Daily Archives: December 21, 2008

Testing out the latest Windows Live Writer

I’m playing around with Windows Live Writer, here’s their blog where you can download it from.

They released a new version last week and it’s a very nice way to edit your blog (it’s an offline editor that lets you write and edit your blog without using a browser). Hooked up to my blog very quickly. Presents me with a much nicer user interface than WordPress.com has. Doesn’t rely on the browser, so I can open and close the browser as much as I want (since I’m playing with an early version of Firefox that crashes a lot on my system that’s a huge advantage). I’ll have to get Maryam using this for her blog, since it’s a lot nicer. Of course it always takes me about a year to convince her to do anything. If you read her blog (I’m her husband) you’d know why.

One more test, I want to see if I can copy and paste accurately from FriendFeed. I’m using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8.0, beta 2, and copied this item, and am just pasting it in here:

Google Reader Louis GrayGoogle Reader
Rumors of Upcoming Microsoft Cut-Backs

OK, it did just about the same as copying an item out of Google Chrome and into WordPress.com’s browser-based editor does. Cool.

Anyway, looking good. You should try it with your blog and let us know how it goes.

Why haven’t I always used it? Because I was using a bunch of different computers and didn’t like having a great UI on one, but not on the others (Windows Live Writer doesn’t work on an iPhone, for instance) and I wanted to know WordPress.com like the back of my hand so I could post faster. Now I don’t need that anymore because all my fast posting is done on Twitter or FriendFeed, and also because I’m consolidating my blogging into one computer, so an offline editor makes more sense.

Thanks Microsoft, very nice job!

RSS shows its age in real-time web (SUP and XMPP to the rescue?)

The real time web is coming at us very quickly, but it exposes major problems in our RSS/Atom infrastructure.

What is the real-time web?

You can get a small taste of that by watching the 5,300+ people I’m watching in Real Time on friendfeed.

The first time I saw the real-time web, I saw it when my tweets showed up on Twitter search and friendfeed within minutes. Sometimes within seconds. Now, imagine a world where everything worked like that. That’s the real-time web.

The problem is that our blogs don’t participate in the real-time web. They publish via RSS. RSS is not real time. RSS only publishes when a service like Google Reader asks for it. It has no way to wave its hand and tell your reader “hey, there’s something new here for you to get.” So, most RSS aggregators just visit on a regular basis, looking every few minutes to see whether something new has shown up.

For blogs that’s just fine. After all, most blogs take a few minutes to a few hours to write and it won’t kill you if you don’t read my words here for 20 minutes or longer.

But there’s a new expectation that we’re having thanks to Twitter. We want everything now in real time. I want to see everything that was published now and respond to it now and I want to have conversations about all that in real time.

This works on Twitter and friendfeed, which were built on real-time principles (er, messaging principles) rather than Web principles.

But when you try to hook the real-time web up to the old creaky RSS web, well, you see that the two aren’t very compatible.

Today I tried to setup an ego feed where I could track stuff that uses my name from around the web in real time. It doesn’t work very well. It’s slow. And, worse, friendfeed can’t tell where the original item came from so it gives it a generic RSS icon. So, it’s not only not real time but it’s ugly as well. I talked more about that with a bunch of people on friendfeed today.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, the geeks are exploring two technologies.

The first is XMPP. This is protocol developed for instant messaging applications but Twitter and friendfeed and others have adopted it. This is why when you Tweet the message shows up in friendfeed so fast.

The second is SUP. This was designed by friendfeed to be more efficient, like RSS. But with the added benefit that the feed provider can raise its hand and say “I have something new for  you.” This makes real-time feeding possible, as developer Jeff Smith demonstrates when he built a system that shoved data into friendfeed in just a microsecond.

The third is GNIP, which is trying to build a service that stands between all sorts of services that are supporting the real-time web.

The problem? Very few services that could help the real-time web evolve are using either of these two protocols.

In fact, I was shown a real-time news service that’ll come out in March that didn’t use either of these protocols. Why? They didn’t even know that a real-time web was evolving on Twitter and FriendFeed and that there are dozens of tools like Twhirl and TweetDeck that are built on top of those too. Which is why I’m writing this post.

If you’re a developer, are you thinking about how to make your feeds real time? Why not?

