Daily Archives: August 17, 2006

Linux’ achilles heel: fonts

I was just reading David Berlind talking about Tim Bray’s use of Linux over the past couple of weeks (he’s going back to the Mac). I know what keeps me on Apple and Microsoft OS’s, though, and it might not be what you expect.

What keeps me from using Linux? Three things: readability. Fonts. Aesthetics.

Geeks don’t think they matter. But at Gnomedex I could always pick the one or two Linux users out of the crowd instantly. Why? Their fonts looked ugly and weren’t as readable.

Maryam’s new Mac’s fonts are blurry compared to Windows too, but they still are a HUGE advance over anything I’ve seen on Linux.

Why is this? Because font designers like Matthew Carter don’t work for free. One typeface might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. Even millions. Hinting fonts takes a LOT of technology (Microsoft has at least two teams that I know of working on font and reading technologies).

It gets even worse if you’re Chinese or Russian or Japanese (I hear there’s a few people living in those countries). Why? Their font families take longer to develop and are harder to do. When I visited Bill Hill (his team developed ClearType and commissioned most of the fonts you see in Microsoft’s default pack on Windows) he was raving about his team’s work.

Why is this important? Name the #1 thing you look at most on your computer screen. For me it’s the characters on the screen. If one OS has better looking characters than another (Windows Vista has a whole set of new fonts coming) then that OS will win with most users who aren’t geeks.

This is the #1 reason why Linux hasn’t seen any significant adoption on the desktop/laptop yet.

Fix that problem and you’ll see a serious third competitor for everyday consumers.

But the problem is that Matthew Carter (and other typographers like him) don’t do their work for free. That means Apple and Microsoft will win this game.

The best fonts win.

Oh, and Microsoft, you better hold onto Bill Hill. If he goes to Google then I’ll know Google is building an OS.

Bill told me that the guy who decided to invest in fonts on Windows was another Bill. You might have heard of him. I think that decision will turn out to be the smartest “keep Windows important” move Gates ever made.

Blog reading tips

Someone I met today was talking to me about reading blogs and said “I wish bloggers made links pop up as new browser windows.” Or something like that. Hated using the back button.

I said “did you know you can shift-click on links to get them to open up as new Windows?”

Later I was talking to a guy who is working on a report on blog usability and I realized just how unusable my blog is for non-geek users. No “home” link. No “about me” page. Why not? Cause I figured most of my readers are Web-savvy and can figure these things out. But, I get a lot of accidental visitors due to search engines, so I shouldn’t make that assumption.

I was talking with Dave Winer this morning and I was complaining to him about how badly most weblogs behave on mobile phones. He said that he gets it now that he uses a Blackberry and wants to read more blogs on his mobile device. I think I’m gonna make good on my threat to out them on my video show.

But, I was wondering what tips do you have for reading blogs?

Yeah, my #1 tip is to learn to use an RSS News Aggregator. That makes reading blogs a lot more pleasant (and productive!)

But, are there other tips?

One thing I do is on Google I add the word “blog” when I’m searching for something just to see if there’s a blog. For instance, looking for a trucker who blogs? Just search for “trucker blog.” Here, I did it for you.

What other tips would you tell to people who are just starting to get into the blog world?

HelloWorld to take on YouTube? Nope says “BlinkTest”

When people send me stuff I give it the “BlinkTest.” Named after Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” book.

What is my impression after the first 10 seconds? Especially in comparison to something I already know about. It’s those first few seconds that really count. It’s why I like WetPaint and PBWiki (I tried about five others and the first 10 second experience sucked in comparison to these two wiki tools).

Here, let’s try with “HelloWorld,” a new service that lets you post your video up to the Web for free. Open your browser. Visit HelloWorld. Look around. Have a friend time you and only give you 10 seconds. Close your browser. Do the same with YouTube.

Now, what are your opinions? For me I saw a lot of things that looked like ads on Hello World. I didn’t see any on YouTube.

On YouTube I saw examples of videos done by real people. On Helloworld I didn’t see any examples that demonstrated to me that there was a community there.

For me the new Web is about technology COMBINED with community. Heck, even the old Web was about that. Ebay. Craigslist. Today Digg.

