Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Saturday, April 05, 2003

Julia Lerman: "My god, he blogs like 50 times a day." Heh!

"The more I read Scoble the more I think it would be really cool to have a couple of beers with him and just talk about technology," says Josh Lucas. My reply? Hey, I'd love to! Chris Pirillo, Gretchen, my wife and I, did just that (well, no alcohol tonight). You think I'm fun to talk to about technology? Damn, wait til you get Chris wound up!

I was just reading all my rants over the past 24 hours and I realize that I have a perception about my writing that I need to correct. I'm NOT anti Open Source. I'm anti the political movement that says that if you buy commercial software -- open or closed -- you're a bad person. I AM anti the proposed Oregon law, which I see as anti-competitive and unneeded. I often use Open Source software and appreciate the time folks spend to bring that to me (and, I even pay for services/devices, like my Tivo, written with Open Source software). It's a subtle point and I hope that clarifies that. Do you see the distinction? Some of my friends say they aren't writing about this issue because they perceive the "slashdot" community as being unable to see the distinction (and, hence, they'd get painted as anti open source even though they aren't). I hope my friends are wrong.

I knew Keith Pleas was a natural-born weblogger. His first post pointed me to an excellent article on how to give a great technical presentation, written by Scott Hanselman. When I was running conferences, I wish all of my speakers would have been able to read this.

I missed this: Sam Gentile won a Jolt Productivity Award recently for his work on the Groove Toolkit for Visual Studio. Most excellent!

AngryCoder Jonathan Goodyear has started a weblog. I love the name AngryCoder.

I've probably said it before, but I'll say it again. I really like the .NET Weblogs. They have an uncanny ability to scan through 2000 words of mine and find the really good stuff.

As a counterpoint to my "anti the free stuff" point of view in the past 24 hours, I just visited a place in Alviso that the RIAA must want to close down. They allow you to take books, CDs, DVDs, and more home for free! God forbid. You mean they allow this? In America? Yeah, it's the local public library.

"If I can do something for free, it's unethical to spend money to do it," said Paul Nelson, technology coordinator at Riverdale High School in Portland, which uses open source (in an article in the Oregonian).

My reply? It's unethical for Paul to take a paycheck from the school district when he can do his job for free.

Dan Shafer gets the last word in our "bar" discussion. Yeah, it was fun, and yeah, Dan has many good points -- I learned a bit from the discussion. As for R&D on Office? I disagree. My copy of Office 11 is WAY better than the Office 2000 I use at NEC. I wish I could use it at NEC right now. Not to mention interesting new apps that come out of the Office team like InfoPath and OneNote. Let's do the math. Let's say 2000 people are working on Office right now. Let's say they get paid $100,000 each. That's $200 million right there. Not counting the buildings, the power, the Internet lines, the soccer field upkeep, etc. So, we might argue about whether it's $300 million or a billion, but clearly there are a lot of people up in Redmond working on Office. Clearly they aren't free.

Jian Shuo Wang's weblog makes me want to visit Shanghai again. My only visit was about six years ago now. I hear it's completely different. If anyone doubts that China, and particularly Shanghai, isn't an economic powerhouse, you gotta go there. Americans don't have any clue about the scale of what is going on over there. I hope more bloggers like Jian show us.

Marc Canter: "God bless Don Norman." Um, Don's cool, but he wants me to carry around 20 devices -- all of which do one thing very well. Blah.

I am willing to pay more for a "professional" version of Radio, by the way. Feature requests? My own domain name. A cool new XHTML theme or two. A chat room. A Ryze-style "about me page." Better blogrolling (multiple blogrolls and a better interface than one freaking long list). Photo and video posting. .NET scriptability. A better editor.

Oh, geez, first Chris Pirillo takes off his pants. Now he takes off his shirt. What's next? You know, Chris, I've been talking to a lot of my friends and your site is the best argument to use an RSS News Aggregator out there on the Web today. You know why? Cause we hate your F'ing font! If you hate Chris's font, post a comment in this message. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, don't worry, you're probably on a Mac.

Sam Tingleff from SAP dropped by my comments the other day to point out that SAP and Microsoft offer a ".NET Connector" which allows both RFC (SAP proprietary) and web service calls from .NET into SAP. Plus, he's offering his help with any questions. Awesome! Hey, Sam, why don't you get a weblog and show us how to do it?

Ryan Irelan, who, I think, works at a University, says "you see, Scoble, we're in a different business here. It's not about making money."

