Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, February 21, 2004

Don Kiely, a VB guru that lives in Alaska, is blogging about the Alaskan dog sled races.

11:22:18 PM    comment 

Peter Rysavy wants to know how he can help evangelize Tablet PCs.

Peter's exactly the kind of customer I want to have.

Heh, Peter already has done more to spread Tablet PC news than most people I know (he has a cool weblog about the Tablet PC).

11:17:59 PM    comment 

Is Microsoft moving toward more transparency? On JayBaz weblog I just learned that we're going to give out Whidbey builds far more often than in the past (Whidbey is the code name for the next version of Visual Studio).

10:59:32 PM    comment 

Carl Franklin has a Longhorn request: he wants multiple cursors. Is such a thing possible in Windows?

10:53:24 PM    comment 

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba of "Creating Customer Evangelists" and the "Church of the Customer Weblog" will be at Microsoft's headquarters tomorrow and Monday. I'm having lunch with Ben on Monday. That's going to be fun. I've been reading their book and it's quite good. Got lots of ideas.

10:35:11 PM    comment 

The New York Times is talking about the search war between Google and Yahoo.

I'm wondering, can we benchmark a search engine? Give each a fair review?

I note that a number of bloggers have put their names into both search engines and that on that test Google is the clear winner so far (at least based on my reading of my 1296 feeds).

For instance, I'm the #8 "Robert" on Google, and the #15 "Robert" on Yahoo.

But, that's just an egotistical little test and not a fair one. So, let's try to search for things that are repeatable. One thing Google doesn't do well on is searching for hotels (something I do often, since I'm often on the road).

So, let's search for a hotel in Seattle. Something I know a thing about since I live in Seattle.

Let's only look at the top five results. Let's face it, after the top five the relevance goes way down. If I can't find something in the top five, I'll usually just do another search.

So, I enter "Seattle Hotels" in both engines (without the quotes, but capitalized like that).

Yahoo: 2,020,000 results






Google: 4,780,000 results






Google wins, in my opinion, because Google actually has a REAL hotel on the list.

OK, let's try a different search. "Seattle Hotels Downtown"

Yahoo: 196,000 results






Google: 1,100,000 results






Again, Google wins in my opinion because it has three actual hotels that are downtown Seattle.

OK, let's try something more geeky. I'm a geek, after all.

Let's search for "Tivo Tips."

Yahoo: 430,000 results






Google: 294,000 results






Google wins again. Why? Because Yahoo brought me a repeat domain. More diversity is better. Plus, Yahoo brought me to the German TOC of an O'Reilly book, which didn't have any real tips.

Let's try something a little more wacky. I used to ask my parents "why is the sky blue?" so, let's ask Yahoo and Google.

Yahoo: 7,460,000 results






Google: 5,480,000 results






This one is a tie, although if I was asked to break the tie I'd give it to Google. I think is a more reliable domain than Geocities.

Let's try something closer to my heart: "Microsoft Longhorn." Again, without the quotes.

Yahoo: 894,000 results






Google: 584,000 results






Here Yahoo wins. The Inquirer? Come on. Where's Longhorn blogs? Where's Mary Jo's site? Where's Microsoft Monitor?

One last one tonight. Let's constrain the Longhorn search more. Let's search on "Microsoft Longhorn Avalon:"

Yahoo: 28,900 results






Google: 24,200 results






Here Google wins hands down. It pointed to Clemens Vasters, a leading expert on Longhorn and Luciano Guerche, a geek who lives in Brazil and writes about Longhorn stuff often. In fact, here's an example of how Google lists weblogs higher than Yahoo does. Both are good results and things I'd be happy to find if I were looking for Avalon info.

Anyway, this is not even close to a scientific result. I wonder what'd happen if all webloggers did one search a day and compared Google to Yahoo. Would we triangulate in on a quality comparison? I'll keep doing comparisons, but so far Google gives better results. Yes, Yahoo is darn close (closer than I'd expect) but to get someone to switch their engine the competitor must give better results. I remember switching from AltaVista to Google. Why? Google was noticeably better. To get me to recommend Yahoo over Google, Yahoo has got to be demonstratably better. So far, they aren't measuring up, at least in my results.

10:06:45 PM    comment 

Lars Holst is doing a series on "well designed weblogs." Except his is not well designed. Why do I say that? He's using a gray font over a white background. That makes it a lot harder to read. Personally, design in weblogs is over rated. Make the darn thing easy to read. Forget making it pretty. If you try to make it pretty we'll just read it in our RSS News Aggregator which doesn't pass along design info anyway.

Personally, my weblog might look ugly when compared to those that Lars points to, but do some analysis of how hard it is to read. Also, look at how long it takes for the average "well designed" blog to come up in the browser. Mine is fast. Some of theirs? Well, not so fast.