On YouTube I saw a simple statement of purpose. I even remember it without looking “Broadcast yourself.” What about HelloWorld? I can’t remember one. I do remember seeing stock quotes on HelloWorld. Huh? If I want stock quotes I’ll go to Quicken or Yahoo Finance. They don’t belong on a video service page.

Portals are dead. Even the one Podtech thought it was building. Dead. Dead. Dead. (PodTech is moving away from the portal model, by the way, in the site redesign we’re doing. Instead we’re going to a “microsite” model where one URL is for one thing).

John Dvorak is right about YouTube (damn, I never thought I’d be using the words “Dvorak” and “right” in the same sentence).

You wanna beat YouTube you gotta pass the BlinkTest. Next! Who wants to submit something for the BlinkTest?

ScobleizerTV progress

Well, almost everytime I ask someone about the domain name of the video show I’m working on they ask “why don’t you just call it RobertScobleTV or ScobleizerTV or something like that?”

I initially hated that suggestion because, despite my reputation of being an egotistical baaahhhssstttaaarrdddd, this show should be about other people. I learned the power of aiming the camera away from myself and toward other people. Not to mention that if this is only about me it’ll never scale and build value. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past five years is that getting more people involved in something is not only more fun, but builds better businesses. Ala Weblogs Inc, Digg, Slashdot. Etc. It’s why I haven’t taken to the videoblogging form of “aim the camera at your face and start saying stuff.”

I also look at today’s Rocketboom and see that they are trying to use the camera to expose evil and improve the world. I doubt my show will get as good, but hell, it’s nice to see a high bar to reach for.

But the feedback is so consistent and persuasive that I’m now considering it rather than something else like geekbreakfast.com or something equally lame. MrandMrsGeek.com and EdgeCase.tv were a couple that were being thrown around for a while here before the chat room killed those. Mercifully. Maryam killed “geekier.tv.” Like I said, committees suck all life out of projects and names. I’m almost ready to fall back on a descriptive name like “VideoShowHostedByAFatWhiteGuyWhoThinksHeIsAGeek2006.com.” You can take the boy out of Microsoft but you can’t take the Microsoft out of the boy.

Anyway, now that I’m full time I’m starting to put together a plan. We’re working on a design, getting the server setup, have already a couple of interviews done with a ton more under development (are you announcing something in the next few weeks? Email me and let’s see if we can get it on video).

Frequency? Once a week to start, but ultimate goal to move it up to at least once a day.

Format? This is the Web, not TV. So why are we worrying about staying in a preset timed format? I’m not. If something takes an hour, why not take it? On the other hand, if what you need to communicate only takes 50 seconds, why take longer?

I’m thinking more in terms of chunks of video that’ll be sent out via RSS rather than one long video with several segments. If there’s a segment you really aren’t interested in, why should you be forced to wade through it just to get to an interview you might like, or vice versa?

What are the chunks I’m thinking of?

1. Cool services/products to try. Five new things to try that you probably haven’t tried yet. For instance, before last week I hadn’t tried Dodgeball.
2. Popping the bubble. A short rant on something technology related. Like DOPA.
3. No particular demographic. Something fun with no particular demographic in mind. A cool YouTube video. A Carl Franklin Song. That kind of thing.
4. Getting deep with unusual tech business geek. Interviews with geeks and CEOs. Already have one excellent one with the CEO of Printing for Less in the bag.
5. Tech tea time. Getting together with several geeks over tea to talk about the issues of the week. Or, maybe, just get into an argument about programming languages like we did last week.
6. Blogs we dig. Or is that Digg? Anyway, I have a few blogs that are killer that I haven’t talked much about yet. You know, like Kiruba Shankar, who is helping plan a BlogCamp in India.
7. Digital Divas. Maryam and a few other smart people at PodTech want to do this videochunk.
8. Podcast and videoblog news. Cool video blogs from around the net. Not just Ze Frank, either.

Anyway, looking for ideas. This is still in the “mix the cement” stage, so it’s really easy to change things. If it’s lame, tell me that too. I’d rather hear that now than in a few weeks when we get the first show up.