One reason I can see is that it increases the bandwidth needed, especially if you’re pushing out a lot of data. So, in this harsh economic times developers might be unwilling to spend more resources. But there are some things, like searches, that need real-time results. I’d love to hear what developers are thinking here about balancing the need for low-cost systems with real-time publishing.

More info on SUP and the real-time web:

Paul Bucheit, co-founder of friendfeed, started a whole discussion about it.
OurDoings, a photosharing service, was one of the first services that supported the real-time web on friendfeed and they wrote about their experiences with SUP here.
The friendfeed blog has more info on the release of SUP.
Derek van Vilet made a WordPress plugin for SUP and explains that here.

UPDATE: Mike Taylor says I should have mentioned some XMPP resources in this friendfeed conversation. Here’s the ones he recommended: http://xmpp.org
http://metajack.im/

http://stpeter.im/

http://ralphm.net/blog/

Jonathan Jesse, in same friendfeed thread, added: “Robert: on Leo Laporte’s FLOSS Weekly they covered XMPP with one of the developers and the guy who writes the documentation for Jabber is a great overview of XMPP and more info: http://twit.tv/floss49 ”

The tale of 20 likes and its impact on news

I care about news. It’s why I love talking with Gabe Rivera, the guy who makes TechMeme and a bunch of similar sites, like I did in Paris France at the recent LeWeb Conference.

I told him that TechMeme has grown cold for me, which is why I wanted a new system — one where humans bring me the news instead of algorithms.

Rivera countered that he wanted a page that — no matter when you looked at it — would be filled with news from the most credible and authoritative sources from around the world.

And that nailed why it’s cold for me. He’s removed all noise from it. Well, except that the news is noise of a different sort.

But humans are noisy and TechMeme doesn’t include things like Tweets. Here, quick, can you find this Tweet on TechMeme:

“Holy f**king shit I wasbjust in a plane crash!”

Tweets are all about noise, aren’t they? Or was that just news? Hint: you need humans to find the news, algorithms that don’t count video, tweets, or FriendFeed posts as news won’t find them all.

Yes, that Tweet was actually from someone who was on the plane yesterday that crashed off of the runway in Denver.

But humans will. As I found this one pretty quickly after Mike Wilson posted it from the Denver Airport (the rest of his tweets are fascinating, too).

Now, this morning, I’m sure Rivera would say that this Tweet doesn’t belong on TechMeme, but belongs on his sister site, Memeorandum, which is where the world’s news goes. But it’s not there either.

In the past week I’ve read many thousands of items and have liked 757 of them. You can see all my likes on FriendFeed. Here I’m giving you a sample of just my latest 20. These are from 5,363 people who I’ve hand added based on their ability to participate and bring me stuff that makes me smarter.

When I click “like” on something it means I think it’s important enough for you to read. Sometimes I wish it said “share” instead of “like” because some news items aren’t likeable but they are important anyway.

I’m also going to compare to TechMeme so you can see how many of these items appear on TechMeme. They are listed in order from newest to oldest.

1.

I liked this item because Loic’s company, Seesmic, just did a major rearchitecture where they built in XMPP between all major components. What does this mean? Things on Seesmic will appear much faster now on its real time news reader, Twhirl, and potentially a lot faster on real time news services like FriendFeed. In 2009 I believe the real time web will be much more important than it is today, so this is an interesting trend to watch, along with articles about SUP, the protocol developed by FriendFeed to do similar things. Not on TechMeme yet.