To which I reply: "oh really?" Tell me again why many universities take patents out on technology they develop? Tell me why you are getting paid to work there, if it's not about money? Tell me how you feed YOUR family if it's not about money? Tell me, why do academics write books and try to make money off of students? Why do Universities have unions that fight very hard for your ability to make more money? I bet you belong to one, right? Why do you? If it's not about money?

Not to mention, last time I visited San Jose State University's bookstore Microsoft was selling its software for FAR FAR less than most of the rest of us can buy it.

Oh, yeah, and if it's not about money, where the HELL do you think you get your paycheck from? Did you realize that you FORCE me to pay taxes so that you can get your salary paid. Yes, YOU. If all you government workers would "do it as a hobby" like the "free software world" wants me and others to do, then you wouldn't need to take my tax money and you could give me a refund.

One guy told me once "whenever someone says it's not about the money, they are lying."

But, to come back to Ryan's post, he asks isn't this a good thing for governments? It's always a good thing for governments to look very hard at how they are spending my tax money. It's not a good thing when they are forced into making certain choices by legislation. There already is an "open bid" process in most state governments. I know, I've helped prepare bids for NEC for many government entities. They already are supposed to choose the lowest-cost provider. But this proposed legislation makes it very hard to choose anyone but the "free" software provider. That's wrong and anti-competitive.

Brad Wilson writes "I wonder why [Dan and Robert] are bothering to have a debate about the non-essential and often-rehashed points, when this proposed law so clearly sets up a discrimination against proprietary products?"

He continues: "Will they happily suffer the resulting economic depression because they unfairly singled out hardworking Americans and Oregonians for monetary discrimination, in the name of some vaguely Socialist bullshit agenda?"

Erik Barzeski points out in my comments "Try charging for it? Uhh, they already do." My reply? Well, most end users don't realize that open source is not synonymous with "free software." Why is that? Because all the biggest open source products are free. Mozilla, Star Office, Linux, Apache, MySQL, etc.

If the open source community wants to make the point that "our stuff is not free" I welcome them to do that. So far they haven't. Look again at the arguments in front of the Oregon court. They didn't say "we charge too."

I'm thinking about the NYT link breakage some more. I decried that it wasn't a good decision for its customers. Wait a second. Are web readers customers? No they aren't. They weren't paying for that privilege.

Now, take that to the "free software world." Guess what, when that world decides to do something, you have no voice. Why? Because you aren't a customer. You can't make a "giant sucking sound" as you take your money and go elsewhere.

The NYT (and Knight Ridder before it) didn't care about screwing us, because we simply were not customers and were not helping to pay the bills. Journalism is expensive. They decided to turn off the free tap. I wonder when the software industry is going to make the same decision?

Steve Ivy follows up on my hope that Jim Fawcette would start weblogging.

Good point! I know that I trust people who weblog more than I trust non webloggers. Why? Because I get to know their philosophy. Their point of view. Day after day after day. Look at how Dan Shafer and I get along. I know more about Dan than I know about most of the people I even work with. Seriously. How many people do you work with that you have passionate discussions about things with?

Another blogger swallows the red pill (this time it's Steve Makofsky).

The .net blogosphere (Julia Lerman, Yasser Shohoud, and now me) is putting pressure on Keith Pleas to start a weblog. Come on in Keith, the water is fine. Keith spoke for me dozens of times -- he'd be a real asset to the weblogging world.

Speaking of pressure. Someone told me that Jim Fawcette thinks weblogs are a waste of time. Really Jim? Did you realize that Microsoft adds a new weblogger every day now and the time between new Microsoft webloggers being added is shortening? Did you notice how many .NET programmers there are out here in weblog land? Did you realize that weblogs are a great way to communicate with your customers?

I think one problem Jim is having, though, is the whole linking thing. He hates linking to stuff outside of his empire. He doesn't get why webloggers would link to competitors (for instance, why does Dave Winer link to Blogger and Moveable Type occassionally?) Why would I link to a list of all of NEC's competitors? Jim simply does not grok what that does for his authority ranking. By pointing to EVERYTHING on the Web (not just what's in your keiritsu) you become more of an authority on a topic. You get trust. You get traffic. You get a higher Google ranking because people will link to you and say "boy, is that refreshing."

It's sad he doesn't get it, though. His voice would be invaluable to the web.

Mike McBride talks about free software vs. commercial software. He writes a blog for small-business IT folks. I'd go further Mike. The profit motivation is what keeps people working after the sale. Hey, it's one thing to get you to say "boy, that was cool what you did today." It's a whole nother thing to say "what you did today was so cool I'll give you $200." And, even further than that, it's a whole nother thing to say "if you want another $200 you better do something even cooler for me tomorrow."

