Updated: 9/22/2002; 11:00:01 PM

The FuzzyBlog!
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Sunday, May 19, 2002

Should Microsoft Be Able to Put You Out of Business if Your Idea is Stupid?

This is, again, about Real Names.  I keep running into the opinion that "Real Names got with they deserved -- their idea was stupid and they might use software patents".  I've seen this on Slashdot, on Blogs and other places.  Jeremiah is an example.  Let's tease apart these ideas, add what Microsoft did from an ethical basis (don't laugh, ethics do matter) and see where it leads us.

  1. It's dumb.  So?  So was the Hula Hoop and Silly Putty.  Should Microsoft have been able to put those out of business?  Whether or not Real Names did anything for you or you saw the need for it, it seems to have served a fairly vital role for the Asian marketplace -- which soon will be, if it isn't already, one of the biggest groups of PC users in the world.  Guess what?  If they really do need what Real Names gave them then Microsoft now controls Internet access (since controlling access to a domain boils down to controlling Internet access).  Great....  Microsoft gets more powerful.  Oh we really wanted that, didn't we???
  2. Never, ever forget that Microsoft took the person responsible for the Real Names relationship, the person that knew the product best, and gave him the job of duplicating the product.  I don't know about you but that makes me feel dirty.  It makes me feel unclean.  I'm not going to answer the question as to whether or not it's legal.  It does feel unethical and the industry leader should do better.  His name is Bill Bliss.  Here's the link.  Jump all the way to the end and read it.  Think about it.  His email address is billbl@microsoft.com.  Perhaps you might drop him an email if you agree with me.  Just be literate and give feedback.  Don't be nasty -- that never works. 

    Now, let me draw an analogy to this that might be closer to home and might make you view this a little bit differently -- what it Real Names wasn't "stupid".  Think about this:
    • Microsoft decides the blogs are important.  They strike an alliance with UserLand.  UserLand begins to use the relationship and become dependent on it.  A year later they say to UserLand "Nope.  Changed our mind.  Oh, and by the way, the person who worked mostly with you, who knows your product best, is now in charge of MS-Blog.  Have a nice day."  Still feel good about their actions?  If not, how  about this one.
    • Microsoft decides to embrace The Gimp (hey, after how many years in business, and they can't make a good image tool).  They strike an alliance with the Gimp folk.  A year later they dump it and start the process of emulating it, assigning the responsibility to the person who worked most closely with them. 
  3. Patents.  I hate software patents more than you'll ever know.  I was one of the people that spoke out against the British Telecom hyperlink patent back in 91?.  And, don't ever forget that software patents let Stac Software fight Microsoft in court to the tune of (I believe) $140 million dollars when Microsoft violated their patents.  To some people, including me, Stac's software was stupid.  That doesn't mean that Microsoft has a right to put you out of business.  But, if software patents are legal, and, today they are, isn't a better approach this (and, yes, I am off track):
    • Get someone wealthy who cares to put up the $ for patent lawyers.  Perhaps the O'Reilly folk since they seem to hate them to.
    • File as many patents as we can and put them into the public domain assigning them to the FSF.

Sorry for the vent, rant and spleen.  I really don't really like Real Names either but that doesn't mean that Microsoft did the right thing here.

9:58:35 PM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

No More Help!  But I'm Impressed and Stunned

Wow.  Since I posted last I've heard from five or six more Mac experts and the key area between Mac and PC like Backup and "Gotchas" are being hashed out well.  I feel much better about the Gotchas section than I did previously so I'm very, very happy. 

So, thanks to everyone.  More questions in a bit as I finish digesting what I have been lucky enough to receive. 

Metrics: Geography on responses ranged from 2 - 3 miles from my door (it's a small world) to 5,000 + (South Africa).  Response times from questions sent out ranged from a few minutes to 10 - 20 minutes.  Average quality of information?  Excellent.

Personal Conclusion: I need to look much more seriously at OS X for a future development box and my waffling on which computer I should upgrade my mother to has probably been answered -- iMac (she wants to move to digital photos and iPhoto impresses me).  The community response is just stunning.  All of  a sudden I was cast back to the days of user groups when people cared.  The PC world just isn't like this.

5:21:39 PM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

11:52 to 1:43 = 10 Helpful Mac Folk

You have to love the spirit of community here in RadioLand.  At 11:52 am I posted the request for help below just before running out for an errand.  By the time I returned to my computer, 10 very helpful Mac folk had responded.  Some seem to be true mac experts, others enthusiastic Radio users.  Wow.  Thanks to everyone who responded!  No need for anyone else to help -- I'm "mac full" with people that are pitching in.  Everyone will be getting email from me shortly.

Funny: The first time I wrote this post the # was 5.  Then it went up to 7 since I mis-counted.  Then 3 more came in while making that correction. 

1:52:59 PM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

Mac Radio Help Sought for O'Reilly Book

I just posted this in the Radio Support forum and I thought it made sense here (I audited by web server logs and saw at least a few Macs are readers --- did you know that you can insert a tracking gif into your Radio template if you want to get a feel for page views?)  Anyway...

Thanks in advance.

I am writing the Radio section in the upcoming O'Reilly blogging book. I am finding that I know less about the mac than I thought I did and I don't want to get the basics wrong.

I have an iMac running OS 9.


  • I'd want to email you questions.
  • I'd ask for a fast turnaround. My critical period is really now until Wed / Thursday of next week (yes, yes, yes, this is last minute and I apologize, paying work got in the way).
  • I may ask stupid, clue free questions. Please be patient. I've owned Macs since 88 but never really used them for primary work.
  • If you use OSX that would help since it's only going to be even more entrenched when this book comes out.
  • I can't get you a print acknowledgement at all. O'Reilly struck out the thank you section in my chapters at the first edit pass. It's a book not a blog I guess. Yell at them, not me. I tried. I will acknowledge you on my blog now and at publication time if that helps.
  • IM access is convenient but not required.




11:52:44 AM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

Consulting 101: Checking Out a New Client

When you are a small consulting group, it can be scary to even take on a new client.  How do you know if they are ok to work with?  How do you know if they will pay you?  How do you know if they're just an asshole?  Here are some techniques to protect yourself from new clients.

==> Read Story <==

7:39:54 AM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

What is Smart?

Someone recently said to me "You're smart..." after hearing me talk about relevancy ranking algorithms for email and detecting spam dynamically based on its characteristics.  My response was the same thing that I always say when someone makes a comment to me like that: "No I'm not.".  And, to me, I'm not smart.  I don't feel smart.  I was thinking about this in the shower this morning (what?  You don't practice "virtual blogging" in the shower?  Or somewhere else) and the answer came to me: Smart Is What You Can't Do.

==> Read Story <==

6:47:43 AM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

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