Putting multiple fingers on Microsoft's Windows 7

OK, so tonight Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer showed off a tiny piece of Windows 7: that multi-touch capabilities will be built into the OS. Tons of info on this over on TechMeme.

Of course, viewers here last week had a lengthy discussion and demo with the guy who invented these features inside Microsoft Research.

Why aren’t they leading with Microsoft’s Live Mesh? Easy, multi-touch is sexy and easy to demo, even if they won’t really increase sales of WIndows that much. Why do I say that? Remember back in 2002/2003? I was really excited by the Tablet PC functionality. That never really increased sales much because it solved a problem people really didn’t have. Same with the multi-touch stuff. How many of you really need these features? They’d be nice to have to show off to your friends, but after that show off factor is gone, do they really improve your life? Microsoft so far hasn’t shown us how these features really go beyond a cool demo.

And, anyway, where do we need these kinds of features? Not really on a laptop where we have a mouse or trackpad, but we need these things on mobile phones where we’ll be using the things while standing up. The iPhone showed us that.

So, now what? Watch three things:

1. Google’s Android. That’s aimed at the new sweet spot in the industry where growth is rapidly going.
2. Microsoft’s Live Mesh. Ray Ozzie’s system is getting attention as a developer platform that’ll keep Windows relevant even as much of the world moves toward an online cloud-based world.
3. Apple’s iPhone and a secret device that’s been spotted in their labs. An Apple employee I know told me about a new looking small PC device inside Apple’s labs.

Anyway, this all doesn’t matter, although all the bloggers in the world love this cause it brings page views and gives us something new to talk about other than whether or not Twitter is up or down. So, forgive me if I’m going back to sleep.

Microsoft: We ain't gonna tell you about Windows 7

What a hoot. CNET interviewed Steven Sinofsky (the guy who runs the Windows 7 teams at Microsoft) and asked him dozens of different ways about what will be in the next version of Windows. Sinofsky answers with thousands of words that say nothing useful. The comments on the article are pretty funny, too. The comments from bloggers on TechMeme are pretty funny, too.

Can someone wake me up when it’s shipping? Thanks.

In the meantime, I have a Dell Tablet PC here, a Lenovo thin laptop, and a Macintosh.

The Macintosh consistently comes out of sleep within three seconds. The other ones? Well, no.

So, why should we care about Windows 7 again? And how long are we going to have to wait for it? Based on Steven’s answers: at least another year.

It makes me really sad. The Lenovo machine is far far better than any Macintosh in terms of hardware design and features. Yet it keeps making me wonder what would happen if that machine could run OSX cause then it wouldn’t do weird things upon lifting its lid up (like turning off Wifi).

Can someone wake me up in 2010? Thanks.

Oh, and to CNET: thanks for trying, but Steven isn’t a guy who’ll go off message, as you found out. Your article was a service, though, because I won’t even bother visiting the Windows team on my trip to Redmond/Seattle on June 10th. Thanks!

Scoble has a productivity problem

They died for us

I received this letter the other day and have been thinking about it a lot.

From: Bob Bly
Sent: Mon 5/19/2008 4:41 PM
To: rscoble@fastcompany.com
Subject: Question from a reader

As a Fast Company subscriber, I occasionally read, with much bewilderment, your column.

What bewilders me is why you are excited about the things you write about.

I am not being facetious but ask the question respectfully — and I hope you might write a column to answer it.

I can’t understand why anyone would bother with or get excited about all the Internet and electronic stuff you talk about.

It seems to me that all these things — Twitter, Facebook, iPhone, Flickr — are a thundering bore and an utter waste of time.

I don’t have any of it — for that matter, I don’t own a Blackberry, iPod, wireless laptop, or even a cell phone — and I get along fine without them.

In fact, I’d say my productivity is greatly enhanced by not fooling with all these useless gadgets or reading the endless blather on social networking sites.

Can you help an old guy from the old school understand what he’s missing?

P.S. Your column is well written and there are obviously a legion of people who get all this stuff. I’d like to see if I could become one of them or at least understand what all the fuss is about.

Bob Bly
Copywriter / Consultant

Ahh, we have a productivity problem!

