Thursday, July 28, 2005

scooblog by josh ledgard : Two Ideas to Cut off Duplicate Questions in Online Forums

scooblog by josh ledgard : Two Ideas to Cut off Duplicate Questions in Online Forums: "So what we have to do is bring back search results dynamically on the new post UI page. Here is the work flow I’m imagining and some pictures to illustrate it."

This is a really cool workflow idea from Josh Ledgard. I wouldn't mind seeing some of the forum open source projects or even commercial products picking up on this idea and incorporating it into their products.

I also like how focused Josh is on solving the user's work flow problems. I think that as software people, this is something we need to do more often than we do. Look all the way back to the root of a problem and try to solve it there. Often times we get more focused on the particulars of our solution rather than focusing on the root cause.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | Downloading 'myths' challenged

BBC NEWS | Technology | Downloading 'myths' challenged: "Rather than taking legal action against downloaders, the music industry needs to entice them to use legal alternatives, the report said."

BBC is covering the same study. Good stuff.

I would enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out how people want music. I've proposed one solution on this blog, but that is primarily based on my desired interaction with music. How do other people want to have music delivered to them? What type of payment system works best for them?

Arstechnica: P2P users among music industry's best customers

P2P users among music industry's best customers: "A new study published today claims that users who share and download music files online also buy four and a half times more music online than your average music listener"

Monday, July 25, 2005

What am I missing Macrovision? - Blog Maverick - Revisited

What am I missing Macrovision? - Blog Maverick - _: "So if Macrovision can’t stop the bad guys, just what exactly is their purpose in life?"

heh.... I was rereading this post by Mark because it's so darn good. To answer his question:

To make movie executives feel safe and cozy in their warm beds.

Yeah I'm being a little condescending, but really. That's why those movie studios pay big bucks to macrovision. To make themselves feel safer because "we have technology that make sit virtually impossible to copy your movies. Isn't that great, we have nothing to fear from pirates."

A false sense of security is much much worse than feeling insecure. I challenge movie studios to stop paying Macrovision and spend their money on researching new and innovative ways to capitalize on the content they own. Like by making and selling software that allows you to easily copy any DVD onto a PSP, or Windows Media Center PC. Make it a smooth and streamlined experience. Better yet, sign up people for a subscription service (a-la netflix) that will allow them to download any movie in the catalog for a small monthly fee.

That false sense of a security just prevents them from really tackling the challenge that the internet has given them.

Review: Soul Kitchen Studios

I wanted to relate our experience with Soul Kitchen Studios so that anyone out there considering using Mark for a project could be well informed.

Here's the thesis of the review: "Mark is awesome."

Mark took the rough mix that we did in our project studio and turned it into something that is a joy to listen to. He took our feedback in stride and accomodated all our requests, whether they were as specific as "The vocals need to be like a half DB louder here", or as vague as "I don't know, the beat just needs to be more... 'there'". Not only that, but he was able to work within our budget. To Mark the most important thing is making the client happy. And he definitely made us happy with this project.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - Is being generous good for business? - Is being generous good for business?: "'it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.'"

Sounds like costco's priorities go like this.

1) Customer
2) Employee
3) Shareholder


"On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now."

Even Cooler.

Maybe I should go get me a costco card.

David RD Gratton: Little Richard to The Mars Volta: It's all new music

David RD Gratton: Little Richard to The Mars Volta: It's all new music: "Finding obscure or unique music will become a valuable service. And we're talking obscure in 2020 which could mean Ram Jam, Boston, The Statler Brothers, Interpol, Blondie or Neil Young. "

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman: "'Where do you get your Ideas?'
Essay by Neil Gaiman - 1997"

An interesting essay. It makes me think about how in software, as in writing, the execution is the most important thing. I think that's what Neil is really getting at here. Ideas are fun and anybody can have them. What everybody doesn't have is the ability to turn that idea into a compelling story.

How about this: Everybody has an idea for the next big online service, or piece of software. The difference is in how well they execute the idea.

If that's really true, then it makes software patents less important. It also means that software (like writing) is going to be difficult for the duration of a product, not just for it's inception. I think most product managers would agree that the 1.0 release is just the beginning. The first hard part. A products success will depend just as much, if not more, on it's second release as it does on the first. The first release might get people interested, but the second release shows them whether you are up to the task of making this software viable for the long haul.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Search Engines

Scoble posted on MSN's recent improvements. Made me realize that I have both google and msn keyword links in firefox. Using that method I can enter either "g " or "m " in my firefox address bar to do either a google or an msn search. Firefox replaces the G with a link to google and the M with a link to msn search, meaning that there is no effort necessary on my part to switch search engines than to use my right pointer instead of my left pointer... and I'm right handed so you would think that MSN would have the edge.

All that is to say that my vendor lock in to search engine is very low. One letter difference is all it takes for me to switch. That's very good for me. The minute MSN is better than google (it could happen I suppose) I could even remap my G key to search MSN, meaning I wouldn't even have to learn to hit a different letter. What if all of my services were this way? What if I could take all my apps and run them on my powerbook when 10.4 came out because the OS was much better suited to my productivity.

