Monthly Archives: December 2008

The world-wide-talk-show host: Loic Le Meur

Now that the real-time web is upon us (and very addicting, as we’ve discovered) there is a need for new services, new events, new leaders who will take us through the rapids.

Loic Le Meur is one of those.

He’s an entrepreneur who has purchased Twhirl, a popular Twitter and social networking client, and is in the middle of a major rearchitecting and redesign of that. He, and his team, developed Seesmic which lets you communicate on the web with video, either at the home site or via video comments on tons of sites (TechCrunch, for instance, lets you video comment). He also started, and runs, the LeWeb conference in Paris, France, which has become the most international of all the conferences I attend.

So I wanted to sit down with him and get an update. I have three videos with him:

1. Our “pro” video that was shot on two HD camcorders and edited. 27 minutes (this was way edited down, by the way, our original conversation was about an hour). We talk about the real-time web and what he’s focusing on now.
2. His update on Twhirl. 4.55 minutes. And how it’ll compete with the new TweetDeck, which is releasing a new version, according to Louis Gray.
3. Loic demonstrating Seesmic’s new features to Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons. 7:32 minutes.

Some things he said in the first video?

  • That Twitter brought Seesmic the most traffic when they rolled out new features last week.
  • How Seesmic might make money.
  • Why “paid” accounts seem more serious and show one way to make revenues.
  • Discussion of European startups.
  • Seesmic will turn from being a video only service to being one that also lets you talk with friends via text.
  • Wrapup of controversy at LeWeb.

Watch these and you’ll see why I call Loic “the world-wide-talk-show host.” Follow his blogs, tweets, videos, and more on FriendFeed.

TechFuga makes it clear TechMeme is not innovating

OK, OK, I’m back to my blog thanks to popular demand. :-)

One new service came up this morning that caught my eye: TechFuga.

As Louis Gray says, it’s like TechMeme and AllTop had a baby.

Now, whether or not you think this will prove successful (the jury is out, especially since TechMeme’s traffic has flatlined the past year) this points to something else: TechMeme hasn’t innovated and that lack of innovation is opening the door to competitors.

How has it not innovated? TechMeme has not acknowledged that there is something interesting going on elsewhere. That people are using other aggregators, like Reddit and Digg, along with other social networks, like Twitter and friendfeed, to get their news.

Now that we see a service that, while imperfect, demonstrates what new features look like, we see that TechMeme has stalled.

Gabe Rivera (he’s the founder of TechMeme), are you going to answer this, or are you going to keep on the flat track saying that only “high end articles and blogs” matter?

Amazon Web Services from the view of a customer

One of the hottest trends this year was the move to cloud services. Especially Amazon’s S3 Web services.

Now the big guns have all started aiming at Amazon. Rackspace. Google. Microsoft. With more battles expected from Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Oracle, and others.

They all want a piece of this pie, so I asked Syncplicity‘s CEO, Leonard Chung, about why he’s using Amazon’s services and what would get him to switch to the others. Listen along.

I filmed two videos with Leonard. The one embedded here, and this one where he demos his company’s service to me. Really interesting way to sync up all sorts of files with a bunch of online services like Zoho and Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets.

[kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/6118/299220&tbid=k_926&premium=true&height=500&width=425]

Did I harm my blog by FriendFeeding this year?

Since I’ve been blogging eight years this month I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog and how I want to do things differently in 2009.

I told Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, that I wonder if I’ve made smart time investments in 2008 by spending so much time on Twitter and friendfeed. Yeah, I knew about the Chinese earthquake before pretty much anyone, and 45 minutes before CNN reported it, but doing that required being online with Twitter open late at night after most of you had gone to sleep or were watching some TV.

He just posted that I need a friendfeed intervention, which is why I’m writing this post.

About a month ago I asked people over on FriendFeed and the comments came in hot and heavy. Of course most of them thought I did a good thing by spending so much time on FriendFeed this year.

How much time? I told Arrington tonight that I bet it’s seven hours a day or more. I started in late February. So, that’s around 2,000 hours. What did I get for my 2,000 hour investment this year?

22,997 followers.
6,841 comments. (These are blogs and items I had something to say about, so I left a comment on them).
13,078 likes. (These are blogs and items made by other people that I wanted to share with you).
I manually followed 5,405 people. (You can see all the content they generate in real time here).

Anyway, what did I give up by spending time on Twitter and friendfeed?

  1. A few of my friends think I am not as good a thought leader anymore because they don’t get as many long posts as I used to do.
  2. If you check Compete.com you’ll see my overall traffic went down about 14% this year while FriendFeed’s traffic went up 4,056%.
  3. I don’t get any money from friendfeed, while on my blog I do sell ads now.
  4. I’m not breaking as many stories anymore so I’m showing up on TechMeme less and less.
  5. Arrington himself told me he is reading me less on my blog, although lots of the “A list” crowd have been showing up on friendfeed now that it has hit a certain audience size and is starting to show up on their referral logs.

What did I gain by being on friendfeed and Twitter?

  1. I now get a much wider-range of news and am available to a wider range of people.
  2. My words now get indexed by the two most popular “real-time web” search engines: Twitter Search and friendfeed search. I know people who get their news by visiting Twitter search and looking at what news is “trending,” or becoming more popular.
  3. I am now part of the conversation in a way that I’d never be if I were just blogging. Seth Godin, for instance, only blogs and he rarely gets discussed on Twitter or friendfeed. If he were active he’d be discussed 25x more.
  4. I’ve made a lot of friends that are just reading me on twitter, I’ve met many people at Tweetups and the like that I’d never have met if I weren’t so active.
  5. By being active I’ve been quoted in countless articles about Twitter or friendfeed, which helps me too.
  6. Because I listen to the conversation I am getting better video interviews. Compete.com shows that FastCompany.TV is growing nicely this year and has taken up the slack for my blog. Add that into all my new readers on Twitter and friendfeed and I’m happy about my total readership. Seagate deserves a lot of thanks there for sponsoring FastCompany.TV back when there were no viewers.
  7. I now have a new news source that other bloggers won’t have: a crowd of 5,400 people who are bringing me the best news from around the web in real time. Already I’m seeing stuff there that will turn into blog posts and insights that other people aren’t seeing. Because I’ve build relationships with many of these people over the past year they call me and warn me about important news before they call other people. This “funnel” of news could be a sizeable advantage for someone trying to compete in a very competitive space.
  8. I now have a list of 23,000 people on friendfeed and 44,692 on Twitter that I can show potential sponsors. Before all I could say is my monthly uniques.
  9. In friendfeed Mike Arrington has 15,108 followers and I have 22,999. Mike has a LOT more blog readers than I have, so he should have dramatically more followers than I have on friendfeed. But by participating in these services I have collected more subscribers. Do they offset the same number of blog readers I’d have if I spent so much time blogging instead of hanging out on friendfeed? That’s the question that got Mike and I to talk.

Why does this all matter? Well, if you are going to do this as a business you’ve got to prove how many readers you have and demonstrate both audience size as well as influence.

The other thing that advertisers are asking me for is quantitative data about who is reading me. Some companies now don’t want to reach geeks, for instance. So, they are looking at your social networks to see what kind of audience you’ve attracted.

So, what do you think? Do I need a friendfeed intervention? Looking forward to having a good conversation. Of COURSE we are talking about this on friendfeed. In fact, in multiple places. :-)

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 ”