Whenever I am faced with a productivity problem I ask myself “what do I want to get out of life?”

The answer to that question usually guides whether or not I’m doing the right thing. Er, the most productive thing.

Lately I’ve been asking myself a lot of similar questions that Bob has been asking me.

“Is it better to just take the night off and watch some TV instead of trying out that new Windows Mobile Smart Phone that arrived?”

“Is it better to change Milan’s diapers or answer another email?”

“Is it better to go have a nice glass of wine down at the Ritz or open up Twitter to see if it’s up again?”

“Should I start reviewing some Facebook applications or should I go for a walk?”

But I’m just being silly. The real thing I’ve been doing for more than eight years now is to try to arrange my life so that I have an interesting conversation every day with someone interesting.

A great many of those conversations have happened because of something I wrote here, or a community I participated in.

But why use all these things? Well, they help me start conversations with other people. Look at the photo above. I shot that on a little walk I did yesterday afternoon with my newfangled cell phone that lets me post that photo automatically from my cell phone to Flickr so you all can see it within seconds of me shooting that. I was thinking about my place in life and community. The Golden Gate National Cemetery is a powerful place to visit to do just that and to think about questions like the one that Bob poses here.

Why do I want to keep up with Flickr? Well, Flickr is how I share that photo with all of you, which, by the way was shot with a new cell phone that I’m testing from Nokia (the N82). Why do I want to use Twitter? Well, that’s how I keep up with the Mars Lander that’s sending back some interesting data that have scientists very excited this week. Why do I want to use FriendFeed? That’s how I study how early adopters are reacting to a number of interesting tools and services, not to mention the news of the day. Here’s a comment cluster there talking about Freshbooks and whether or not that’s any good.

Why do I like Qik? Because that’s where I can watch a Congressman, John Culberson, who put live video of what he was experiencing as the Mars Lander started sending photos on Sunday afternoon. Magical.

Yes, I do have a productivity problem. There’s too much interesting stuff to participate in on FriendFeed. Here’s a page that shows every single FriendFeed item that I’ve either “liked” or “commented” on. Warning, that’s thousands of things. You have been warned, a lot of my productivity has been spent doing that for you.

Facebook? Where else can I learn that Jim Long, NBC Cameraman who covers the President at the White House was born 18 days before me? (Seriously, I just learned that by looking him up on Facebook). Seriously, though, I have 8,000 business cards from all sorts of people like Jim, but I go to Facebook to see if I can find their email address or phone number before going through my large rolodex. Jim Long is on Twitter and one of its most active members, by the way.


OK, OK, I see that a few of you are interested in how I’d answer Rob’s question straight up. My answer:

“There is value in staying ignorant.”

Seriously. Think of the tradeoff to staying ignorant. You might have to go to school to learn something new instead of grabbing another beer out of the fridge and sitting on the couch and watching another CSI, like I did last night. Hey, sitting on the couch with your baby and your wife and drinking a beer while watching TV is a lot of fun, but it gets back to the question I ask myself often: “what do I want to get out of life?”

Hint: sitting on a couch and drinking beer isn’t going to help me get to my goal.

For ME playing with the latest social network, the latest cell phone, the latest laptop, etc will help me get to my goal.

Now, if your goal is different than mine, you’ll want to use your own tactics.

But let’s say you aren’t into the latest technology, but, rather, are a dress maker. Well, then you probably won’t care one bit about the latest cell phones, or whether you’ve gotten poked on Facebook today or not, but you probably will want to check out BurdaStyle, where they practice open source sewing.

If you want to be productive, focus your efforts on getting to where you want to go.

Bob, you say you are a copywriter. Now, I used to be one of those too. Worked at a magazine back in the 1990s and edited and wrote and all that — even did advertising copy for our advertisers. I used to use Microsoft Word. Are you still using a typewriter? Back in the 1970s, that was the tool of the trade. Then it switched to PCs and Word. Why? Because new kids like me came along and were able to do more with less. Why? I could write and edit far faster than anyone with a typewriter could (despite their protestations — I had proof on my side and, anyway, the new employers who were hiring wanted copy sent in digitally to lay out with Aldus’ Pagemaker, which I also learned how to use, and anyone who was sticking with typewriters caused another step to be inserted where errors could creep into copy).

