Updated: 5/21/02; 11:17:16 AM.
Web Services / Blogs
Useful notions about the evolving world of web services from the trenches.



Blogs-Web Services

E-Recruiting News
The Bugler

In Radio
xml feed

John Robb
Hack The World
Phil Wolff
Dave Winer
Tamalak's Realm
Work 2.0
Shifted Librarian
Disenchanted Ghost

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Blog Notes 5: For Whom The Blog Flows

Embedded in most current blogging software is an odd notion. Because the systems are self-referential and the overall audience is in its early growth stages, there is an interesting assumption that one "blogs" for oneself or other bloggers. Conventions, like blogrolling (a cross linking scheme that builds traffic within the blogging community), have a nearly religious fervor associated with them.

Community building, as we've mentioned in other Blog Notes creates the essential social infrastructure on which the long term success of blogging rests. As the community voraciously consumes the product of other community members, a momentum develops. It's good for groundwork and subject to replacement at the beginning of the second phase of growth in the phenomenon.

Part of the difficulty ion understanding the real long term implications of this (or any technology) is learning to distinguish between bootstrapping mechanisms and the final ediface. The issue has large implications for the development community and is one of the flaws in an open source approach. Things that are useful in the bootstrapping of an approach *do* become irrelevant in later phases.

The challenge, as blogging moves towards the mainstream, includes figuring out who the end customers are. They could be bigger and better versions of the current blogging community. They are more likely to be my Mother and behind the firewalls large corporate users. The features that remain in later versions will be a function of the majority of users at that time.

So, the question is "How does an open source movement account for future customers?"


Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Monday, May 20, 2002

Blog Notes 4: Categories

No Audience is Interested in Everything You Produce

XML gives Weblogs the capacity to be organized into categories. It's good news and bad. When authoring an article (or one of those littler bloglets), the author is confonted immediately with a series of usability questions like:

  • If I put this piece in several categories, does that reduce the meaning of each category?
  • If the piece is on the home page and in a category, why would anyone ever go to both?
  • If the piece is only in a category and not on the home page, how does anyone know?
  • If the piece is only on the home page, what are categories for?

In other words, the use of xml/categories forces every Weblog Author or Editor (perhaps the word is Authitor) to consider the audience from a structural perspective each time a piece is developed, particularly in the early weeks of the development of the blog's basic style.

There seem to be few conventions and the act of producing a weblog changes your perspective on the subject while the thing unfolds.

We imagine that there are a variety of useful approaches and are waiting eagerly to try Stapler 2.0 which strips headlines out of the XML so that the headlines can complement the category decisions by pointing to material not on the current page.

Categories are extremely useful for knowledge-management applications. They give an 'Authitor' the ability to tell a specific group of readers that all of X sort of material will appear in x section thus allowing the development of discrete conversations about subsets of the overall architecture.

When forming categories, the producer of a Weblog (Authitor is a wee bit clumsy, don't you think) needs to ask whether the weblog will be viewed as a magaizine/newspaper type of periodical with discrete subject areas or whether the subject areas overlap. In our case that means forecasting whether the Usability audience is interested in Web Services and so on. It means asking, about each item, is it relevant to categories x through z?

No Audience is Interested in Everything You Produce

XML creates the opportunity to keep that question open for a while as the blogger develops a real time feel for audience structure and composition.

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Friday, May 17, 2002

Blog Notes 3 - Blogging Is A Way of Thinking

Blogging is a way of thinking. Rather than simply absorbing information, as in passive consumption of broadcast information (including the passive web), Blogging requires that the blogger act as an active filter.

It's a skill that is practiced in a range of settings already; from cocktail party preparation by strong networkers to competitive intelligence gathering. Consuming information with an editorial eye and then redistributing it is the method that most social networks favor for maintaining their vigor. It is distinctly different from the eye-glazing flow-thru of data that characterizes the normal absorption process.

The blogger must, with some level of vigilance, ask the following questions

  • "Is this important?"
  • "Why Is This Important?"
  • "Who Cares?"
  • "What Does It Mean?"
  • "Is it worth explaining?"

