Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, March 13, 2004

Raena Armitage: What's happening in Scoble's pants?

Heh, that inspired me to post the full picture (in my moblog). Oh, and there's one of Maryam flipping me off cause I forced her to walk up a long hill to get a picture of that stupid tree. It was on our honeymoon. Gotta start things off right, huh? ;-)

11:58:00 PM    comment 

Joe Wilcox, who does most of the blogging over on the interesting Microsoft Monitor weblog: the Mind of Microsoft.

Yeah, Joe's right. And he knows Microsoft better than I do. He's been covering the company for quite a few years now (used to write for CNET

You'll really get a good idea how Microsoft works when all 55,000 employees write a blog. Yeah, I do dream about a day like that. Probably won't happen in my lifetime, though. But, in 1976 a couple of kids were sitting in a garage in Cupertino imagining the day they'd have their own cool personal computers. And look what happened.

Dream big. Who knows?

9:59:24 PM    comment 

My boss met Orkut the other day (the real one who works at Google, not the social software service). I'm so jealous. That reminds me, I gotta catch up on adding people to Orkut (sorry for being lazy).

Lenn told me he asked about Marc Canter being put in Orkut jail. I hope I'm not speaking out of turn, but from what I heard Marc won't be put in jail anymore. As Buzz Bruggeman says, Orkut (the social software one) is like "blogger trading cards."

Oh, Lenn was RAVING about the food in the Google cafeteria (and even saw Al Gore -- heh, is Al going to take credit for inventing Google too now?)

9:53:44 PM    comment 

Oh, now that I'm going through my feeds, I see I'm late on the Swiss Army Knife thing. John Dowell at Macromedia linked to it. So did Tejas Patel.

9:43:40 PM    comment 

Oh, now this is a Swiss Army Knife that a geek could use (has a USB memory stick built in)! (Sorry, I could only find a PDF version of the datasheet).

9:36:43 PM    comment 

James Avery finds cool links. Tonight he pointed at George Carlin's response to the indecency uproar. Carlin is one of my favorite comedians.

9:30:39 PM    comment 

We should hire Maxim V. Karpov to do Sharepoint marketing. His weblog on "what is Sharepoint" nails it for me.

9:13:11 PM    comment 

Maryam and I bought a Ford Focus today. Thanks to everyone who gave us recommendations! My brother and brother in law tried to talk us out of going with a Ford. They've had previous bad experiences. A few things that got us there:

1) It's #1 on Consumer Reports top picks list (update: I corrected this after publishing). It's the first time I remember seeing an American-made and American-branded car on top of this list. I think that should be rewarded.

2) My friend Lee Thé has had one for a couple of years and he really likes it.

3) Microsoft has a discount/fleet arrangement with Ford that got us about a 10% discount off of the list price. That made a Ford a lot better deal than Toyota (plus the Ford has a $2500 rebate right now, vs. $1000 for the Toyota).

4) We got a 100,000 mile/72 month warranty which put us at ease on buying a Ford.

5) I liked the car's handling and stereo system better than the Toyota. (The Toyota, though, had slightly better aesthetics inside, but I'd rather have better handling than a cooler looking dashboard).

6) It's one of those new ultra low emission types, so I feel slightly better about not polluting the environment as much.

Oh, and Bellevue Ford didn't treat us like their next victims, either. The Toyota dealership put the hard sell on. I hate that.

It's weird. This was Maryam's last choice. It wasn't my favorite either. But it's interesting to see how a major purchase decision can be changed by a variety of experiences.

8:55:48 PM    comment 

In the past few months I've gotten several requests from conference teams (not Microsoft) to help find sponsorship money and support. Conferences always need speakers and they usually need money. But, sending a speaker, or even an attendee, to a conference costs a lot of money. Most conferences charge $1000 to $2500 just for a ticket to attend. And then you need to pay for hotel. Airfare. Now we're up to $4000. Oh, and if you're sending someone important, you have to figure in their time. How much is Bill Gates' time worth (for instance, he's attending the VSLive conference in SF later this month)? You figure it out. It ain't cheap. Even my time isn't cheap (and I'm not even in the same universe of cost as Gates is). Figure it costs Microsoft $80 an hour to have me away from the office because I'm not doing productive work (I don't get paid that much, but you've gotta figure in all the costs of an employee into these figures).