Today I’d say the skill set is shifting once again. This time to something like Zoho Writer or Google’s Docs. Because if you visit Fast Company’s offices in New York, for instance, they want to work with you on your copy in live time. Fast Fast Fast is the word of the day. It’s in our title, after all. Now some people still use Word, but last time I was there one of the editors told me he was moving everything over to Google’s Docs because it let him work with his authors much more effectively.

And learning something new does seem to get you kudos, promotions, and all that. When I visited the New York Times last week I noticed that the executives there weren’t proud of people who did things the same old way, but rather were proudest of the people who were trying to do things a new way. Hey, how about putting the New York Times news on top of Google Earth? I bet that team gets considered first when raises come around.

But, like I said, I have a productivity problem. I spend too much time playing with all this stuff. So, later today, I’m going to interview the CEO of Dogster. What’s that? Oh, yeah, a social network for dog owners. My productivity is going to the dogs this afternoon. I think I’ll bring my newfangled cell phone and show you some video of the offices at about 1 p.m.

I have Bob Bly to blame for finally realizing that I’ve been so unproductive lately. He taught me that I could get ahead in life by staying ignorant of it all. Maryam, can you bring me another beer please?

Another way to close this post? Sorry to impede on your productivity, but how would you answer Bob’s letter?

UPDATE: We’re discussing this post over on FriendFeed.

UPDATE2: Is Bob Bly pulling our leg? Read this comment by BlogHer founder Elisa: “A little historical context here: In late 2004 Bob Bly famously wrote a newsletter dissing the potential of blogging as a marketing & communications tool, mocking it, some would say. Great link bait and blog fodder. He then, surprise surprise, started a blog himself. Talk about built-in attention & controversy. Funny thing, he maintains that blog pretty actively to this day. I’d say he’s planning to get on Facebook, Twitter etc. in about 2 weeks & just wants to make sure people are paying attention ;)”Elisa Camahort Page

Should services charge "super users"?

Om Malik says that Twitter should charge super users like me and come up with a business model.

Dare Obasanjo, in a separate, but similar post comes to the conclusion that Twitter’s problems are due to super users like me.

Interesting that both of these guys are wrong.

First of all, Twitter doesn’t store my Tweets 25,000 times. It stores them once and then it remixes them. This is like saying that Exchange stores each email once for each user. That’s totally not true and shows a lack of understanding how these things work internally.

Second of all, why can FriendFeed keep up with the ever increasing load? I have 10,945 friends on FriendFeed (all added in the past three months, which is MUCH faster growth than Twitter had) and it’s staying up just fine.

But to the point, why not charge super users? I’d pay. But, if Dare and Om are right, there’s no way that I’d support the service enough to pay for my real cost on the service.

Either way, Twitter’s woes were happening long before my account got super huge. Remember SXSW last year? I only had 500 followers and Leo Laporte had something like 800. The service still went down. If this were a straight “n-scale” problem the crashing problems wouldn’t have shown up so early.

Why not just limit account size, like Facebook did? Well, that’s one way to deal with the problem, but if you look at my usage of Facebook it’s gone down to only a few minutes every month. I don’t even answer messages there anymore. Why? Cause I get frustrated at getting messages from people who wonder why I won’t accept them as a friend. It’s no business “utility” if I can’t make infinitely large friend lists and use those lists in the same way I use email (which Facebook also bans).

So, what do I do? I get excited by FriendFeed which lets 11,000 people interact with me in a public way. I have a feeling that that rapid growth will continue unabated and so far Friendfeed has stayed “Google fast.”

Nice try, though.

Brian Solis' and Loic Le Meur's real "PR" secrets

Brian Solis just wrote a guest post for TechCrunch in which he gave away many of the secrets of the PR industry. Every entrepreneur and even every product manager inside a big company should read it and understand the tactics discussed there. Don’t miss the additional video by Seesmic’s CEO/founder, Loic Le Meur in that same post’s comments. Loic is the best at this in the business.

While I was writing this post Loic Le Meur wrote a new blog post calling “bulls++t” on Brian’s post. You should read that as well and that started an interesting discussion on FriendFeed.