It is no accident that some  (maybe most) blogging software contains a newsfeed (in XML, of course). The constant flow of ideas by the eyes of an active filter are an important part of keeping the filter (the blogger) engaged.

The fact the creation of a blog requires either a shift in thinking or a shift in attention for someone who already thinks this way is a limiter in the growth of public blogs. We are no more likely to see a blog on every desktop than we were to see a website on every desktop. The world is probably forever divided into producers and consumers.

Even so, blogging software creates an editorial envioronment in which it is easier to become a producer than ever before. The raw written communication involved in the process is something that simply gets better with practice. It's the way of thinking that makes the biggest difference.

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Blog Notes 2 - A Dozen Things We Know

Blogging is in a primitive form. The heavy users only know that it is possible. "Why?" is a question that awaits a claifying "How?" 

Here are a dozen things we know.

  1. Personal publishing has always moved from the grassroots out to society and blogging is an advancement in personal publishing.
  2. The technical ground beneath "blogging" (web services, net services or whatever you want to call it) is moving from the grass roots out (and not from the top down as Oracle, Sun, IBM and Microsoft would have it.)
  3. The blogging phenomenon itself is a market based example of a self-organizing system that appears to be producing features and functions just as they are needed.
  4. The growth vectors associated with blogging dwarf the original growth vectors of the Web in Phase 1 (circa 1993-1995).
  5. The sprawling, "static web" is in need of a function like consciousness that guides and focuses attention. Blogging makes that a volunteer job (in the sense that the great assignments go to volunteers who see risk differently than the 'never volunteer  for anything' set.)
  6. As was the case in early static web publishing, the egos of the individual contributors are larger than life so the story is exciting.
  7. In it's current state, 'blogging' is the product of technologists who are less concerned with "Why?" than "How?" although they grapple with "Why?" as content.
  8. Even as the technology finds its limits, applications are being unearthed. Knowledge-Logs (or K-Logs) are an underground phenomenon that may deliver what Lotus Notes promised.
  9. While the throngs of marketing professionals have not yet embraced the phenomenon clusters of influence are forming. That sort of infrastructure (the social network that creates technical momentum) has a longer half-life than the technical innovation itself.
  10. The first real beach-head in the maturity of the tool set will be the arrival of the "usual suspects". Although some from the "Wired community" are on board (see boing boing), expect near term entries from the standard digerati.
  11. The rhetoric is heating up. With forecasts like "blogs will overturn conventional media by the end of 2002" circulating widely, there is relative assurance that this thing has the standard 3 year adoption windup. As near as we can tell, it's still year one.
  12. Blogging is a nuance. If the Bugler, the Scripting News, the Electronic Recruiting News and EGR haven't been blogs for the past 8 years, it's the underlying technology, not the form. That said, the nuance makes the form accessible to a far broader array of participants. Automatic transmissions, which made automobiles accessible to the majority, were a similar form of nuance.
Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Web Services Defined

A simple picture Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

test 3

test Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Usability Is Not Generic

Neilsen's Top-10 Guidelines for Homepage Usability are an interesting starting point. But, don't think the battle is over because you have met a couple of graphic design rules. Usability is really a market targeting and segmentation exercise. The question is not "is this website usable for everyone?" Rather it is "is this material usable for my audience in the way that they want to use it?" That means that usability begins with the question "Who is my audience?"

While the high profile blogs and websites can afford to use guidelines about usability that apply to everybody, the challenge is more severe when communicating with a small group.

Many of the general principles of usability break down when applied to niche communications. When audience motivation is high, the idiosynchracies of a small author/publisher are endearing and actually facillitate usability. The exact same approach fails at 'scale'.

So, the next most important usability question is "How large is my audience?" followed immediately by "How motivated are they to consume my stuff?"

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Blog Notes 1

It's exactly why techies don't fare well as marketers. The single most obvious flaw in Weblog design is that the full newsfeed (the home page) is seen as the most important component of the game. It certainly makes infinitely more sense for the full xml feed to be hidden so that readers pick form categories.

When I tell new readers about the 'blog', I inevitably send them to the root level of the folder. "Here's the blog at http://xxx.xxx.xxx". Truth is that they wouild be better served by being given a category as a target destination. I'd love to hide the full flow and have an ongoing dialog (comments about categories) about how to tailor the delivery into sub categories.