So, when someone asks me "hey, can you attend or recommend our conference to others?" I think very carefully.

When I ran conferences getting one corporate sponsor could mean the difference between profitability and not. And I always appreciated corporations that'd send teams of attendees to my conferences (several times companies would send 25 or 50 attendees -- at $2000 a head, that can really help things out).

So, I think very carefully about these things and I try to make sure I recommend spending money on the very best conferences.

One thing I go over in my mind, and it's a big one, is "does this conference treat attendees well?" After all, I don't want my company's (or my) name to be associated with an event that treats attendees poorly.

So, why am I talking about all of this? Well, I will never support an event that treats its attendees as poorly as SXSW is this past week. Here, read Joi Ito's report.

That's deplorable.

If corporate types stopped supporting conferences that treat their attendees like horse manure, then these practices would stop pretty quickly.

Now, compare that to how Pop!Tech treats their attendees. Free WiFi. Helpful staff. Free video streaming to the Internet.

Or, look at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference. Free WiFi. Power strips under many seats. IRC chat. Wikis. Weblogs.

Or, BloggerCon. I watched last year's BloggerCon from home and read tons of blogs.

Or, Gnomedex. If Chris ever tried to do something like this we'd take him out and beat him senseless. :-)

SXSW: shame on you. I was going to put you on my calendar for next year, but you have just gotten me to remove you from my schedule.

Oh, and if the speakers can't handle live weblogging or a few camera clicks, then they shouldn't be on stage. Period. If you wanna be in the public eye, then be in the public eye. If you can't take the heat, then stay on your corporate jet and/or stay home.

8:44:33 PM    comment 

Shawn Smith: RSS is a must have feature.

Tosh Meston: "The 1350 sites that Rob monitors is so far out of the range of the average blog reader's capability or desire, it is insane." My reply: Tosh, I know it's insane. But, I believe that more and more of you will become information junkies soon and want to discover the problems inherent in following so many feeds (by the way, it really isn't that hard).

Roy Osherove: "[RSS] is still too hard to start with."

6:16:57 PM    comment 

I can't make it to BloggerCon II, but excellent to see that more than 200 people signed up. Dave: are you going to talk about how to get more RSS News Aggregator adoption? That's key if we're gonna get outside of the echo chamber and if we're really going to make this go mainstream.

Reason I'm not going: My son's on vacation that week and I don't see him enough, so gotta put my family ahead of my blogging for once, sorry.

12:01:57 PM    comment 

I heard the results of a shocking survey taken of Microsoft employees about their attitudes toward syndication (RSS/Atom). I'll try to get the official survey results and the methodology used. But, here's what was shocking to me:

Of the Microsoft employees who read weblogs, only 15% read them in a news aggregator.

Now, think about that for a moment. Microsoft employees are almost all advanced computer users. And, weblog readers are a small subset of those (my theory is that people who read weblogs tend to be geekier than any other population).

This certainly isn't a population of people like my mom and dad.

So, why is adoption so low? This result is scary because if we can't talk geeks who read weblogs (and who should understand the MAJOR advantages that a news aggregator brings them) to use news aggregators, what chance do we have in convincing mom and dad to use them?

This result, in my view, blows apart the theories that adoption is low because people don't know how to use the orange XML icons. Come on. Even the "non technical users" at Microsoft can figure this stuff out. The person who recruited me knew all about RSS and this was nearly a year ago. So that can't be it.

Is it fear of downloading software? No. That isn't it either. Server-based aggregators like Bloglines don't require you to download and install software.

Is it lack of knowledge about the benefits of using a feed aggregator? No, that can't be it either. RSS and Atom has been overhyped here and everywhere lately. Remember, we're specifically talking about Microsoft employees who are READING weblogs. If you can read more than two weblogs and escape the RSS and Atom hype, then you must be reading some teenager's weblog that I don't pay attention to or something.

Is it a financial cost? No, there's plenty of RSS/Atom news aggregators like RSS Bandit and Bloglines that are free and that are quite nice. Is it that there aren't enough choices? That's crazy. There are three pane news aggregators (RSS Bandit, SharpReader, FeedDemon). There are all-in-one page news aggregators (Radio Userland). There are news aggregators that bring you into Outlook (NewsGator, IntraVnews). There are news aggregators that you can look at in your web browser (Bloglines). There are even lots of places to find and make your own RSS and Atom feeds (Technorati and Feedster).

