Microsoft ships beta of latest Web site builder (Expression)

Do you remember Microsoft FrontPage? I do. I was a user of that back before Microsoft owned it (back when it was Vermeer FrontPage). No tool introduced in the 1990s brought about such contentious debates (most serious Web developers avoided it and held their noses with disdain, mostly cause it was famous for changing your HTML that you hand coded).

Me, I didn’t mind that it changed my HTML. I didn’t want to write HTML anyway. I thought the Web should work like Microsoft Word. Why the hell did we need to write all these little codes like <p> and <h3> and <i>?

That’s the way the Web was back in the good old days. You opened up your editor (NotePad) and typed in HTML by hand. Yes, today such a thing seems incredibly stupid (but you can still try it, in WordPress there’s a little button marked “HTML” — click it and then you too can experience what developing Web sites in 1994 was like).

Anyway, I tried all the Web editing tools and found FrontPage was the most interesting because it joined a decent editor with a server that could add cool things to your Web site and take them further than most of us could just by coding by hand.

Anyway, that all explains the past of Microsoft’s newest Web editor, Expression. Microsoft is running away from its FrontPage brand because it was so damaged by the impression that it wasn’t a “serious” Web development tool. I just saw over on Aaron Brethorst’s blog that beta 1 of that has shipped.

Expression, on the other hand, is definitely a serious tool, I got a demo of this before I left Microsoft and it’s quite impressive. One problem, though. I think that the way to publish to the Web is to use a blogging tool like WordPress or Moveable Type, or use a content management tool like Drupal. In such a world Expression doesn’t seem to fit in very well.

But maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Are you even going to try it? Why or why not?

UPDATE: Aaron just wrote me and said that even with tools like WordPress and Drupal you still need an editor to design the templates and that Expression fits in well here. That’s an awesome point. I’m downloading now.

Microsoft UX designer on PodTech

Windows Vista’s UX designer, Lili Cheng, is on PodTech with John Furrier. Lili is also the designer who worked on Wallop when she worked at Microsoft Research.

Actually, she didn’t design much of Windows Vista’s UX. I should have John fix that. She came pretty late into the product so only got small fingerprints on Vista. You’ll see most of her work in the next OS that Microsoft produces.

UX stands for “user experience.” In the old days we called that the user interface team, but its scope has grown from just the stuff you see on the screen to other things that are deeper.

New Skype is out…

Interesting, Skype comes out with a new version (2.5) with a bunch of new features and it isn’t on TechMeme. UPDATE: I’m just lame and late to the party. Oh well, I have the new stuff now, wanna try it out?

New features? Call phones more easily, send SMS messages, share contact details with your group, view and call Outlook contacts. But the biggie is better Skypecasts support that’s in the beta of 2.6.

How about trying it out tonight at 7 p.m. Pacific Time? My Skype name? RobertScoble.

Stuff printed on dead trees? What’s that?

No, Don Dodge, I don’t read newspapers or magazines anymore either.

Funny, with Tristan, the intern at Wikia, we had a long discussion about RSS and newspapers and such. I told him that I don’t read newspapers anymore, having replaced that almost wholly with RSS aggregator usage. Oh, and sites like Digg and TechMeme. He said he didn’t read TechMeme. I don’t start my day without it.

Yes, I live in a bubble. So, don’t bother taunting me with that.

The thing is I notice that traffic on TechMeme keeps going up. It’s on a doubling curve. How long will it double? Yes, Dare, I want a personal memetracker too.

Next on the World Wide Wiki tour: Wikia

I’m here with Tristan Harris, intern at Wikia, and Gil Penchina, CEO at Wikia.

What’s Wikia? Well, it’s a sister company to Wikipedia. Gil says they have the same parents, founder of both is Jimmy Wales. It’s basically a great place to launch a Wiki around a cause. You know, like StarWars. Or, politics. Religion. Or, even, Rocketboom, who has a wiki there.

What’s different from JotSpot? Well, they don’t charge. But they aren’t aimed at enterprises. No spreadsheet tool embedded here, like JotSpot has. No, their entire mission is to get people who care about something to open up a wiki. No hate or porn sites allowed.

Gil showed me their traffic graph and it’s headed up with a slope steeper than KT22 at Squaw Valley. Steep. All without spending more than $6 on marketing (he said they paid $5 to get Google’s Analytics package which also costs them $.05 a month and that that investment had brought them tens of thousands of visitors. Now that’s a great ROPI (Return on Pennies Invested).

Anyway, yet another cool Wiki company. For my show I’m looking for a Wiki service and this one went to the top of the list because of the philosophy behind the company that I learned about from Gil and Tristan.

How did I meet Tristan, by the way? He goes to Stanford. So do the interns who work at PodTech — they are part of the Mayfield Scholars program which, I’m learning, is an important network in Silicon Valley. Treat your interns well!!! They tend to tell the truth about how good your company is because they don’t have a long-term attachment. Tristan was praising Wikia to me, so I guess they are doing all right!

Update: one good use of Wikia is the World Wikia Wiki, which is a travel wiki. You can find hotels with WiFi and a lot more there.