Google's SearchWiki - a "PR nightmare" [Best of November '08 #2-3]

A few tidbits from mid November blogging (Nov 10-23 2008):

  • PR-guru Steve Rubel outcries over Google's new experimental search service SearchWiki, which allows people to comment, vote and reorder search results, provided they are logged in with their Google account. The reordering should only be privately visible, but voting and comments are public to others. Rubel calls this a "PR nightmare", as there is no community moderation of the comments like in Wikipedia for example, and he continues:

    of course people are going to run amok on the world's biggest online stage! That's like turning a kid with a massive sweet tooth loose in a giant candy store. It's going to be a haven for spam.

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  • Tangible mediaIn another piece a couple of weeks ago Steve Rubel foresaw the end of tangible media by 2014, by tangible meaning all physical media like newspapers, magazines, books, DVDs, boxed software and video games. Like Rubel, I'm already almost free of tangible media, keeping only a subscription to Dr Dobb's Journal, which I'll probably quit next year. I'm also buying a handful of books each year, but once there's a Kindle-like device available in this country, at a reasonable price, I'll probably go completely digital.
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  • Google's virtual world experiment Lively, which I wrote about at launch in July, will be discontinued at the end of the year. Apparently, the experiment never took off, though Google states that the reason is to focus more on their core search, ads and apps business.
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  • Adobe labs has announced Alchemy, a research project that aims to bring the wealth of existing C and C++ code to Flash. The C/C++ code is compiled to ActionScript 3.0 bytecode that runs on Flash Player 10 or AIR 1.5. Alchemy is ideally suited for computation-intensive tasks and can be considerably faster than ActionScript 3.0, though still 2-10 times slower than native C/C++ code.
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  • Josh Catone writes that Yahoo has officially launched their browser extension BrowserPlus, which back in July was suggested as part of a Web 3.0 trend. BrowserPlus offers web developers a number of services, such as drag-and-drop, file browsing, image processing and persistent storage, just to name a few.
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  • A final note on two social media apps: SocialToo, a service that allows you to automatically follow and unfollow people on Twitter, now has a polling feature.
    Tarpipe lets you automate your social media publishing via a Yahoo Pipes-like user interface. Tarpipe supports a number of social services, comes with an API, and supports OpenID, OAuth and Microformats, writes ReadWriteWeb.
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A Mix of Microsoft: Azure, MinWin, BizSpark and Small Basic [Best of November '08 #1]

Microsoft dominated the news this week (Nov 3-9 2008):

  • A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced AzureMicrosoft Azure, which is their offering in the hot cloud computing business. It's not easy to grasp what it implies, but it is a platform "in the cloud", on top of which there runs services including Live, .NET and SQL services. For now at least, you're dependent on Microsoft's development tool Visual Studio to develop for Azure. Microsoft's new offering does not depart from the usual confusion surrounding all their web-based products. Also I think that it implies some serious lock-in effects. So unless you have already invested heavily in Microsoft technologies, you are better off staying out.
    Ted Dziuba gives an alternative view of Azure, with some interesting points. Though he thinks it is a bit confusing compared to the offerings by Amazon and Google, he still thinks Microsoft could be a winner:     

    Fortunately for Microsoft, decision makers don't choose a hosted application platform based on specifications. They choose based on the number of stock photos of clouds and the amount of sans-serif blue typeface you have on your webpage. In that regard, Redmond is the clear winner. [...]
    This is all within one standard deviation of the average amount of fail in any given Microsoft product. In fact, I think it stands a better chance than Google's or Amazon's offering.

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  • Microsoft's coming operating system Windows 7, might contain something called MinWin, reports Mary-Jo Foley, referring to a webcast featuring Mark Russinovich. MinWin lies at the core of the Windows OS, containing basic services and is a self-contained executable unit, independent of any outside services. Mary-Jo seems uncertain about whether MinWin will actually ship as a part of Windows 7, or if it's just a development project aimed at future Windows version like Windows 8 or even Midori. Possibly it's part of the much awaited from the ground up rewrite of the Windows code base?
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  • In another move to increase its customer base, Microsoft has launched BizSpark, a partner program for startups who for free (almost) get access to Microsoft's development tools via a MSDN Premium subscription, web hosting rights and access to the Azure services platform, for a three-year period. The major catch perhaps is that to join you have to connect with a Network partner, which are venture firms and other businesses and organizations focusing on services for startups and entrepreneurs. This can be a trouble if you want to stay independent. Another catch of course is that if you're still in business after three years, you have to start paying the bills from Microsoft.
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  • Last week I wrote that Google now is an OpenID Identity Provider (IdP). Some folks argued that Google somehow had violated the specification and "forked" OpenID, something that is now denied in a post by DeWitt Clinton. A point of criticism stems from the fact that Google has used a new feature of the OpenID 2.0 specification known as Directed Identity, which is exemplified by Clinton as follows: 

    Directed Identity allows users to enter a generic domain name (e.g.., “example.com”), rather than a fully qualified identity (e.g., “example.com/users/bob”), so that they can use their identity provider to make an informed decision about how much personal information to expose to the RP [Relying Party]"