While the full newsfeed is the technical wonder, the utility is in the categorization. (Readers, in the "Channels" section are a number of categories; this entire -and obviously burdensome - flow of news is parceled into subgroups of material by category. It happens as a part of the publishing process)

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Sumser Rides Again

A while back,  we exchanged mail with Dave Winer (head of Userland, the producer of Radio which we use to build the blog). The article is worth a short read Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


Data dyspepsia blights the workforce. One of the biggest challenges facing an organisation today is filtering the good from the bad information. It's the classic signal/noise equation. We all like to get the right signals--and all hate the noise. But for each and every employee these are highly debatable categories. Gartner found, quite surprisingly, that the most useful information employees receive comes from personal networks, contact with friends and colleagues, and emails--rather than the finely tuned information source that is supposed to be the Intranet. But how do you manage that?  The other option is some kind of sophisticated knowledge management solution--but no one has even figured out what this is yet so don't expect that one to solve your woes. [The Register

John Robb notes: The solution isn't a sophisticated KM solution, it is K-Logs.  A well authored K-Log provides a filtered knowledge stream based on the Intranet.  It is simple, elegant, and leverages the Intranet -- the perfect way to improve the signal to noise ratio.

Klogs are the way that blogs can be applied behind the firewall as information management pools. The arena is in its easrly stages and worth investigating. There is an ongoing conversation at Yahoo that you can join. (see the future is now).

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Blogs As PR

The recently departed CEO of the recently deceased RealNames, Keith Teare managed his departure using a blog. From nowhere to the top of the popularity charts, his blog demonstrated the utility of riding the blog PR craze. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


Is there always a disconnect between what's new and what sells? Sumser opines on tech evolution in today's Electronic Recruiting News. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

5c Defined

Traditionally, the working definition of "management" includes accountability to four key groups of "stakeholders":

  • Investors / Stockholders (The Stock Market)
  • Suppliers (The Supply Chain)
  • Customers (The Market)
  • Employees (The Workforce)

It seems to us that the labor shortage has the implied consequence of creating a fifth constituency: Past and Future Workers (The Labor Supply). Without a secure relationship to the Labor Supply, all growth plans and, at some level, the very existence of the company, are subject to a high level of suspicion.

This may seem like a silly distinction on first pass. What we are saying, however, is striking in its consequences. If Potential Employees are at least as important as The Stock Market, The Market, The Supply Chain and The Employees, it means that a lot of standard assumptions are about to be subjected to a great deal of pressure. 

By definition, the addition of a fifth constituency changes Management's relationships with the other four. Besides the fact that they are each a good source of Potential employees (and that ground must be managed carefully), Potential Employees are entitled to the same seriousness with which the other four are treated.

The job of being a "C" level executive involves trading off the interests of the four current key stakeholder groups in order to achieve the optimal balance for the organization at this particular time. Adding Potential Employees to the mix suggests the probability that a company may have to trade short term stock performance in favor of maintaining supply; that occasionally, the interests of Potential Employees will prevail over the supply chain or the customer base. Since the very survival of the firm can be tied to the management of the availability of a labor supply, we see all sorts of innovation emerging from the recognition of the Fifth Constituency.

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Fodder for Thought

Emerging Conciousness  The blogsphere needs a self-organizing structure Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


All great advances in computing have been advances in the interface. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

From Dave Winer

News.Com offers a fascinating peek behind the scenes at the BigCo's, esp MS, in re Web services.   [Scripting News] Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Levy On Blogs

Levy (a Newsweek journalist) weighs in on blogs

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


Eric Norlin: "So let me try (and probably fail) to be succinct: Pre-web services were things that required big servers, where we (the client) logged into the servers and accessed stuff. Web services *distribute* the stuff we want to access and, because of interoperability, make it much much much easier to make things work together. Byproducts: flexibility, cost reduction, increase in innovation. See, that wasn't that hard!" Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Big Co Makes Web Services Complicated

IBM exec details autonomic computing vision . Essentially, the vision is web services with  lots of industry "interface standardization". We can't wait until all of IT is built on committee work. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


Simple Object Access Protocol  is one of the central elements of so-called "web services". Essentially, SOAP allows one computer to ask another to run a "procedure". It's a set of standards that are similar to XML-RPC. It is important because it allows a more distributed processing infrastructure to emerge without as much centralization as we currently have.