I think Sun is pushing that direction. They are big on open standards vs. open source. I think Sun wants to be the provider. They want to out executed on providing people with the platform, or sell compute cycles like electricity is sold today.

Eh, I thought I was going somewhere interesting with this... maybe I'm not.

Auto Trackback

A conversation I had with Josh Ledgard is echoed by scoble.

I want auto-trackback. It would be a great way to level the blog-*sigh*-osphere even more. That could be a really good service for technorati or bloglines to offer. A link on every blog post would be a great way to push traffic onto their sites.

OpinionJournal - Windfall for Washington

OpinionJournal - Featured Article: "And if most of the extra tax income is coming from capital gains and dividend payments, that would have to mean that the rich in America are paying more taxes, not less, as a result of the 2003 tax cut."

Interesting analysis of the 2003 tax cuts. Is this one of those "drop the price and sell more units" but for taxes?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Space/Time shifting Content = Web Services

This analogy probably wont help anybody in the music industry to understand but I thought it was worth pointing out.

When I buy a DVD and I can copy it onto my PSP, the DVD becomes more valuable to me. I've bought 2 different tv series on DVD only because I could space shift it onto my DVD and take it to the gym. That's money that the studios wouldn't have gotten if there was no way for me to space shift the content. The studios see this as an opportunity for them to extend their offering and increase the price. To keep this opporunity available to themselves they are fighting tooth and nail to keep control of their data.

Google maps recently published their API. There have been some very interesting combinations of listing services like craigs list being combined with Google maps to show customized maps of very interesting content. Google could've seen this as an opporunity to extend their offering and have fought tooth and nail to control what is done with their content. They instead decided to allow the end users to embrace and extend their service.

Space and Time shifting content is the same type of thing. It's users like me, taking something cool (a tv show) and using it in a way the originator didn't envision.

The Clicker: Microsoft’s OPM for the masses - Engadget -

The Clicker: Microsoft’s OPM for the masses - Engadget - "Microsoft is quick to point out that many content providers have agreed to not totally block all analog displays. Instead they have agreed to compromise and allow the constricted (down-sampled) versions to pass through. Still — this is a far cry from enjoying the unmolested goodness of hi-def content."

*sigh* What is this really going to do? Who has the business case for all this technology? Where are the numbers to back up this massive investment in R&D?

I think we should return to the core. Content distribution as it exists today is an implementation detail. The core is creative people doing creative works. You can't embrace a new model of content distribution (the internet) without giving up the old model. I understand the desire to lower your distribution costs to near zero by embracing the new model, but doens't that mean that maybe your prices should go down as well? Apple can make a profit off of the iTMS and they even have to pay a large percentage of their take to the copyright holders. Last I recall Apple only made 37 or so cents per song, and they can still keep the thing operating. How much of the 62 cents actually goes to the artists. Why can't we just cut out the middle man. If the record labels are not doing distribution (now internet) and promotion (blogs, word of mouth, itms) just what are they doing?

SCO in 2002: "there's no infringing code"

SCO in 2002: "there's no infringing code": "Now it is apparent that SCO and its pugnacious CEO McBride have known that there is no infringing code since the summer of 2002."

Clinton steps into the GTA: SA debacle

Clinton steps into the GTA: SA debacle: "If Rockstar left that content in the game, however hidden away, then they should be apologizing, and not blaming the mod community. Maybe it was an accident, or maybe it's supposed to be quite the Easter egg. It doesn't matter. It's putting the ratings process in jeopardy, and while some of you might prefer Washington step into this matter, I don't."

Good commentary on the issue at Ars. I've got about 10 more seconds of patience for this particular story though. I hope it stops escalating soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blogger = Teh Better

It seems that whatever problems had been nagging blogger over the last few months have finally been cleared up. It's been a long time since I've had significant delays when trying to post. Kudos to the blogger team.

Microsoft and Claria

Sounds like the whole Microsoft and Claria thing was blown out of proportion. That's good. I'm behind the ball on posting an update on this because things have been very busy at "the work." Code code code. I got to write some really challenging stuff on monday. I wont go into the details any further until I get some clarification on the blogging policy here at work, but on a personal level it was nice to stretch my brain out a little bit. Hopefully it wont shrink back down to normal size. :-)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Microsoft Downgrades Claria Adware Detections

Via Slashdot: Microsoft Downgrades Claria Adware Detections: "Microsoft's Windows AntiSpyware application is no longer flagging adware products from Claria Corp. as a threat to PC users."

I'd love to hear from somebody at MS as to why I shouldn't be worried about this. To me it seems out of character for Microsoft.

Crossroads Dispatches: Dot's Flowers: Lack of Ethics? How About Lack of Imagination?