So, why is adoption so low? What are the barriers that this industry must solve.

Please solve them for the geeks first. Let's leave mom and dad out of this for now. If we can't get our geeky friends to adopt a news aggregator approach to reading the web, there's no way in hell we'll get mom and dad to switch.

11:47:45 AM    comment 

I've written about this one before, but thought it might add something to the mix. It's my ideas on why RSS is better than reading in the Web browser.

My goal is to use IE (or any browser, really) as little as possible? Why? Because it is FAR LESS productive to read information in a browser than it is in a news aggregator. Keep in mind, I'm watching 1353 feeds right now. Every night I read all my feeds. That'd be impossible to do in a browser. Here's why:

1) It is 10 times more productive to read RSS than HTML. If you want to read, in a browser, all 1353 of my information sources, which include not only blogs, but MSDN, and BBC, and New York Times, you'd need to visit every single one of those every 24 hours to see if they posted something new. But I DO NOT NEED TO DO THAT. Instead, I only need to look at the sites that have actually posted something. In the past 24 hours only 189 feeds have actually posted something. So, right there I'm 10 times more productive than you are!

2) No wait for browser loading. The average weblog takes 10 to 15 seconds to get to a readable state in the browser. But, my RSS feeds are downloaded ahead of time for me, and when I click on them they load instantly. 15x1353=20295 seconds/60=338.25 minutes/60=5.6375 hours. Am I doing the math right here? If you wanted to pull up 1353 weblogs/websites in your browser you'd be waiting 5.675 hours just to have them load?

3) No looking for "what's new." When you visit a site like CNET you need to do a lot of mental work to see what was different from yesterday when you read the site. In NewsGator new things are bold. I don't need to do any work and I don't need to pay any attention to old things.

4) No distractions. If you do eyetrak research you'll see that the average human eye spends a lot of time looking at blinking stuff and color stuff (er, advertising on a page and design on a page). In RSS, I only get the content. That means that I can read that content far faster than you can and provably so.

5) Same font for easier reading. Because all RSS is presented in the same font (unless the feed producer is an idiot), your eye can read more without getting tired (imagine if USA Today ran each story in a different font, how hard would that be to read?).

10:44:44 AM    comment 

Internally at Microsoft I've been getting a ton of questions about RSS. I figure I'd just post my emails here too so you can see why I like RSS so much.

The first one is what is better about RSS than email.

1) RSS is easier to have search bots visit.

2) RSS is easier to link to (at least if it also spits out an HTML page, like all weblogging software does).

3) RSS won't get mixed in with other email (SPAM, other DL traffic, and other email types). I've been looking at Microsoft employees inboxes, and many people here don't setup rules to filter their email into separate buckets.

4) RSS is easier to subscribe and unsubscribe from.

5) RSS doesn't use up any of my Outlook rules spaces (some of my coworkers have so many rules that they can't add anymore).

6) RSS is usable not just in an email client (Bloglines, other weblogs, even other Sharepoint sites can subscribe and aggregate it).

10:40:25 AM    comment 

Bill Evjen points to a new INETA-hosted presentation on Microsoft's Programming Languages Roadmap. Bill was one of the founders of INETA, which is a support organization for .NET user groups.

12:41:44 AM    comment 

By the way, ArtRage is only one example of new software for the Tablet PC. Lora Heiny has put together an RSS Feed of Tablet PC software. Subscribe and you'll know about Tablet PC software as soon as I do.

12:37:25 AM    comment 

Benjamin Zamora has a few awesome pieces of art he drew with ArtRage. Is that program cool or what?

12:34:54 AM    comment 

Christopher Laco swears about .NET (in a bad way): "get VS.NET to leave my (explitive deleted) source code formatting alone."

12:21:42 AM    comment 

Kevin Schofield writes a blog about what it's like to work in Microsoft Research.

12:17:59 AM    comment 

Adam Kinney saw my Orkut feature request and made a .NET app that'll add an Orkut-produced photoBlogRoll to your blog. I'll try it out tomorrow. Very cool.

12:16:30 AM    comment 

Don Park points to a comparison of video codecs. Interesting stuff.

12:04:51 AM    comment 

The guys over at Digital Photography Review are recommending the latest version of ACDSee, which is a picture viewer. On playing with it for a few minutes, looks great.

12:03:12 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:48:10 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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