The reason capitalism works better than other social schemes (we've tried a few different ones around the world) is simply because of this profit motivation. It forces us to satisfy a customer. And keep that customer. Hobbies are fun and can be quite valuable too (this blog, for instance, is a hobby and since I have an audience today of at least 12 people, I guess I've offered enough value for you to visit) but when I'm doing my hobby I behave quite differently than when I am running a business.

For instance, at NEC the other day I had a customer call who was quite difficult to deal with. I helped her out with a smile and spent a lot of time trying to make her happy. Now, if someone is difficult here in my weblog, I just might block them and be done with it. It's my hobby. I'm here to have fun (ie, I'm getting paid back with happiness by having conversations with interesting people). If I got paid to weblog, I'd change how I approached it quite a bit since there would now be a customer involved.

Obviously there's room for both hobbies and businesses, but you need to know that when you're dealing with someone's hobby, they don't have much motivation to put up with fools.

Speaking of Harvester, did you notice it supports OPML? Hey, what's this? A product from the "borg" that supports yet another "not invented here" standard? What's the world coming to? Next thing you'll tell me is that we've entered downtown Baghdad. Oh.

Don Box raves about Chris Hollander's soon-to-come Harvester (Don goes so far as to say that IE should be retired). I got a copy last night and I agree, it's very compelling. I'll write a review when Chris releases it to the world.

Dan Shafer replies to my reply to his reply. Hey, recursive blogging! Heh. You know this is just bar-talk between friends, right? Listen in:

Dan says "[paying] upwards of $500 for Office sure as hell is [too much to pay]." My answer: "whoa, why do you say that? My company just paid hundreds of thousands for SAP. Is that too much to pay then? Did you realize that the Office team is spending a billion dollars a year on R&D? I know you got paid very handsomely for some of your books you've written. Who am I to tell you that that's too much? So, you gonna take swipes at Photoshop for charging the same for one product? (At least with Office you get several apps). I get a HUGE amount of value out of Office. I use it literally 12 hours a day. For $500. It has radically changed my life. It makes me tons more productive. I get paid quite a bit of money. If it makes me 2% more productive, it's paid for itself. And, I don't even need to buy it every year. At NEC we're still using the 2000 version. That means that it's cost NEC something less than $200 a year to buy my copy. Oh, and you can get versions of Office for less than $500, by the way.

Dan says "But I think it is useful and important for governments to require their agencies to at least consider Open Source solutions. ... Don't you agree Robert?" My reply: that's not how this particular law reads. It reads "use Open source software and if you want to use commercial software you must justify that." If the wording simply read "consider all software vendors and approaches before making your choice" then I'd agree with it, but you really must go read Mike Sax' details of how this is being presented. It's a bad law and it comes directly out of the attitude that commercial software is a bad thing and that the only good software is the free stuff. That's bunk. I think we can agree on that. :-)

Andrew, over at the register, has been quite engaging lately (hey, mom, if you don't know who Andrew is, go and read Dave's weblog for the past few days to get a sense of what the blog world has been saying about him).

Today he has an article about GoogleNews deciding to include press releases. Heh. And how is that different from most of the technical press lately?

We need a new technical press and I think Andrew is close to figuring it out. We need a technical press that takes the press release and then does a point-by-point examination. Translation: add value through reviews. We used to get good software and hardware reviews in this industry. Lately, with press cutbacks, it's been harder and harder.

Not to mention, the press expect everything for free. I don't know very many press people (if any) that went and bought our tablet to write a review. But, they are perfectly happy to wait for us to send them a free one.

Compare that to the attitude over at Consumer Reports. They buy everything they rate. They take no advertising. They try to be objective (although they do have a philosophy and a point of view).

I wonder what it would take to get a Consumer Reports kind of organization going for the computer industry? I think that'd be invaluable. I would pay $50 a year for such a service. I bet our IT department would even pay more. Why? They buy stuff like SAP which costs a LOT of money. If such a service saves them from one bad decision, it could save them millions.

Dave sticks up for the Web...again. I understand the need to make money, though. Hey, look at my rants yesterday for proof of that. But, the New York Times needed to find a way to do that without ruining their brand. Now, every time I hit a NYT's link it'll be broken. Not good. That was not a decision made with customers in mind.

Harry Pierson gives his take on the proposed Oregon open source law. It's a unique viewpoint since he works at Microsoft as a technical evangelist.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:18:43 AM.