    Some commenter to Clinton's post argued that OpenID had forked itself by including such possibilities in version 2.0 of the specification. There is also an ongoing debate about whether it is a good idea to allow for email addresses as OpenID identifiers.
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  • OStatic writes that the open source Ogg Theora video codec now has reached version 1.0 status. The Xiph.Org Foundation stands behind the open source effort, which includes the Vorbis audio codec, the Theora video codec, and the Ogg multimedia container format, which encapsulates the codecs. Ogg Theora is a good candidate for the HTML 5 video element, though no codec is officially sanctioned by W3C.
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  • Lidija Davis writes about Small Basic, a new flavour of the original BASIC programming language from Microsoft, built on top of the .NET platform. The development environment is purely text based, in contrast to the visual environments provided by the alternatives Scratch and Alice. A commenter to Lidija's post also mentions the commercial alternative Phrogram, which I haven't checked out further.
    The help texts and introductions to Small Basic are written in a quite advanced language, hardly comprehensible to smaller kids. You probably should be at least around 12 years old and a bit nerdy inclined to enjoy Small Basic. I think Scratch, which I first wrote about in May, is better suited for smaller kids, 8 and up, whereas Alice seems to be aimed chiefly at college kids.
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Google Becomes an OpenID Provider and Possibly a Relying Party [Best of October '08 #4-5]

OpenID, Google and platforms. Three noteworthy posts from the past two weeks (Oct 20 - Nov 2 2008):

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How to Count to Windows 7 (and a few more) [Best of October '08 #2-3]

Catching up on two weeks of web news (October 6-19 2008):

  • Windows 7The next version of Windows will be called simply Windows 7, Microsoft's Mike Nash explains how they came up with that particular number. Interestingly, Windows XP isn't counted as a major release, just a 5.1 release, with Windows 2000 being 5.0. Windows Vista is 6.0, and Windows 7 is actually version 6.1!
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  • Kongregate, the online Flash games site, where the boys are, according to Rafe Needleman, has put up a tutorial series aimed at beginning Flash game developers. The tutorials show how to build a basic space shooting game using Adobe Flash CS3 and ActionScript 2.0, and there is an accompanying developer competition.
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  • Experienced, but mainstream, Yahoo users don't get OpenID, shows a usability study released by Yahoo Developer Network. If you own a domain you can run your own OpenId server using phpMyID, as I do on the emented.com domain.
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  • If you want to use IIS on a Windows server, instead of Apache, to run popular open source PHP applications like Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress, you're in luck, as Microsoft just has released a Web Platform Installer tool, which simplifies the deployment process to almost a click of a button.
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  • Opera released some Web statistics obtained by their "Metadata Analysis and Mining Application", MAMA: 

    MAMA is a structural Web-page search engine—it trawls Web pages and returns results detailing page structures, including what HTML, CSS, and script is used on it, as well as whether the HTML validates.

    It's a vast resource for Web nerds, with results ranging from the least and most popular HTML elements to Flash and AJAX usage per country. Some key findings: Apache is used by 68% of web servers, IIS by 26%. The ratio of HTML to XHTML usage is about 2 to 1. The "table" element is more popular than "div", 8th vs. 14th place, respectively. 33% of web pages use Flash. Only 4% of URLs pass the W3C markup validation test. When testing my site, 38 errors were reported, so nobody is perfect. I guess WordPress is to blame for a lot of those errors.
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  • Yahoo continues the roll-out of their Open Strategy, dubbed Y!OS. The latest release is a new universal profile page.
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  • Ars reports on benchmarking results for the new Flash 10 player compared to Flash 9. On Mac and Linux platforms there are substantial performance improvements up to a factor of 4. The Flash performance on those platforms are still far behind the performance on Windows though. Sporting the same hardware, Flash 10 on Vista outperformed Flash on Mac by a factor of nearly two.
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  • FailNonconformist blogger Ted Dziuba has relaunched his rebellious Web 2.0 blog Uncov, after recently leaving his startup Pressflip. It's mostly fun reading, as he tries to be a thorn in the side of the Web 2.0 aristocracy. Additionally, the accompanying pics of Fail and other misfortunes makes it a worthwhile read. On a somewhat related note, Christopher Beam writes here about the popularity of the word Fail.
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Google Blog Search Aggregates News. Gnip and GIMP updated. [Best of October '08 #1]

A handful of interesting news this week (October 1-5 2008):

  • Google Blog Search launched a new home page with aggregation of top stories from the blogosphere. It seems to be more democratic than Techmeme, in that it is easier for small blogs to get listed. More stories on a wider range of subjects are also covered. What makes it less useful however is that there is no RSS feed, and blog conversations for a story are only tracked for less than a day. The latter flaw it shares with Techmeme, by the way. Probably there is no immediate SEO effect of getting aggregated on Google Blog Search, as the post listings are generated by JavaScript.
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  • Gnip, the infrastructure service for providers and consumers of social network data, which I wrote about in July, has released version 2.0 of its API. ProgrammableWeb writes

    The new version of the API adds full data delivery, XMPP support, and advanced data filtering. [...]
    The new features look like they’ll be very useful to developers, and the business model is priced to entice hobbyists, small companies, and big businesses alike.

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  • GIMP, the open source "Photoshop killer", has updated to version 2.6 writes OStatic. The new version comes with user interface changes and enhancements for plug-in developers.
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  • Widget company Clearspring acquires bookmarking and sharing service AddThis, whose widget can be found at the bottom of this post. Josh Catone interviewed Clearspring CEO Hooman Radfar and writes: 

    The data that [AddThis] has presumably collected about how content is shared across the web has a lot of potential use for marketers. Radfar told me he hopes to eventually expose that sharing data via an API that will allow people to really dig into sharing trends.

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