Blogfodder Dump: 20060927

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Steve Yegge on Good Agile, Bad Agile.
(With a specific emphasis on Google.) Weighs in at 6,000+ words, but enjoyable reading for the most part. In any case, I have to support anyone who writes that “anything that calls itself a “Methodology” is stupid, on general principle.”

Flickr set of old BBC technology.
Incredibly cool retrotech goodness, but bear in mind that I also spent a vacation visiting the VLA, so your mileage may vary.

Rubel on RSS aggregators as ad networks
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Early experiments with ad-only RSS feeds pretty much flopped, though I’ll concede that none (as far as I know) included any intelligent targeting capability. As far as incorporating targeted advertising, I’d probably bet on NewsGator rather than Bloglines (top desktop apps + web, though NewsGator online is painfully sluggish for me these days).

Side note: it’s mind boggling that none of these online aggregator folks are even asking for any meaningful demo information. Behavioral targeting is great and all, but unless your advertisers can target women in the New York metro area your pricing probably stays at banner ad levels, and you’re just giving up the most fundamental targeting tool available.

Web Worker Daily.

Just because I’m not sure I’ve linked to it before. Good reading.

Venturebeat on xuqa.com.
I like: rather that trying to come up with ways to de-emphasize the popularity contest aspect of social networking sites, just build a social networking site that’s explicitly a popularity contest. Says Venturebeat:

The stated goal is become the richest most popular person. The users build currency acquiring “peanuts,” by engaging in any number of activities, such as playing poker or winning modeling contests. More intriguing, though, users can get peanuts by signing up for offers from advertisers.

Real Networks creates RSS-focused toolbar/site.
Real Networks might want to talk to the ToolButton folks about their download and usage projections.

Techdirt Mike on Newspapers and New Media
Man, I love Techdirt. Mike points to Vin Crosbie’s opinion piece, as well as a web of related TD posts. On the question(s) of newspapers’ relationship to new media, Mike says:

So what is the answer? Well, Crosbie believes its in really personalizing content. That is, finally recognizing that not only is the internet different than paper, it lets you do new and useful things that simply couldn’t be done on paper. Instead of just copying the offline experience, make it much, much better.

Amen, brother. See also my post from yesterday, linked below.

BT has a futurologist?
Yesterday I pointed to an interview with the NY Times’ futurist. Fair’s fair, so BT’s…um, futurologist…gets the nod today.

Short Michael Rogers Interview: NY Times’ Futurist

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Michael Rogers was announced as the first “futurist in residence” at the NY Times R&D division last week, and iwantmedia.com is now running a brief interview.

What’s interesting is that I came across this via a link that suggested that Rogers had a lot of good things to say about the new Times Reader — and as you may recall I have a lot of questions about the value of that particular offering. Turns out, though, that it’s really just a passing reference. Says Rogers:

The new Times Reader, on a tablet PC, is already a pretty good experience. Spin that forward five years and you’re starting to have a compelling alternative. Finally, in another decade, a substantial part of our audience will have grown up already doing much more of their reading on screen, and they’re not likely to have the same emotional attachment to paper as does much of the current readership.

Rogers is an interesting guy with some nice thoughts on what it means to be (or employ) a futurist, well worth reading the interview. I’m also pleased that the quote above is really about screen and paper, rather than the specific Times Reader implementation. You’ve all heard it before, but while the TR sounds like it has some interesting features, I absolutely believe that trying to make the screen experience of a news publication more like the paper experience is a dead end approach, particularly when you create software that’s locked in to a single news source.

The Times’ R&D group is still very new, but I’m hoping to see a lot of interesting work coming from that direction. The very existence of the group is promising: where some organizations still view newsprint as their core product, with “online” or “new media” as a secondary outlet, there are a few companies that are making the shift to thinking of themselves as information based and format agnostic.

Stating the Obvious?

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Over at OnLamp, Jason Cole yesterday suggested that we should assemble a massive, public database of all the “obvious” ideas we can think of as a defense against such joys as the Blackboard asspatent.

I’m reminded of a scene that’s appeared in more bad science fiction than I care to admit to consuming: a time traveller returns to their present after some sort of mission, and must then rattle off all of the obvious, meaningless facts that they can come up with, so that the government/corporation/cabal can check those facts to verify that the timeline wasn’t inadvertently changed by the mission. Needless to say, this rarely works:

Time Traveller: …ice melts at 32 degrees, and Hal Patterson holds the CFL record for the most consecutive 100+ yard receiving regular season games, set in 1956.

Scientist One: Great, everything checks out, looks like there were no timeline changes at all. Okay, if you could just lie down on the altar here…?

Time Traveller: Um, sorry, what?

Scientist Two: The altar. You know, where we ritually sacrifice all returning time travellers to Cthulhu to show our thanks. Just lie down here…

Time Traveller: No, no — something’s gone horribly wrong! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! This isn’t — aaaarrrrrrrrgh!

Scientist One: Funny how they always say that, isn’t it?

Fade out.

It’s actually a lot harder than one might think to state the really, really obvious: ask someone to state the most obvious thing they can think of. Then sit down with the beverages of your choice and talk through the assumptions that underly whatever their answer was — the ones that are so obvious that they didn’t realize they were making them. It’ll be a surprisingly big list.

(Seriously, do this. It makes for some interesting conversations.)

Pre-one click patent, would it have occurred to anyone that “minimizing the amount of effort required for a customer to purchase a product via a Web site” was an obvious idea in need of defense? Given that the patent covers a specific implementation of this larger idea, would it have been obvious that the specific implementation would have to be noted as…um, obvious?

I would have thought that combining anti-asspatent activism with big database fun would be like chocolate and peanut butter for me, but I just don’t buy this one.