Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Consolidated RSS - not yet

I tried out SharpReader tonight, a new tool that supposedly does threading better than Memeorandum. Ideally it would consolidate the repeats I've been posting about, but here's a screenshot:

So I get a ton of error messages (20 more above those ones), and when it does group, it's solely based on who wrote it (Blog Maverick/Mark Cuban) regardless of the topic. This isn't what I'm looking for - I'm seeking a tool that wraps all of the "Ray Ozzie" Microsoft articles up to one line that I can choose to expand out, and it would group the threads by topic regardless of who the author was.

RSS, meet Yahoo Mail

Ouch - RSS, meet Yahoo Mail, but they won't have any early adopters buying in...
"And there is no OPML importing." Who wants to start their RSS feeds all over?

Monday, November 28, 2005

FeedLounge - only Firefox supported

Cool - after admitting in a previous post that I use IE instead of Firefox, I go to check out FeedLounge and see this icon:

Tagging my RSS feeds doesn't really do it for me anyway, as I like the dynamic mix and don't want to peg each feed into a certain genre (unlike my bookmark tags, which are more on a one-off basis of consistency). Nonetheless...

I know everyone keeps saying this, but I love what the new browser wars are doing for the industry and coming improvements.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I wish my RSS aggregator provided slim feeds

Contrary to everyone else's opinion in a comments thread I was participating in (but can't find now), I wish the posts that got fed into my aggregator were all slim and sleek for quick scrolling through. I limited my outgoing post feeds to 100 characters, and here's what it looks like:

Pretty slick, eh? More than a title, less than a pontification - there's just enough there for the user to have a taste for if they want to click through. Now if only I could do the same for my incoming feeds...

NEWS: Changing blog name to '200 minutes'

NEWS: I'm changing the name of this blog to '200minutes', to be found at www.200minutes.com.

The premise is that most people in civilized society have about 200 minutes, or around three hours, per day where they can choose to focus their time once they've gotten home from work, eaten, paid the bills, kissed the kids, and/or whatever other top priorities folks have. My goal is to find technological solutions that can streamline and maximize those 200 minutes, by removing inefficiencies and personalizing the web for each user.

Prime example: scrolling through my RSS feeds, I see things I'm interested in but are the same posts again and again from different sources, like this...

And this...

Yes, this happens every day - I'd say at least 20-30% of posts I pull in each day are duplicates I've already seen just within my own aggregator. Those are the sorts of things 200minutes will try to sort out for you, with your excellent feedback to keep me on target, of course.

The one downside is this: If you like this blog, you'll have to subscribe to the new RSS feed. This is the last post you'll see if you're only subscribed to the Convene feed.

I will come back and post the RSS address here for the new feed once it's set up, but by then it will be too late - the post will already be sitting in your RSS aggregator without the update. So everyone come to www.200minutes.com at least once to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Update: Here's the new RSS feed!

Things that I don't post about

I may be the only one looking at this blog, so there are certain things I don't spend energy posting about because I don't think they provide enough personal value. For example:
  • almost anything with the words "innovation" and/or "attention"
  • posturing between business system organizations (like the memos from Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com and Bill Gates/Ray Ozzie from Microsoft)
  • posturing between political organizations
  • most features/updates/etc. that I think are overhyped

Those four bullet points, though, are a lot of what show up in my aggregated feeds. Between not posting about them and posting the one-off gems to my del.icio.us bookmarks, not a lot makes it to this blog (though I'm still working on getting a daily posting of my social bookmarks into this blog).

I realize some of those would make good posts (why I think AHAH is not going to catch on, anything related to George W. Bush and/or the Middle East, etc.), but I don't see enough value resulting from even the potential comments on those topics - so I don't write them up. I think this is a good thing, and it works for me at least. Any feedback?

Google video applicant

I applied to a position at Google recently - but thank heaven this isn't me:


The comedy gold hits at around 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Blogger image size - default is medium

Fyi for anyone using Blogger to post, the default image size is Medium - during my previous post, I updated my Blogger image default to be Large. You can see it's still not huge, but better than before. It's pretty obvious how to change it on the screen where you're uploading an image, I just hadn't noticed for some reason.

I'll go back and update prior posts to have Large images for better readability.