Crossroads Dispatches: Dot's Flowers: Lack of Ethics? How About Lack of Imagination?: "I'm too jaded to be appalled by lack of ethics, but I am amazed by the lack of imagination. Paying bloggers $5 for a blog mention (assuming transparency)? Original, huh?"

Evelyn is cool. Sometimes her writing is a little hard to read, but I like the point she's highlighting here.

Some people don't get it. Blogs are compelling because they cut through the marketing BS. They are "the people's voice". That's what makes them compelling. Some marketing folks see them as nothing more than another place where they can yell their message. They want to treat them like radio, tv, or print advertising.

Here are my thoughts about "using" blogs to promote a product.

Step 1: Engage in what your customers are already doing.
Step 2: Make something completely awesome. Using what your learned by engaging your customers.
Step 3: Support the hell out of your customers.
Step 4: Don't try to control the message, learn from the one that takes shape.
Step 5: Act on the message that takes shape.
Step 6: Profit?

I used to think not everything could be marketed through blogs. But Joel seems to be marketing fogbugz through his blog pretty well. I suppose if you are marketing into an industry that doesn't blog you might find it harder.

Only slightly related question:
How transparent is too transparent?

As a customer, how would you like to hear "We couldn't fix your bug because the dev team went out last night and they're all hung over, we'll do it tomorrow."? Or "We want to fix your bug but this other customer pays us more so we have to do their bugs first"?

I can't imagine there's a company out there willing to be that transparent, but is there anything wrong with it?

Coolest blog of all

I forgot to mention the coolest blog of all. The one that belongs to my wife Gwen.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Some cool blogs

Usually I link to other people when they have something I want to comment on. I thought I'd devote a post to just listing a few blogs that I'm finding to be good reads .

Gretchen Ledgard's Jobs Blog: A good look at recruiting at Microsoft. She usually has something interesting to say about the world of recruiting talent.

Josh Ledgard: Josh is doing some interesting things to get the community at large involved. I especially liked his reader rewards program.

Mark Cuban: I don't always agree with Mark Cuban (and I don't really care about basketball), but he gets points for being pretty pointed in his criticisms of the RIAA and the like.

Joel Spolsky: A must read for anybody in the software industry.

Project Aardvark: It's been fun to watch the interns at Fog Creek build some new software. I definitely want to see how this product turns out. The fact that Joel can set these interns up to succeed speaks volumes about his skills as the head of a software company. I wonder if Joel is trying to build a visionary company or if he just happens to be a visionary leader. Will Fogcreek software produce more Joel Spolsky's?

Scoble: Also known as "never miss another blogging related piece of news ever".

Wil Wheaton: Cause it's Wesley Crusher! ;-) Actually Wil is just an interesting person. His posts are almost always a good read on several levels.

Those are my must reads at the moment. (except that Josh has been posting a bunch of stuff about the MSDN forums that doesn't interest me)

DVD-Audio copy protection "cracked"

DVD-Audio's CPPM can be got around with a WinDVD patch - CD "but instead pipes the decrypted audio output to the hard drive instead of the sound card"

That's part of the fundamental problem with trying to secure bits. They must be available for playback, which means the customer has to have the key to unlock the bits available to them. This isn't a very sophisticated crack from what I can tell, but it's effective.

(Side note: Part of what is so frustrating about this is that this method is very inefficient for everyday users that would like to copy their music onto their computer for convenient listening, but mass "pirates" will have no problem waiting an hour for their one perfect master that they can stamp thousands of copies from)

I've wrestled with similar problems before, and what I've seen is that this false sense of security tends to be worse overall for the producer of the content than the removal of all barriers.

When there is a weak security system in place, those that don't understand the technical limitations tend to think "This solution is so great, I don't understand how it works but I feel secure". This false sense of security tends to make them take more risks because they think they're covered.

Perhaps those in the content industry actually think that the copy protection they've put in place is working. "We" all know (anecdotally) that copy protection doesn't stop hard core pirates from stealing and distributing illegitimate copies of content. But do the executives in charge of these decisions (like including macrovision protection on a DVD) know that it doesn't actually "work"? Do the technical people at those companies have a voice?

Has somebody stood in front of the leaders of the major labels and said "Here is what copy protection is doing for us and here is what it is not doing for us." I'd love to work with anybody in that kind of position on putting together a presentation of the costs/benefits of a copy protection scheme. :-)

I think it's very important for artists to be compensated for their work. I'm an artist, as is my wife, and I like getting money for the work I do. The more money I make the more time I can spend on my music and the more inclined I am to make more of it. But I also recognize that the old model is broken. That's why we released our music under a creative commons license.


My wife and I bought a Vespa ET2 about a month ago. Turns out that a 50cc motor is not quite enough to pull two people around Seattle's many hills. So we're considering adding a granturismo to our garage. (I don't actually have a garage).

Vespa GT 200 (warning: flash)

I was able to drive one once and they are pretty darn fun. If we do end up getting it I will be sure to post up pictures of the pair.

Living in the city is cool.