My site is #49 on Technorati's list (out of 1.4 million blogs). Why do I have readership while many of these "well designed" weblogs don't? Cause I focused on making my blog readable. If you want a pretty looking site, go somewhere else. (Most of the top 100 are "ugly" blogs -- but they all are easy to read).

8:08:19 PM    comment 

So, I'm caught up with my 1296 feeds. Yeah, it took three hours, but that included scanning, reading, and then commenting on the most interesting posts made in the past 24 hours.

Oh, and while I was blogging, Maryam and I have been watching Will and Grace on the Tivo. What do you do while watching TV?

7:47:41 PM    comment 

What is currency if you are a game fan site? Screenshots! And XBox Realm has a bunch. Looks like a bunch of interesting games are coming this year.

7:42:54 PM    comment 

Martin Schwimmer's Trademark Blog points to an article new anti-counterfeiting measures being taken by the Scotch Whisky industry. I'm partial to Oban myself.

7:39:02 PM    comment 

Ryan Dawson continues to do some of the most interesting thinking outside of Microsoft on our new technology. Wanna see how you can build a business and a reputation on Longhorn? Look at Ryan. Here he talks about Indigo.

7:20:09 PM    comment 

Does this blog have power? You betch. Let's see, a couple of hours ago I wrote that I HATE Betanews' RSS feed. Well, Nate Mook just wrote me and said that they are redesigning BetaNews and are building a new RSS feed. He also said that I can use this feed for now.

Thanks Nate! Wow.

How did Nate learn of my comments earlier? Several readers emailed him. Thanks!

7:16:47 PM    comment 

Rory takes on Steve Jobs in his latest cartoon. One line in his lead up, though, caught me. He said he was in kindergarten when the Mac was born. I was already out of high school.

I was very fortunate that I grew up a couple of miles from Apple computer. It's weird that I work for Apple's competitor, and my brother-in-law works for Apple, and my career got its start with a donation from Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder. It's a weird world. Let's make it weirder together!

7:11:46 PM    comment 

Mary Jo Foley: "We asked readers if they believed Microsoft's every move is dictated by Linux. Their answers may surprise you."

7:01:23 PM    comment 

ZapThink has an interesting article on when not to use a SOA (service oriented architecture). I saw that on Matt Powell's feed.

6:59:16 PM    comment 

John Bristowe wants better on-hold music in Microsoft's Office Live Meeting service.

OK, why do I post these kinds of things here? Well, because hundreds of Microsoft employees read my weblog. And there's nothing like a little social pressure to get action.

Translation: the internal blogs aren't rocking yet.

Speaking of which, this week we turned on new internal blogs. If you're a Microsoft employee, sign up at http://blogs (if you're on the corporate network). The system is using Scott Watermasyk's .TEXT system.

6:42:40 PM    comment 

Over at Jim Moore's feed I found this excellent article by Gladwell about the safety (or lack thereof) of SUVs and why Americans keep buying them.

I've given up in trying to correct the stupidity of my friends (stupidity in this context is the lack of ability to apply any risk analysis to their lives). I have never met one of my brother-in-laws, for instance. Why? He lives in London, England. He won't fly. He's afraid of flying. But he drives. Let's see, you're 1000 times more likely to die in a car than in a plane accident. If he's afraid of flying he should absolutely be freaked out about driving. But he drives a bus.

Another friend recently told me his family had given up beef. Why? Because of the mad cow disease. Let's see. How many people have died? Zero. How many people have gotten sick. Zero. But he does things every day that put his family at risk of death and destruction.

Our buying behavior is really weird. What's really bad, though, is our tax policy. That's really what got this SUV craze going. Over in Europe they tax gas. Any wonder why they are driving more fuel efficient cars there?

6:35:09 PM    comment 

While scanning Jim Blizzard's feed I saw this link to a rant about those "teach yourself X in seven days" books. The author makes the point that it takes 10 years to really learn how to do something well. Hey, that means that in seven more years this blog might be good.

6:25:49 PM    comment 

Jeff Julian is using the iTextSharp library to transform RSS into PDF. I don't know why you'd want to do that, but maybe someone will find that exercise interesting. Now, I wonder, can we go the other way? Can we take a bunch of PDFs and transform them into RSS feeds? Hmm.

6:14:11 PM    comment 

Tejas Patel wants Microsoft to do a completely CD-bootable OS like the Knoppix Linux release. "I hope someday you guys listen to my requests."

6:10:52 PM    comment 

Randy Charles Morin has a different kind of consumer protest: "Note: Adsense is gone. No RSS on blogger, no adsense on me." (Adsense and Blogger are owned by Google).

I'm playing with the new Yahoo search engine, by the way. I am #15 "Robert" on Yahoo and #8 "Robert" on Google. So far I've noticed less "blog noise" on Yahoo than on Google. Have you noticed that too?

