore on Mashable says, it's because the subscriber numbers don't reflect actual readership. The people who subscribed may not even be aware that they are subscribed. Or put another way, we haven't learned yet how to measure what's valuable, we only have the crudest ways to measure value, so crude as to be meaningless.
Ultimately what matters to me is not how many people subscribe to my feed, rather how much of a connection I can make with the people I want to connect with. I'm satisfied that the people I care about read my site, and the aggregators flow mostly the wrong people through my posts with the most sensational headlines, ignoring the ones with the greatest value, imho.
I'm a blogger not a broadcaster. Blogging isn't about mass markets, it's about the small picture. My small picture (and for you, yours). I'm trying to draw a picture, create a frame of reference that's personal, not corporate. I'm a zig to corporate media's zag. I am a blogger. I am personal.
I don't want a hundred thousand ghosts "subscribing" to my feed. I want to influence the thinkers of the tech sphere, and I'm satisfied that I do. No leaderboard is ever going to reflect that, even though my site is often favorably rated by them.
I want rating services to provide clues about what I should be subscribing to. I want them to find not what's popular with the masses but what will be valuable to me. My favorite movies are not the ones the masses like, I prefer art films and ultra-violent comedies (I like everything Quentin Taratino does, for example).
It's a simple matter to apply collaborative filtering to this problem, we've even done it in SYO. These ideas need revisiting now that everyone else seems to have caught on that this is a problem worth solving.
Fred Wilson: "I totally agree about engagement being the right metric."
10/15/07; 2:38:41 PM
- Photo set: Berkeley Hills, sunny after rain
Instead of using my iPhone and Twittergram to post real-time pictures, I used the Nikon and took higher resolution pictures.
The leaves are turning, and the sun was out after a huge rain. I thought there would be some good pictures, and there were.
Click on the picture above to see the set.
10/15/07; 6:48:14 PM
|Last update: Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:59 AM Pacific.|
Dave Winer, 52, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
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