Amazon World Domination Can Now Begin

AWS filled a major gap in their offering with the addition of SimpleDB. Two things jumped out at me, the first being that it’s optimized for very large datasets and the second, more important as well, observation is that it’s designed around search indexes instead of schemas.

There’s a lot more to be said about SimpleDB, most of it beyond my technical capabilities but it is safe to say that just as was the case when AWS first launched, the impact it would have was underestimated at the time.

Well after being under NDA for so long, I’m glad to be able to say that Amazon SimpleDB has gone into limited beta. Congratulations to everyone on the SDS / SimpleDB team; their several years of work on SimpleDB (formerly called SDS) is a brilliant piece of engineering. [From inside looking out » What You Need To Know About Amazon SimpleDB]

Curtis Hotel, Denver’s Worst

Maybe it’s not entirely fair to call The Curtis hotel in downtown Denver (14th Street & Curtis) the worst, it is likely that a La Quinta or Motel 6 would rank lower…

Denver is fortunate to have a number of really fine hotels, including the Hyatt Regency and, my favorite, the Monaco Hotel. I am in Denver this week and having heard good things about The Curtis, I decided to try it even though the walk to our offices is a few blocks extra (not to be underestimated in importance when it’s cold and snowing, which it is today). Having been renovated recently, I think it was an Executive Inn or something like that before, The Curtis is known as a “hip” hotel in Denver, which I discovered means a thin veneer of stylish accouterments masking an otherwise sub-par hotel.

I checked in late on Wednesday night because of a dinner commitment, so I got to my room (on quite possibly the slowest elevator in the Rocky Mountain states, and on the 16th floor no less) only wanting one thing beyond a clean room and a comfortable bed, internet connectivity. No luck, the list of wireless hotspots indicated that there were a menu of “curtis” access points (interestingly, a whole bunch of them with room numbers attached, but only odd numbered rooms).

I followed the instructions on the desk yet could not connect. I would occasionally get a bar or two, but I could not connect to the web redirect page that hotels usually have. I plugged in the cable from the pod on the desk, nothing. I called the help desk support number and after 20 minutes of them fumbling around unable to make anything happen I gave up and went down to the lobby… in the slowest elevator in the Rocky Mountain states.

I talked to the guy at the front desk, no luck. He did say that they (as in “the hotel”) thinks the company that installed the equipment didn’t put access points in every room, which is probably why the access points where odd room numbers only, but I was in room 1617. I was able to connect to the network in the lobby, proving that it was not my Mac that was the problem.

Today I come back to my room and housecleaning left the air conditioner on all day, it was like walking into a freezer (the temp outside is high 20′s). Mildly irritating but not a big problem, turn it off and wait for things to warm up.

I am hungry and tired, so instead of going out I order room service. The room service person shows up in the time promised, but forgets a bottle opener so I can’t open the beer I ordered with dinner. She leaves to get one and I uncover my food, here it is in all it’s cold glory.

At this point I’ve had enough, I call down to the font desk and leave a message for the manager that I’m coming down to have a word. After waiting a full 20 minutes for the room service girl to come back with the bottle opener she promised, so I can return the food, I give up and just go downstairs… in the slowest elevator in the Rocky Mountain states.

The manager, who is the the same guy I talked to on the first night wants to manage me by walking me off to the side, and that irritates the crap out of me. I explain the internet problem to him and he says “yeah I helped you last night” but that’s not entirely true because while he talked to me, he certainly didn’t “help” me as in the fixing anything part of the term.

I ask him why he didn’t have someone fix the internet today and he, lamely, says “well you didn’t want anyone to look at it.” WTF, it was 10:30 at night when I checked in, I certainly wasn’t interested in having Joe from maintenance come up at that hour, but I expected he would be on it today while I was out! Did he expect that the only people who would ever stay in that room wouldn’t want to to connect to the internet?

So then we get to the room service and I show him the picture of my food and he claims he can’t see any problem by looking at this picture. Seriously, am I not the guest/customer in this relationship? He then says that the room service is under different management through the restaurant in the hotel, upon which I explain the basic concept that a service offered through their hotel even if managed by a third party is the same as the hotel itself. If that is the best they can do then just don’t offer room service at all because it will only piss off their customers.

The thing that really got me fired up is that this kid kept telling me “I can work with you” as if this was some kind of negotiation. He seemed incapable of grasping the basic customer service concept of accepting responsibility and offering accommodations. He said something sarcastic on my way out the door to get dinner, making me so incredibly mad that I am now taking the time to voice my frustration through the primary vehicle, this blog.

Thanks to companies like Circos, my post here will be ranked and scored for sentiment, and applied to other user generated reviews, so for The Curtis it is no longer a matter of one angry customer but one angry customer influencing future prospective customers.

My advice: avoid The Curtis when in Denver.

NewsGator Funding News, or We’re Gettin The Band Back Together

Today we announced that the company has closed on a $12 million round of financing, led by Vista Ventures and with full participation of existing investors Mobius (Brad Feld) and Masthead (Rich Levandov).

Lisa Reeves, my former colleague at SAP Ventures who left SAP this year to join Boulder-based VC VIsta Ventures, is leading for Vista and will join the NewsGator board. This makes me really excited given that I know what Lisa brings to the table, having worked side-by-side with her for the better part of a decade.

NewsGator is an interesting business when you get beyond the common perception of NewsGator as consumer RSS clients. We have a growing SaaS business that hosts not only content (1.8 million feeds polled hourly, 7 million new content items per day) that we deliver to app companies, our own endpoints, and consumers, but also we host applications as diverse as our enterprise on-demand app and our syndication services (widgets) business that serves major media clients.