One thing, though. I'm not getting any traffic from Yahoo's new engine. How about you?

6:05:20 PM    comment 

Ian Murdoch: why I don't like DRM.

You know, here's a customer of Microsoft's. He's asking for an improved music experience. When are we going to give it to him?

I want it too.

6:02:21 PM    comment 

Andrew Watt asks how he should deal with the wave of information coming because there are now 346 Microsoft employees blogging, with new ones coming every day.

I'd do search terms on Feedster. Find the bloggers you care about most. Subscribe to them. Ignore the rest. You'll probably hear of the important stuff anyway.

I watch all these feeds for you. You can read me, which admittedly, does take some time when I shove a bunch of stuff down the RSS pipe at your news aggregator, but it's only going to get worse. When I started working at Microsoft there were, what, 50 bloggers? There are 12,000 new blogs PER DAY being added to Technorati.

By the way, MSDN is working on ways to split up the feed. How would you split it up (er, categorize it)?

5:50:06 PM    comment 

Rajesh Jain's feed points us to a interview with Charles Simonyi. There he describes a new programming metaphor called "intentional programming." He even described entering in ideas into a Powerpoint-like application and having the system generate the code for you automatically.

Why do former Microsoft employees see everything as a Powerpoint? Heh. But, it'll be interesting to see if Charles can get such a system to work in any real way.

5:40:10 PM    comment 

User test report: Lenn Pryor and I tried out Sight Speed. A promising videoconferencing app at Demo (one of the few things I saw that I could actually see using). He was on a Mac (shhhh, we do have a few of those at Microsoft) and I was on a tricked out Dell 3GHz machine. Both of us had lots of bandwidth. But, we were sorely disappointed. First, Lenn's NAT blocked calls. So, he disconnected that and got online directly. OK, now we could make calls by the audio quality was disappointing. It kept crackling. And the video quality was worse. It had sizeable artifacts in the video. Then, it kept disconnecting. And, finally, crashed my machine.

People wonder why Skype is getting so much hype? After all, Skype only does audio and doesn't try to do video. But Skype works. Its audio is as good as a telephone. We didn't need to play any games with firewalls to get it to work (at least on our setups). And it doesn't crash our machines.

Translation? Skype is worth the hype. Sight Speed needs more work.

5:36:37 PM    comment 

Don Box's comment that he thinks the blogosphere is naturally self-referential brought to mind a discussion I had with a Microsoft executive recently (who'll go unnamed). He told me "the blogosphere is just a big echo chamber." I answered back "sorta like Microsoft executives, huh?" He then answered back "you're thinking of 'ivory towers.'"

Ahh, our execs do have a sense of humor.

Hey, Don, my echo chamber is bigger than your echo chamber. :-)

5:28:42 PM    comment 

Dan Fernandez is on MSDN TV talking about the next version of C#, code-named Whidbey.

5:23:27 PM    comment 

ComputerWorld says beta testing of Virutal Server 2004 begins.

Do you see how I get through my feeds? I'm already through all the As and Bs and Cs.

5:20:15 PM    comment 

Who said commercial shrink-wrapped software can't be done with .NET? Broderbund just threw that myth out the window.

Thanks to Duncan MacKenzie's feed for that.

5:16:08 PM    comment 

I HATE feeds like that don't include any content in their feeds, just headlines. I'm so sick and tired of that that I just unsubscribed. Here's a hint. If I unsubscribe from you, I'll be FAR FAR less likely to link to you.

Speaking of which, I also unsubscribed from another feed recently because the guy made an awful remark about homosexuals in San Francisco. Yes, you have freedom of speech. But I have control of my delete button. You're outta here.

Does that mean that I have an echo chamber of feeds that only agree with me? Well, when it comes to discrimination and hatred, yes. I won't put up with that anymore. It's 2004, not 1960. I unsubscribe from feeds that advocate hatred of any group. Even hatred of Linux programmers. My world only has friends and nice people in it. Listen, if Russell Beattie and I can be friends (here's the proof) then we all can be nice to each other.

5:09:11 PM    comment 

Anil Dash says he's is so compelled to weblog that he was ripping pages out of a magazine to weblog them later on. That's funny. In one of the PC magazines I was reading in the airline on the way back from Demo guess which one was missing? That's right, the article about blogging.

Hey, Anil, I got you beat there. See, with 1300 feeds you'll always have something to read (NewsGator pulls them into Outlook, so that my feeds are always accessible, even at 35,000 feet without wireless).

5:01:18 PM    comment 

The feed from AlwaysOn tells me that Linux servers are hacked more frequently than Windows servers are.

4:57:43 PM    comment 

What kind of stuff do I read in my feeds? Well, I see there's a list of the 75 top security tools. Now, why do I link to those here? So that when I need them, I'll be able to find them in Google.