Google Analytics stats for this blog

I thought it might be interesting to post some stats I'm seeing for this blog. (Yes, I know there's nobody visiting the site, no need to rub it in.) Anyway, here goes:

Overview -

I know the pics aren't very big, but you can see that the Google Analytics tools are pretty slick. From the overview, you can see that not many people are consistently coming to the blog, from both the traffic view on the top left and the new/returning view on the top right. You can also see that I have an international following from the map in the bottom left corner.

Most interestingly, I can see from the pie chart in the bottom right corner how readers come to my page. In my case, most users are coming from the j-walk blog, where I post sometimes in the comments. There's a healthy amount of traffic just from Blogger itself, as well - I'd guess this is from the rotating blog recommendations on their front page, as well as from the "Next blog" feature you see at the top of the page. Lastly, there's a big chunk of readers coming from Other, which I haven't figured out a way to drill down into yet for more details.

Browser/Platform types -
More than half of my current audience uses Internet Explorer (including myself), though all of the combined versions of Firefox have a healthy representation. I actually wonder how many people there are like me - tried Firefox, enjoyed it, but switched back to IE due to all of the security issues Firefox had earlier this year and haven't made my way back to it (and won't until I see IE version 7).

Screen resolutions-
This was exactly what I was hoping I wouldn't see - people using a vast and varied array of screen resolutions. Plus that 1400x1050 is undoubtedly skewed by the fact that I use it, and I'd guess a healthy portion of those (11!) visits are mine - although I did hear that Google Analytics filters out your own visits, so maybe not. Do I need to worry about catering to those ten users limited to x768 (it is about 30% of my audience so far...)?

It's fun to play with this as I start to get traffic to the site - it also jumped some from my post yesterday (after I'd already taken the above screenshots), and I'll aim to do a follow-up post of what pages people are visiting.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pulling my own feeds into RSS

Wheee - I need to post more, it was so bizarre to start reading my aggregated RSS feeds and come upon a post where I was like "hey, this is something I'm interested in" -- only to realize it was my previous post, now being fed into my Newsgator.

By the way, anyone know why my image shows up so small? I doubled the size in Photoshop, and there are no size limits specified in the post HTML - so why is it still tiny? It might be a Blogger size limit, but I could swear I've seen bigger pics in other people's posts...

Moment of Zen: "Just in case has more rewards than just in time"

I had a Zen moment this morning - thinking about how much more often I end up getting good results by following a "just in case" (semi-conservative) approach instead of a "just in time" (cut it close) approach.

This is true for my system development work, for my Texas Hold'Em poker game, for my Risk games against friends, for when I'm headed to an appointment, and all sorts of other times. Sure, I'd love to win a crazily aggressive poker hand or skid into the parking lot just in time for my appointments, but those situations rarely end up playing out out in a winning fashion. Plus I hate being late/irresponsible/etc., which happens often when trying to live by "just in time." I still get hit by it sometimes, but awareness is the first step.

This isn't to say you should always be conservative - but I think that maybe if you can get in the habit of living by "just in case", then when an opportunity comes up for you to get more risky, you have mojo/control built up in your favor. The best examples I can think of for this are the ones where there are limited tangible resources - armies, poker chips, etc. If I've spent them all on previous stupid risks, then I don't have enough left to optimize the golden moments where it really makes sense to try to grab a bigger slice of the pie.

So I boiled it down to this: "Just in case has more rewards than just in time". Do you agree?

(On a side note, I thought there might be a better quote already out there, so I did a search. I didn't find one that tied the two phrases together well, but I did find this stellar 'Dignity is Deadly' post simply because one of the 'prior posts' had the two phrases in it. Totally unrelated to the subject of this post, but I really liked the bubble graph of the difference between a startup and a 'professional' corporation.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Desired Craigslist feature: "Email post owner"

I have been a loyal user of Craigslist for years, and recently the Denver version too - but it would be great to have an "Email post owner" hyperlink up in the top right corner.

I can click on a link to email a post to someone else, but what about emailing the person that created the post to discuss what they posted? I have to separately open my browser to access my email account, copy and paste their anonymous ID, copy and paste the subject and body of their email, and then type what I want.

All that to respond to the "49ERS vs. Texans (mission district) $60" post that I started from.