The foundation for all of this is a strong backbone in enterprise RSS that we have used to deliver solutions to manage the major aspects of content flows and user interactions. Put another way, bringing a degree of order to the diversity of content that we handle on each side of our business, providing user interactions on top of content (clipping, tagging, sharing), and lastly, delivering content through in-page and viral widgets.

All of this goodness doesn’t mask the fact that we do have some challenges ahead of us, most significantly rationalizing on-premise vs. hosted application delivery. There aren’t a lot of companies that have successfully managed this but we take that challenge with the knowledge gained from previous attempts, and of course intend for a much different outcome!

We are also serving a very diverse client base in several major functional, vertical and geographic markets, which is often cause for useful debate about focus. I enjoy this challenge the most, we have a portfolio of assets that on their own can be valuable businesses, but the opportunity to reuse those assets in different business units makes for a compelling strategy challenge.

I joined this company believing that we, consumers and businesses, as at an inflection point that will affect how we manage content and what users do with it. Since joining I have come to appreciate what a tremendous opportunity our syndication services business has with deliver rich, interactive content on behalf of publishers and advertisers. This funding round is not only a reflection on the company’s prospects and team, but also underscores how enterprise software companies of today can’t have blinders on to the opportunities that their infrastructure and technology brings to other markets and problems.

UPDATE: Greg posts a detailed look at the business and the progress made with the capital we have already raised.

The Day the Music Stopped

This post could also be called “the day DRM jumped the shark”. The momentum has definitely turned in favor of getting rid of DRM altogether, let’s hope that consumers vote with their dollars and choose DRM free content and hardware whenever possible. DRM free is a relative term but still represents an ideal we should reward content providers for enabling.

Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM just took another step closer to the grave with the help of some rebranding. Those of you with players from SanDisk, Nokia, and Creative among others, looking for compatible music from Napster, Real Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, Wal-Mart and such must now look for the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo, not PlaysForSure. Of course, Microsoft’s Zune is also certified for Windows Vista, just not certified for Windows Vista so it won’t play back the same protected files. Man, could DRM get any more consumer unfriendly? [From Microsoft rebrands PlaysForSure to Certified For Windows Vista, confuses world - Engadget]

Big Swell

Holy crap. It’s 1:37 into the video, pure pain.

We’ve had some extraordinary ocean swell this last week, 1 experienced surfer and 2 professional crab fisherman have lost their lives. Most of this footage was shot over in Half Moon Bay; Ghost Tree is down by Pebble Beach.

PS- keep in mind that the the little yellow dot of a surfboard in this photo is actually over 8 feet long.

This Day in History

On this day in 1792 King Louis XVI was tried for treason in France, of which he was found guilty and guillotined in Jan of 1793. While perhaps better known as the husband of Marie Antoinette, King Louis has a rather important role in American history.

Throughout most of the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress assigned Benjamin Franklin as their ambassador in Paris. It was Franklin’s job to court the King Louis XVI to secure funding, weapons and supplies, and ultimately the assistance of the French military forces. Franklin accomplished all of this over his years in Paris, and while France declared war on Great Britain in 1778 it wasn’t until Yorktown that France became involved with ground troops and France’s formidable navy sailed into Chesapeake Bay which sealed Britain’s fate.

Ironically, France’s involvement had nothing to do with a newfound appreciation for the equality of man, and while it had much to do with their historical hatred of Britain, the fact remains that France became involved in the American war for independence out of a more pragmatic desire, economics. France’s economy was in the tank and it was hoped that assisting the American colonies achieve independence would secure favorable trade relations. However, rather than raising taxes the French took on international debt to finance the Americans and in the end this fiscal strategy failed miserably.

With France in a deep recession and the monarchy despised for it’s frivolous lifestyle, among other factors, the underclass revolted and the events that unfolded in the late 1780′s spelled the end of Louis XVI and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In an ironic twist of fate, it was the consequences of financing the American Revolution that created the conditions upon which the French Revolution were possible. Napoleon of course then proceeded to crown himself Emperor of France and King of Italy (Master of the Universe was unavailable) and in 1805 the Royal Navy decimated the French Navy at Trafalgar and in 1815 the British Army decisively defeated the French at Waterloo, which saw the expulsion of Napoleon and installment of King Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI.

Sun Spot Primer

Interesting article on sun spots, how they work and the historical impact on climate.

Today’s climate change consensus is that man-made greenhouse gases are warming the world and that we must act to curb them to reduce the projected temperature increase estimated at probably between 1.8C and 4.0C by the century’s end. But throughout the 20th century, solar cycles had been increasing in strength. Almost everyone agrees that throughout most of the last century the solar influence was significant. Studies show that by the end of the 20th century the Sun’s activity may have been at its highest for more than 8,000 years. Other solar parameters have been changing as well, such as the magnetic field the Sun sheds, which has almost doubled in the past century. But then things turned. In only the past decade or so the Sun has started a decline in activity, and the lateness of cycle 24 is an indicator. [From Ray of hope: Can the sun save us from global warming? - Independent Online Edition > Science & Tech]

Netvibes Ginger Release

Netvibes previewed their Ginger release and it looks to be impressive. I particularly like the social aspect but wonder, given the fact that this is being done everywhere, how many of these social networks the average user will have appetite for. At any rate, let’s hope this Ginger does better than the last Ginger.

This is a new feature that will be very popular amongst netvibes users. Now you can archive and tag as favorite any content or any widgets for yourself or with your friends. Want to save this article or share this cool photo or vidéo? You can do it in just one click. [From ginger: the first preview - Netvibes.com Blog]

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