2. Seesmic

Some explanations about our new architecture
I liked this item for the same reason, except this one contains a video by Loic. I’ve never seen video like this appear on a top-level post in TechMeme.
3. Blog
I’m a photography buff and a Make Magazine fan. Anytime they write about an issue it usually is interesting and teaches me something. Also not on TechMeme.
4. Blog
Fred is a VC in New York City that always teaches me something through his writings and this is no exception where he shows a crack in our education system and explores how we can get kids enthusiastic again about science and math studies. Not on TechMeme as of 11:37 a.m. when I typed this.
5. Blog
Brian Solis is one of the best PR people I deal with and wrote this post for TechCrunch yesterday. I liked this one so that his blog would get traffic and that he’d get credit for writing this interesting post, which implores companies to fight through the fear and keep spending on marketing. It was on TechMeme yesterday because TechCrunch gets on TechMeme quite frequently.
6. Twitter
I shared this one because Louis Gray picks interesting guest posters for his blog and lots of new people are discovering Twitter and I thought this author had something interesting to say on the topic. Matches my own advice to Twitter users: choosing who you follow is the most important thing you’ll do.
7. Blog
I track how idiotic the music industry is and how they choose which services they support. Plus, Slashdot always has an interesting take on the news, especially the geekier stuff, and the commenters there always are both entertaining and smart. This was on TechMeme yesterday.
8. Blog
I’ve known Loren Heiny for years (since before I worked at Microsoft) and he’s one of the smartest developers in the Tablet PC world. This time, though, he wants a far better way to share with his readers his CES experience. Me too! Not on TechMeme, but this shows why I love FriendFeed: I can keep in touch with the smart people I know even if they aren’t making top-level news.
9. Blog
Jeff Smith is a developer I’ve been following for a long time because he always seems to keep up to date on the cutting edge. Here is no exception as he is testing out SUP, a new protocol that lets developers build systems that post to FriendFeed very fast. Geeky exploration of new technologies rarely gets to TechMeme, but you’ll probably read more about this protocol in first half of 2009. The real-time Web is going to be big next year and SUP will play an important part in it.
10. Twitter
I’ve loved studying typography ever since I got into desktop publishing in the late 1980s (our school got a $5,000 laser printer and I proceeded to start collecting Adobe fonts — later I even beta tested fonts for Adobe and beta tested Acrobat 1.0 too). Anyway, we don’t think enough about the fonts that put type on your screen, so I instantly liked this post. Love how Guy markets his own services too, but you already knew that if you watched the interview I did with him on FastCompany.tv. This isn’t on TechMeme.
11. Blog
Dave is one of the first bloggers I started reading and I still read him every day. He  has great worth to me and glad he’s played such a big role in my life the past eight years. This isn’t on TechMeme.
12. Blog
Loren again, this time telling us about what he thinks of the latest netbooks. Since he’s been developing software for years for the Tablet PC, I trust his input. His sister works on Microsoft’s Tablet PC team too. Not on TechMeme.
13. Google Reader
Notice that this article is not written by Louis Gray. He shared it with his readers in Google Reader. So, Louis is bringing me news I would never have known about. This is a really key role if you want to be a participant in the new live web. We can’t subscribe to it all, but if we help each other out by bringing everyone good new voices or news, then we all win. This isn’t on TechMeme yet. I disagree with the author, too, so that might turn into a separate blog post.
14. Blog
Ever since visiting Washington DC I’ve become interested in our national broadband policy and this headline caught my eye. I haven’t seen this on TechMeme yet either.
15. identi.ca
“Redenting @newsjunk: [Frank Rich]: Who Wants to Kick a Millionaire?. http://x.techwheat.com/3EZ A MUST READ FOR INTELLIGENT PEOPLE”
Francine is a friend who teaches entrepreneurship in Phoenix and invests in early-stage companies. Generally when she says to read something it’s well worth the time. This is no exception. Note that this came from her identi.ca account. Only weird geeks use that service. Which makes stuff that happens over there more interesting than on other services. Not on TechMeme, but shouldn’t be because it isn’t about tech.
16. Twitter
Disgusting story that Dave found about how bailed-out banks are rewarding their execs with our tax money. Did you see this on TechMeme, now, of course not. It’s not tech, but you should know about it. Not on Techmeme, but is on sister site Memeorandum.
17. Blog
Engadget usually has stories about the latest gadgets, but this one caught my eye because of the impact it could have on medicine aroundd the world. You should read the comments over on FriendFeed, though. They think it’ll be used by insurance companies to spy on us.
18. Blog
I visited EA earlier this year, so have been interested in how the company will do through the economic downturn. It totally missed the iPhone app store paradigm shift. You should see my son and how many games he plays on the iPhone. Of course, right now he’s playing Call of Duty 4. That’s not an EA game. And he’s played through to level 80 in World of Wacraft. Not an EA game either.
19. Blog
This is like arguing Mac. vs. PC. It’ll be a debate for a while, but it was an entertaining post to read on a rainy Sunday morning.
20. Twitter
I love developers who try new things out. Check this out. Is this on TechMeme? No. Plus using Google’s App Engine, which is another trend we’re tracking: cloud computing.
Well, I could keep going, but why don’t you just visit my like page and join in? Oh, and please share your FriendFeed account with me so I can track your news too. Thanks!