Changing Course

Yesterday was my last official day at Teqlo, I am now 1) focusing on other interests, 2) spending time with family, and 3) devoting myself to clean technology. Well, #1 and 2 for sure… I am just throwing #3 in because it’s so damn trendy.

Teqlo is a fantastic concept and a potentially very disruptive business but it became clear that it needs more time in the oven in order to further develop and, more importantly, package the service. Spending 6+ more months in development before re-entering the market is not what I want to be doing, and as the single most expensive employee in the company it really doesn’t make much sense to be paying me when 2 additional engineers would do the company far more in the way of value creation.

User co-created applications, mashups (or composite apps, whatever turns you on), and services driven app platforms are a passionate collection of topics for me, they have been for years. My enthusiasm is not diminished at all, in fact I think the experience over the last 8 months has been fantastic in that I can clearly see the potential, the limitations, and the land mines on this path in a way that I never would have been able to as a casual well informed observer… I’ve been a partisan.

All throughout my Teqlo experience I have had large enterprise IT people calling and tire kicking as well as laying out their own plans. This is a much more receptive market than I would have originally anticipated, as is the ISP/MSP segment of the industry that sees mashups as a "missing link" to connect their service bus infrastructures with user requirements. Refocusing on what I know best, enterprise software or in the very least "traditional" enterprise and large SMB, might not be a bad choice. Will consider all options.

There is one specific topic that I am devoting increased attention to, which is turning RSS/Atom feeds into a mechanism for moving data into applications as oppposed to simply a pub/sub mechanism for blogs. I absolutely love the notion of turning the web into a great big database that pipes data around as feeds which can then be subscribed to, manipulated, and pumped into applications.

So where do I go from here? I have no idea and that feels great. There are a couple of projects I am already working on, but at the moment I am very much enjoying whitespace thinking, something I haven’t been able to do in a while. I’m also looking forward to re-engaging with my Irregulars group, which I will admit has not been getting as much attention as I should have been giving it.

There are some great events coming up in the weeks and months ahead, I will certainly be looking forward to immersing myself in them without the burden of pushing forward an agenda.

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Circulation

I was looking at TechCrunch’s 368k feed subscribers badge when it occured to me that Mike’s blog (although it’s clearly much more than just a blog at this point) has a higher daily circulation than most newspapers in the country, indeed, even some of the major U.S. dailies have lower circulation numbers.

Although, given the trendline that newspapers are on that might not be such an honor these days.

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Are Digg Commenters Dumb?

Okay, shameless inflamatory post title.

The issue at hand is Dare Obasanjo’s post about Digg vs. Slashdot comment threads, and by extension the incentive system differences that each site uses.

At first blush, the naive conclusion could be that Slashdot readers are more intelligent or at least more atticulate than Digg readers. However I just read Freakonomics so I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how incentive systems influence human behavior. After using both sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that the default settings on Digg encourages lower quality comments while the Slashdot defaults encourages higher quality comments.

It occured to me that the issue isn’t the content of comments on each respective site, it’s the tone. I tune out rants in comment threads, unless they are exceptionally well informed rants. The challenge is sorting through the rants to find the good ones. The Digg method of thumbs up/down for comments, as well as the source articles, only goes so far, what is required are additional subjective measures for tone and bias.

It also wouldn’t hurt to have a "was this comment helpful yes/no" radio button for instead of simple diggs, which more than anything else just measure whether or not you agree with something, which is just another way of measuring conformance to your personal biases.

With new rating tools I could filter a comment thread and make it more managable, for example, filtering out based on tone but leaving biased comments intact, and then sorting based on number of Diggs and date. Services like The Hive Group could build visualization tools on top of Digg that would go well beyond the data in the source articles and into the richness of content in the comment threads themselves.

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Amazon’s Web Services Getting Attention

O’Reilly is looking for people to share their experiences using Amazon’s S3. Like Tim, I have heard a lot of anecdotes and am seeing businesses develop around Amazon’s cloud, like Digisense’s Onsite Manager appliance:

The Digisense Service Delivery System gives you and your customers the power to securely access, backup, restore and manage critical data anytime, anyplace. Regardless of whether the need is to restore data to the customer’s original system in the office, or while they’re on the road through our web-based interface, the solution is as far away as your browser. The Digisense Service Delivery System orchestrates the details at your command.

So clearly there is fire where there is smoke and Amazon has a lot of activity swirling around EC2 and S3. It’s not a slam dunk for Amazon at this point because of two prominent issues:

  1. The pricing model folds in network bandwidth in addition to CPU cycle time (EC2) and storage (S3) so one clearly needs to have a good working model for how much data you will be shipping in addition to how much you will be storing.
  2. The lack of a true database (storage and transaction engine) is a glaring hole for application developers that Amazon must surely be working to close, at least let’s hope so.

The addition of database capabilities in S3 is something the market seems to be responding to on it’s own, an example of which is Mark Atwood’s MySQL Storage Engine for AWS S3, but even Mark acknowledges that this is not a transaction engine. This shouldn’t stop a broad range of projects from building out on it though, given that transactional capabilities are not a requirement for a broad range of applications.

Are you interested in trying out S3 today? If so, and you use a Mac, here’s a handy S3 browser that makes S3 a mounted image on your Mac.

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More Conspiracy

A gasoline tanker crashed and exploded on the interstate 80 to 880 interchange overnight, the resulting fire caused a section of the overpass to collapse. This elevated section of freeway is an older design with an exposed steel structure as opposed to a newer all concrete strcuture.

In watching the news footage I thought about the World Trade Center and the very small group of Truthers who continue to suggest that the building collapsed due not to fire but a detonation orchestrated by some clandestine goverment backed group. “Fire alone could never bring down a steel structure,” they suggest in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

UPDATE: Okay it had to happen, 4th comment in is a nutcase Truther talking about “the science”. I deleted this comment and will continue to do so, I am not going to ever allow this to be a platform for these vile people to spout their conspiracy nonsense. If you are one of them just go away now.

UPDATE 2: Here’s a Google Map of the affected area.

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Why Your Feedback Matters

We’ve been running a promotion to solicit feedback about Teqlo for about 6 weeks. This isn’t one of those feel-good-we-want-to-look-like-we-care-about-our-users things, we actually really need more eyes looking at what we are building. Here’s a real example from a meeting I had yesterday over at Laszlo Systems.

I was demoing the start page function and explaining how things work in the back end. I used the task list to Google Calendar as an example, here’s what that widget looks like in day view.

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I added an item from the task list widget and explained how that component was actually communicating with the Google server and adding the calendar item on the back end before updating the widget UI. Someone in the room made a comment about then clicking the “update” button to refresh the widget. Actually, that “update” button opens an edit function to “update” the calendar item, the widget itself automatically refreshes whenever the server changes.

I stopped and said “you know, I never would have imagined that someone would think that update in a calendar means synchronize instead of edit, but you’re right and we need to change that button text to ‘edit entry’.” My point of view was informed by having an understanding about how the backend works, and quite honestly that is one assumption I should never make. We also need to continually improve the user experience by making it not only obvious but also providing a tool tip for everything so even when it’s not obvious it is explained.

It was an abject lesson in why we need to constantly test and poll users by watching them and talking with them instead of just making assumptions about how things look and are perceived. If I hadn’t been sitting in a room with someone who had never seen our stuff before I would not have learned how one simple word change can make the difference between something that works versus something that confuses.

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