What’s qw( del.icio.us OSS Web2.0 love ) got to do with it?


I know I said that I didn’t have time for a real post on Jeff Nolan’s del.icio.us Vs del.irio.us post, but there are a couple of things that I’ve got to get out of my head if I’m to get any sleep tonight.

So I’ve got a little twist on my usual “go read the original item now” message: go read Jeff Nolan’s post, and also go read the bubblegeneration post that Jeff links to. You may choose which one to read first. Doesn’t really matter to me.

Now…the first thing that’s bugging me is this sentence in Jeff’s post: “The issues with open source copies of proprietary software strikes me as an economic race to the bottom that hurts us all.” Am I supposed to read this as a suggestion that a closed source copy of proprietary software would somehow be better? That such a copy would be less of an economic race to the bottom?

While I find Steve Mallett’s baldfaced “oooh…me, too!” approach to copying del.icio.us grating (Steve, you could at least have come up with your own clever site naming convention), his decision to open the source for this project has no real effect on my view. If anything, I could probably be convinced to argue that Steve sees offering the source code for de.lirio.us as a possible strategic advantage over del.icio.us, since the current user base is fairly tech oriented and could see access to source code as a real benefit.

This leads into the second thing that I can’t come to terms with — Umair’s Q&A: “Why don’t dot com 2.0 players build imitation barriers? I think, to a large extent, because strategy is not really on the agenda – technology is.” It’s true that Joshua Schacter was probably thinking something like “wow…this is a neat idea…I wonder whether I can make it work?” when designing del.icio.us, rather than “how can I incorporate imitation barriers into this idea, on the off chance that it becomes popular and I have the opportunity to make some money from it?” That said, I’m not entirely clear on what a feasible “imitation barrier” would be in any of the cases that Umair cites.

Putting business model patents aside, the only effective barrier that I can see for explicitly social software (a label which covers all of Umair’s cases) is having a user base that’s actively contributing information to your repository, and believes that they’re getting data that they could not find elsewhere back out in return.

ESS derives its value from a combination of the software’s features and the users’ collective data pool; where one evaluates an OS or a Web server based on its features, reliability, cost relative to similar offerings, etc., ESS is evaluated based on who and what it exposes you to. Features play a significant role in that, of course, but without interesting people and things in the pool, even the best toolset in the world is useless.

Maybe that’s where this “dot com 2.0” or “Web 2.0” deal is different from the initial release (or maybe this is all just another beta…that water has gotten pretty muddy in recent years). Let’s say that v1.0 was about making your own stuff — and a lot of it — and trying your hardest to come up with ways to lock people in to your stuff. Perhaps, then, v2.0 really is about facilitating the widespread and accessible creation, sharing, and discovery of…um, stuff. Maybe all this talk about a “long tail” really does signal the kind of massive change in mindset that seems essential for this to work.

That’d be nice. We’ll see how it goes.

Scoble’s Guidelines for Judging Linking Technologies / Extensible Software


I don’t normally link to Scoble’s posts, simply because I feel confident that anyone who’s reading this will already have seen half a dozen pointers to anything that I might link to in his blog. I’m making an exception for this post on linking technologies, however, because it’s both interesting to me and in line with another topic that I’ve been thinking about.

Go now. Read it, if you haven’t already.

Now…I’m on board with the whole thing, but the elements of this that are most interesting to me are guidelines four and five:

4) Can the linking technology be programmed by the user?
5) Can the user package up new linking behaviors and distribute those to other users of the linking technology?

My interpretation of those two points can be summarized as “Any linking technology must be user-extensible,” and I’m strongly inclined to push that guideline out to include most Web-based technologies. A9’s “Open Search,” the newly customizable Google News interface, the idea of “Open Source Ad tags” (otherwise known as “sell side advertising”), the possible Google Desktop Search API, the growth of collaborative taxonomic tools and systems (no, I’m not going to say the word “folksonomy”), Yahoo’s Web Services API…pretty much everything happening on the Internet that is of interest to me — whether or not I think it’s a good idea — is based around providing tools or frameworks that can be extended to do things that the original developers might never have imagined.

This doesn’t mean that I think that these things all need to be open source, or that placing some restrictions on what users or developers can do is a Bad Thing; I’m very much in favor of OSS and use a fair amount of it, but I’m even more in favor of software that’s designed to let me do the interesting things that pop into my head. OSS is by definition sort of extensible — you can hack in and do whatever you want with it, licensing permitting — but right now my excitement is coming from tools that are specifically designed to be tweaked and extended, whether or not I can get at the source.

P{SP} != P{T}


Podcasting (Social Phenomenon) and Podcasting (Technology)

Last week I linked to An Attempt to Demystify Podcasting. I was attracted to the post because it was one of the relatively few occasions where I’ve seen musings about “podcasting” that acknowledge that there are two parts to consider: the social phenomenon and the actual technology behind the phenomenon.

As we’ve seen before with personal home pages and then with blogs, the gee whiz factor of the technology currently bolsters the perceived value of podcasting (creating the social phenomenon): people will listen to “podcast” audio content that they would probably ignore if it were just streamed or downloadable on the Web, or broadcast on a community radio station.

I won’t deny that the ease of creation means that some good content that wouldn’t get mainstream distribution gets attention, nor that the “timeshifting” factor — being able to just sync your iPod overnight and walk out the next morning with the content you want — is great for some people; I will question, however, whether just being a slightly different distribution mechanism for the same old content is where podcasting will make a signficant impact.

Why do I think this? Because Marc Hedlund and Wil Wheaton told me so. (Well, sort of. The linked posts are what helped crystallize some of my thoughts on this topic, but they really can’t be held responsible for what happens inside my head.)

They both pointed out that the SciFi Channel is offering a podcast of commentary for each episode of Battlestar Galactica. Consider it a DVD commentary track, but without having to wait a year or two for the season to be released on DVD.

What I find incredibly cool about this is that there’s an actual benefit coming from the fact that this is a podcast: if you’re a fan of the show, the commentary itself adds value to the show, and distribution as a podcast means that you can be sure of having the commentary ready whenever a new episode is released — no “oh shit, I forgot to download this week’s commentary.” (It also seems to me that podcast distribution should help avoid ugly bandwidth/load spikes on scifi.com, since you don’t have everybody trying to pull the file down either (a) as soon as it’s posted, or (b) five minutes before the show starts.)

Now that someone has done this, “providing supplemental content for scheduled broadcast media” is an obvious and intruiging use for podcating, and it goes without saying that more such uses will pop up. The down side, of course, is that for every innovative use of the technology, there will be ten craptastic efforts to put the same old garbage into a shiny box labeled “Now! Improved! With! Podcast!” Just google “podvertising” if you don’t believe me.