It’s an AJAX world: Hive 7

I just spent a few minutes talking with Max Skibinsky, founder and main developer behind Hive 7. Wow, he's a total JavaScript God or something. He's done stuff in the browser that I didn't expect. They just released a beta preview of Hive 7 today.

Anyway, Om Malik got the same tour a few hours earlier so I'll just link to him and go back to working on stuff here at Microsoft (yeah, working late again, damn email is just flowing faster and faster).

Om, this isn't real full 3D yet. Your camera position can't move and you can't spin things like you can in Second Life (objects are flat, but look 3D because of opacity). That isn't taking away from what Max did at all. It's awesome.

Also, it does both Second Life and Hive 7 a disservice to compare the two. Second Life is a downloadable application. That means it'll be far richer than a browser-based application. But Hive 7 will get more users quicker because most people aren't willing to download an app and install it, especially if they perceive there isn't much value there (and for most people there isn't much value in these things — yet).

In Hive7 I was brought into a room with lots of objects in it. Chairs. Tables. Curtains. Each thing was an object that I could drag around. Each was programmable via JavaScript. Max inserted a chess board in the middle of the room and we were playing chess. He inserted a picture of my son and put it on the wall. He inserted a video and started playing it. He inserted a Web browser and we browsed the Web together. Very cool stuff. All in a browser Window. All with no plugins or other installs.

Oh, and the backend? It's running on Windows Server 2003 64-bit. I'm noticing a trend lately — more and more cool stuff on the Web is running with Windows as a backend (MySpace announced last week that they were running on the same). Max says he can't yet afford to build out a huge datacenter so if too many people show up all at once they might not be able to get in.

If you get an opportunity to play with it, do, it's a lot of fun and even if you don't end up a long-term user you'll appreciate what a browser can do a whole lot more. Works on IE and Firefox.

Quick hits

Hugh Macleod: thanks for the troll cartoon, you made me laugh!

The NASA site has a photo of a total eclipse, as seen from space, yesterday. Of course Susan Kitchens has details. She always blogs cool space stuff since she knows a lot of people at the JPL. Don't miss the video (click here and visit the Webcast). The good stuff starts at about the 50 minute mark if you just want to see the good stuff.

The Wells Fargo blog is an interesting look back at earthquake history (they are preparing for the 100th anniversary of the earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco). You know, it's a bit safe and not very conversational (yet) but I like it. One post tells about banks running out of money after the 1989 earthquake (they couldn't get the armored cars out of the garage due to doors that needed electricity to work). What did they do? Put $15 million into a stretch Lincoln. What does that have to do with banking? Well, they want to remind you that they've been around that long and that they'll survive anything and make sure you get your cash. Great marketing.

Speaking of earthquakes, there's a Firefox plugin that'll shake your browser anytime there's an earthquake in the world.

A geek nurse? Yeah, Jason Ipock is a registered nurse and he's also a software engineer. Blogs too. Anything he can't do?

Zoli does a job search experiment. He is selling "Zoli 3.0." Management, sales, business development, and PM experience. Anyone need someone with those skills? Here's your chance.

Reuters is reporting that quite a few of you have naked conversations (real ones) when you're on the phone. Ooooookkkkkk. I'm not using the phone at your house anymore. :-)

Are you going to the CITA show next week? Well, Waggener Edstrom is back with its Wynn hotel blogger lounge, April 4-6. They even let in non-blogger types if you're nice. It's a good place to get a snack, a rest, and recharge all your batteries while you're in Vegas. Tell them I sent you.

Studying the competitors…via my son

Ted Wallingford writes: "If I were Steve [Ballmer], I would allow my kids to use Google and the iPod, observe their activities, and find out just what the heck Google and Apple are doing right!  Will the Microsoft ever learn?  Come on, little Microsoft!! I'm pulling for you… I really am!"

I agree. Heck, just hang out with my son for a few hours. He loves his Apple stuff, including his iPod (Dave Winer got him an iBook for his birthday back in January).

My brother-in-law, who works for Apple on the Mac team, loves egging him on too. Bought him some Apple shirts, one of which you can see him wearing at brunch on Sunday on Tara's blog.

I tell Patrick he better do his homework before buying anything, whether it's from our side of the fence or somewhere else. I want him to explain to me why it's better and what he didn't like about the competition and he better have a better answer than "it's cooler." Although that pretty much was his answer for why he bought an iPod. Turns out peer pressure on the playground is driving a lot of technology choices. Teachers tell me that's how MySpace ripped through their schools too. Patrick told me "my school is an iPod school."

He broke his iPod, by the way (dropped it and broke the screen) so he's saving up for another device that plays media. Will it be an iPod or will there be something else to catch his fancy? Right now he thinks he's gonna buy another iPod.

I'm a bad parent and a bad evangelist, what can I say? But on the other hand, if he ever switches away from an iPod, you'll be likely to listen to him. I'd love to send him to SteveB's house and see if Steve can convince him to switch.