Thanks to Alex Moskalyuk's feed for bringing that one to me.

4:55:21 PM    comment 

Dylan Greene came to visit me at Microsoft yesterday. He works at Web Methods. We talked about Windows 95 beta testing. He and I were both on the beta and both were members of "ClubIE" which was a small club of people who had built interesting sites for Internet Explorer users back in the early days of the browser wars. (I had built a site for NetMeeting users).

Anyway, again I am astounded at the power of the blog. Here was a geek I look up to coming to meet me, just because of my blog. I didn't invent anything. I am not important. But, out of the thousands of Microsoft employees, he came and looked me up and wanted a picture with me.

Weblogs are overhyped, yes, but their ability to build relationships, and, yes, even friendships (and not just the Orkut kind!) is unparalleled.

Funny, after I dropped him off in the lobby of my building, someone I didn't know stopped me in the hallway and asked "is THAT Dylan Greene you were just talking to?" Heh.

4:48:05 PM    comment 

Robin Good: I have seen and heard of people subscribing to hundreds if not to thousands of feeds inside their RSS aggregators. Is that manageable? Do these people get better and more information than everyone else? It is not. They don't.

Before I reply, I see that Jon Udell over at InfoWorld already replied to this in a much more substantial way that I could.

My reply? Robin is wrong.

First of all, I read 1296 feeds every day. Now, at the Demo conference quite a few people came up to me and said "I don't believe you." Then I'd proceed to tap my Tablet PC, bringing it to life, and I'd read a few feeds right in front of them. They saw how easy it was and that I could read feeds very quickly.

Here's my workflow:

At about 5 p.m. every day I tell NewsGator to get me my feeds. It is downloading them in the background as I speak.

Then I open each folder that's bold. See, I don't really read 1300 feeds a night. I only read the feeds from people who've posted something in the past 24 hours. If Robin wanted to read 1300 feeds in a web browser it'd take all day long because Robin would need to visit every single site, not just those that uploaded in the past 24 hours.

Then I only read the headlines. I'm getting very good at ignoring headlines with subjects like "isn't my cat cute?"

See, that's another productivity point. Robin probably assumes I read all the crap that people post. I don't. I only read those things that MIGHT be interesting.

If I find a headline that's interesting, then I scan the article it is associated with. I don't read it. Just scan at that point. Usually that means reading the first paragraph and scanning the rest for later.

Now, if an article is interesting enough for me to read in depth, then I drag it to a "weblog this" folder. In any 24-hour period I usually drag 50 to 100 items to this folder.

After going through all my feeds I will then go to this folder and read everything in depth. Out of the 50 to 100 items I'll pull a handful for weblogging about. For instance, I saw Robin and Jon's articles in Dave Winer's feed.

That gets to Robin's second point. Do I have better information than anyone else? You bet I do. After all, if it wasn't for my 1296 feeds and my daily routine, I would have missed Robin's article. Think about that one for a while. Or, is Robin saying that his article isn't worth anything in the first place. Well, I'll leave that discussion for my readers to decide. :-)

4:37:10 PM    comment 

If you're stuck inside, Chris Brumme has posted not one, but two monster posts. He's an architect on the CLR team. Translation: he's among the smartest of the smartest here. Hey, Joel, we should get you and Chris together for a debate about linkers and why they aren't in .NET. Yeah, you're right, Microsoft is a reality distortion field. We try, but when you get 20,000 people together with a common goal it does tend to be a big echo chamber here. I like blogs because it lets people on the outside remind us of that and it lets you poke us and tell us what we need to do better.

By the way, there are now about 300 Microsoft employees blogging over at How did I know Chris posted? Cause I needed to scroll for about 10 minutes just to get to the next post. :-)

OK, outta here. See ya.

12:15:24 PM    comment 

I see on Doc Searls weblog that it's raining in southern California. He should move to Seattle. It's stunningly beautiful here. Yesterday we saw Mt. Rainier, which is about 100 miles away. So, Maryam and I are going out.

But, first, Matt Goyer and I are thinking of going skiing tomorrow at Stevens Pass. Anyone want to come? It's his first day here in Seattle area and the weather is perfect, so should be a good day of skiing.

Last night Maryam and I had fun. We dropped by Victors to see Bill Radcliffe and his favorite band, the Sister Monk Harem. He did all the photography for the band and was proudly showing off his new Canon 10D (with some very cool lenses). Figures he'd be into photography, though, he is a technologist at Corbis (they own millions of stock photo images).

Bill also told us about the RoboOlympics (March 20-21 in San Francisco). He sent me this page which shows some $3000 humanoid robots that'll be at the Robolympics.

And with that, I'm off to go play in the sun with Maryam. See ya soon.

12:11:15 PM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:46:34 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). 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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