But Brian didn’t give away his real secret sauce: how does he get bloggers and journalists to write about the stuff he’s representing? I’ve known Brian for quite a while and here’s some of his secrets that I didn’t see him disclose on TechCrunch:

1. PR now stands for “Professional Relationships.” How can I tell a good PR person (like Brian) vs. a bad one (who sends me emails about stuff I’d never write about)? Easy: Brian builds relationships with me and every other blogger. He takes our pictures. He always welcomes us by name and with a smile (and often a hug, if he knows you well). He doesn’t just do this for the A-listers, either. I’ve watched him at parties and he always introduces me to someone I’ve never heard of before.

2. The new PR is about creating visually-rich experiences. Why? Because more and more bloggers and journalists are being forced to use cameras and video. Look at Kara Swisher. She carries her video camera everywhere. When I met the publisher of the Washington Post he said more and more of his journalists are carrying video cameras. So, no longer is it appropriate to show off a PowerPoint presentation. A simple demo works far better and the best PR people come ready with a USB key full of screen captures and stuff.

3. You don’t need PR at all if you have a great product. Remember how I found out about Qik.com? I was hanging out with Dave Winer and my son in an Apple store. A friend of the company (a beta tester) recognized me and said “you’re going to want to see this.” I was amazed and wrote a blog post WHILE IN THE STORE. Then my next item was to beg to get added to the beta, which they did and now I’ve done more than 700 videos with my cell phone and gotten more than 450,000 visits. I later learned that they weren’t ready for all this PR (they didn’t even have an official PR firm back then) but stayed up for two nights straight to get ready for all the people who were asking for access. I credit Michael Forston, lead developer for building a great community in those early days. Note how he’s on Twitter and keeping in touch with everyone even today.

4. You gotta go meet bloggers, journalists, and influentials. Often. Early. They won’t come to you, you’ve gotta go to them. Watch Upcoming.org’s tech event calendar and see where they’ll be (at least that’s where the tech bloggers/influentials/journalists will be) and go there and make sure you meet them and make a good impression. Lines that work on me? “I got something that might make you cry” or “if you think FriendFeed is cool, wait until you see this.” Using lines like these demonstrate you know a little bit about my blog and are looking to only bring me really impressive stuff. Be ready for me to turn on my Qik camera, though. I want to capture that first demo if it really is great. I remember when Stewart Butterfield, founder of the company that made Flickr, first showed it to me in the hallway at Tim O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference. Magical demo that still makes an impact on me when I think back on it and that was, what, five years ago now?

5. If you have a magical experience, invite influentials to share in. Laurent Haig invites me every year to his friend’s chalet in the Swiss mountains. A couple of years ago that led to a demo while sitting around drinking wine (he didn’t ask PR permission, which got him in a bit of trouble as they got nearly 100,000 requests in the next 24 hours, thanks to tons of blogging, including a post on TechCrunch. No PR people were involved, just an entrepreneur who understood the value of creating a fun experience for people who could tell other people about his product and company. Heck, he told me later he didn’t even have plans to show us CoComment and that it was a reward for speaking at his conference. That’ll teach Laurent a lesson about having some wine while hanging out with bloggers for a weekend. That said, Laurent is a guy I’d do anything for and this fall I’m going to Korea to help him with his conference there.

6. Create touch-points for influentials. Brian and other companies and PR professionals in the industry (including me and others at Fast Company) create events that attract bloggers and journalists and other influentials. We are creating another “social media event” at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show to do exactly that. How do you get bloggers to show up? Have famous bloggers like Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte, Ryan Block, Tim Ferriss, Scott Beale, etc show up. Give them a fun event, like a wine party, make sure there’s lots of bandwidth, wifi, etc., there. And now watch what happens. I bet someone will write about, photo, or video, your event like Scott Beale did.

7. But really, this only matters if you have a great product that people want to tell other people about. If Ansel Adams wasn’t the best landscape photographer that ever lived, would it have mattered that we got an invite to Yosemite? No. Gotta have the goods which will tell the story on their own.

How do you get people to cover your company’s products?

Added bonus: BusinessWeek just wrote about what has been happening in online content beyond blogs.