Personal note to Patrick: finish your homework, update your blog (it's been a while), and don't play Second Life too much.

Oh, and Steve Ballmer: you'll be happy to hear that he's bugging me to buy an Xbox 360 — I haven't yet cause I've been home something like a handful of weekends since the launch, but that should change soon (he holds an Xbox camp for all the kids in the neighborhood during the summer) and he wants me to get him a SmartPhone.

Cool Tablet PC school

On10.net there's a cool school that uses Tablet PCs and requires all the fifth graders to have one. Obviously a private school (and expensive) but cool nontheless.

Alfred Thompson, who works with schools as part of his job at Microsoft, blogs more about it.

John Phillips, director of education at the school, has a blog and talks about the project too.

By the way, we're looking for other educators who are using technology in interesting ways in their schools. Do you know someone?

Three audiences, three different cultures

You might think that the trick to good speaking is speaking well. Being confident. Having interesting content. And all that.

Now that I've given a bunch of speeches (four in the past two days), I'm learning that the real skill a speaker needs is listening. Can you take a question during a talk and turn that into something useful? Can you do it from Amazon's CTO? It's hard.

What was interesting was how different all four audiences are. The Chamber of Commerce audience asked lots of questions that showed they were hungry for ANYTHING that could help them get their business more exposure. Guerrilla marketers. The government audience asked lots of questions about how to get approval to do a blog. They pointed out that there are lots of rules inside governmental organizations about how to, and when to, share information with the public. Made me realize why the government took a couple of days to really start to deal with Katrina.

The Amazon audience told us that they like to let their product do the talking and that then they'll listen to the feedback and participate in their forums. This matches the kind of stuff I heard at Target and Google.

Doc Searls, in 2004, noted that great brands won't get blogging. It's too bad, too, there are so many passionate people inside Amazon who are just waiting to share their passion about online shopping and books. I took pictures of them so I could remember them. To me the people who work at Amazon are Amazon (yes, I can still hear Jeff Bezo's laugh in my head — I remembered that he hung out with everyone else at O'Reilly's FooCamp all night long — that drive to find a better idea is why they have such a great company).

One thing I learned, though, at Amazon is the deep love of their customers. That resonated with me a lot. Appreciate the people who pay your paychecks and reward them with killer stuff and listen to them when they talk with you. I love that culture.

I guess that's why I'm different than a "consumer." I wanna know what's on the minds of the people creating products and services, and, I'd love to have conversations with them about their products and learn some stories so that I can better evangelize their work. Ben Hollis asked "what about Apple?" during our talk at Amazon today (and, I missed, that he asked the same thing on his blog earlier). Yeah, maybe Amazon, Google, Apple, and Target don't need that — this quarter.

But, long term? Most people I know like doing business with people and companies 1) that they know and 2) that they like 3) that listen to them when they ask for something better/different. I was reminded of this the other night when Shel and I were out to dinner. He got a piece of duck that simply was not worth the $28 he was paying for it. He complained, nicely, but the woman serving us didn't do anything and just said "I don't make the prices here." It isn't lost on me that he's not gonna go back there (and neither will I, to tell the truth cause it was damn tiny).

Aren't you more likely to be a happy customer when you're listened to? Maybe if the chef came out and explained why the price was so high and gave us a good story things would have been different "that duck is a very rare one hunted in an exclusive area in Canada and air-flown straight here so it's really fresh." Heheh. I'm reminded of that every time I look at Microsoft's Product Feedback Wiki. You do realize that Microsoft didn't create this, right? Our customers did. Allmost everything there is written by a customer. Why in heck would they do that if we weren't gonna listen? And, if we don't listen, do you think people will keep doing it?

Other things I learned? Everyone is proud of what they do. I met people from FEMA (Michael Howard, PIO is someone I wish I could go on disaster drills with — he told me that there's a 25% chance of a major earthquake sometime in the next 30 years here, so his team is working to try to get ready for that kind of disaster), from the Red Cross, from universities (hi Kathy Gill, nice tech blog by the way), from small businesses (if you ever need a DJ to host a wedding in Seattle, check out Susan McKee), to Ann Marshall, director of public relations for Cingular Wireless (I thanked her for my great phone). All authorities on their business, their communities, their competition, their marketplace.

I keep asking myself this week after my big blow up last week. "Are you listening?"

Update: Steve Rowe wrote, on his blog, about our session at Microsoft yesterday. I hear that the video will soon be made available publicly from that session.

Let’s make Chrono Tron #1

Chrono Tron is moving up fast on WordPress.com (he's the #2 blog there out of thousands of blogs — WordPress is seeing more than 1,000 new blogs everyday started).

So, click on his link and you'll help him get into the #1 spot.

OK, that's a little funny, but seriously he (I assume it's a he) is a fun tech blog to read. I hope this helps more techies to start blogging. You can get noticed and move up the list.

Have you started a new tech blog in the past year? Leave your URL here so we can check you out. I haven't seen many good code blogs, by the way.

Coding Horror is one that stands out in my aggregator. Any other great code blogs?