The two links in this article will give you access to an overly technical description of the processes. What's important to know is that the web now allows someone smarter than you (in software, of course) to make complex functionality available with simple "procedure calls".

In Radio (the software we use to generate this blog), the idea manifests itself as "macros" that can be inserted into the pages. The macros are executed in one place while the reults appear on your screen.

In other words, I call the macro (procedure) from my machine, it executes on another. You see the results on your machine.

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Test 2

test 2, ignore it too. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

test, please ignore Your Thoughts? [] .    

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Blogs Are Real Work, Protect Your IP

Rewrite employment contracts to protect your blog..

masukomi passes on tidbits from a Slashdot post.

"Where it says:

company owns the rights to all work produced during the term of employment

Just strike it out, and change it to:

company owns the rights to code written during working hours and in direct furtherance of any tasks assigned by the company"

Masukomi adds: "Speaking from experience they generally don't complain. And if they do, do you really want to work for a company that claims the right to steal any thought or invention you have for it's own profit even if it has nothign to do with them? Last time I did this I not only struck out that section but specifically added in an additional clause stating that that could make no claim on any opensource work or work for myself that was unrelated to their products."

Asserting your IP rights up-front is vital in this time of blended personal-work life. A good thread.

[diJEST: a journal of extrapreneurial strategy and technology] Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Web Services Evolution

Stencil > Web Services Market Evolving..

The Laws of Evolution: A Pragmatic Analysis of the Emerging Web Services Market is an analysis memo from The Stencil Group's Brent Sleeper and Bill Robins.

Web services and service-oriented architectures represent a fundamental shift in the design of enterprise software, and some of the most important solutions are coming from smaller software companies that are tackling real problems today.

They start their thinking with five observations:

  1. Technology changes far less than we expect in the short term, but it has a far greater impact than we realize in the long view.
  2. Incremental steps, not disruptive leaps, result in the most lasting innovation.
  3. Fundamental shifts in software architecture lead to inevitable change.
  4. Business systems and applications constantly evolve.
  5. The need to balance of control and flexibility has driven each wave of information technology. 

Like their business case for web services in the enterprise, it is well written and useful. Do yourself a favor.

Me, I'm getting their RSS feed.

[diJEST: a journal of extrapreneurial strategy and technology] Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Getting Started

By far, the hardest part of a new technology is getting started. This blog (Currently called the Fifth Constituency) has been on the drawing boards for over six months. At one point, a team was assembled. The action items in our to do list are so old that they have evolved into that kind of spousal relationship you get into with some of your action list. They nag about neglect but not loudly enough to overcome the learning resistant inertia.

Why didn't the blog get started in November when it first made the AI list? What happened to the team? Why did it take so long to get a teensy bit of momentum?

Like all new pieces of technology, the blog seemed to have inertia of its own. We guessed and speculated about what it might be like to have one. We encouraged others with little response. The damned thing seemed to resist us.

We wonder why we always forget that commitment is never complete. It's a decision made repeatedly followed by the required actions of the moment. Somehow, as we are prone to do, we avoided the plunge and rationalized our avoidance with the usual excuses.

It's too much work. The software is primitive. What if it doesn't work out? At times, pure, unadulterated procrastination was the simple truth.

At any rate, we began the blog in earnest on Friday afternoon. By late Saturday, the categories were being populated and the rudimentary template was working. There are still issues of membership, email access, content routines and so on to be solved.

But, the thing is rolling.

It's a solid reminder that large chunks of usability involve the internal motives of the user. No ammount of usability will completely solve procrastination. It is, however, the most fertile ground for usability research. The questions are 

"What is the value to the user and can we help her see it?"

"Why should a user invest time in learning our peculiarities?"

"Why?" Indeed.

And, from what we can tell, why is the one question that most usability experts avoid like the plague.

Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   


No audience is interested in everything that you are doing. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

© Copyright 2002 interbiznet, Mill Valley, CA 94941
All Rights ReservedClick here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
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