Too many steps, and I can't figure out why. Maybe some sort of security, but so many other sites have a setup where you can put in your name, email, and message, and it routes to the original person posting...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Links for 11-18

Links for 2005-11-18 [del.icio.us]
To Favicon Or Not? (and good tool in comments)
Wink - screencast creator like CamStudio
Inhabitat - greening cities
The 3 M's of Pro Blogging: Multiple Monetization Methods Performancing.com
10 Business Models for Bloggers Performancing.com
Co-blogging, Finding Your Blog Buddy Performancing.com
The Generator Blog: Put your text on anything
Google AdSense Tour - put an "advertise on this site" link
Guardian Unlimited Science Geneticists claim ageing breakthrough but immortality will have to wait
Google lets Web sites sign up advertisers directly - Yahoo! News
Building a Weblog with PHP and MySQL

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So there I was posting about Blogger and del.icio.us...

I was just wrapping up a slightly lengthy post about my failed efforts to get del.icio.us to auto-post my daily links here. I pasted in the error text from del.icio.us, and went to switch this blog's post from "Edit Html" to "Compose" to see how it actually looked. Up comes Internet Explor/der's "You've done something bad and now I'm closing all your windows", and there goes about 45 minutes worth of links, never to be seen again.

Every time I try to coordinate anything to work between Blogger and del.icio.us, whether it's ad revenue, posting, etc., I'm always frustrated with the results. I hope I have a more positive post next time.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

RSS: Wouldn't it be great if these same posts were consolidated?

Here's a shot from my RSS aggregator this morning, showing the same article again and again and again and again. I wish it were consolidated down to just one article, since that's all it really is even if it came from multiple sources...

It gets even more fun when the posts are long and wordy:

I know Memeorandum and TailRank do grouping, but I don't like them as much as I do NewsGator. Can't wait till this aspect of RSS gets resolved...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"All ERP vendors are the same"

"Shock news: All ERP vendors are the same"

I disagree with this 'research.' It's like saying all cars are the same - I mean, after all, you're really just trying to drive from one place to another, right? Sure, some people might feel that way and buy the most commoditized version available, but there are also benefits to getting a model that meets your other priorities too.

In the case of business systems, I might accept that what's offered out of the box is very similar - but each customer's unique needs beyond that are what help determine which vendor is ultimately chosen. Want your own data kept in house, or want to reduce in-house expertise needs? Need unlimited customization ability, or only a few select fields? Want pre-built reports, or end users build their own?

Sure, all ERP packages probably cover the same basics - but the different approaches per package are significant enough that a CIO shouldn't just fork over loads of cash without doing their due diligence.

To enrich the blogging experience

Here are the items that I'm tackling when possible, to try to enrich the blogging experience:
  • How to add RSS to Convene blog (should be easy, right?)
  • Del.icio.us error (not looking likely to have resolution)
  • Craigslist RSS not recognized (dunno why this is, gotta email support)
  • Consolidated repeat RSS items (feature request, not likely to happen soon)
  • How to categorize posts on Convene to tie with Technorati (automate as much as possible)
  • RSS feed from del.icio.us popular section (woot, they added it to the bottom of the page!)
  • RSS feed from Digg.com popular section (feature request)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Interesting CRM post: Five Problems Will Thwart Salesforce.com's Rise in On-Demand CRM

Much as I love Salesforce.com, I found myself agreeing with a majority of this post:

Five Problems Will Thwart Salesforce.com's Rise in On-Demand CRM

Point #3 (The wrong brand for the long term) is especially poignant given the AppExchange that could branch out like crazy and make the brand a misnomer, but I think Point #5 (A large-enterprise strategy that doesn't click) is off for that same reason. If AppExchange succeeds, you wouldn't need to integrate with your ERP and HR applications - because they'd already be built within "Salesforce".com.

Nonetheless, CRM is a good place to be as competition heats up and benefits users - just like Google/Yahoo conflict is doing right now...

Yahoo, TiVo Team Up to Blend TV, Web

Yahoo, TiVo Team Up to Blend TV, Web
Users of Yahoo's TV page will be able to click on a record-to-TiVo button
directly from a television program listing to remotely schedule recordings.
Holy moley, is that freakin' cool. If I'm reading this right, and if I were at a friend's house in NY and could tell my tivo in CA to record a show, it might just finally convince me to buy a Tivo.

[Update: Om Malik points out that this was already available via AOL, and also that DirecTV systems will be incompatible. I don't use either, so when I buy a TiVo I'll just make sure that stays true...]

Google maps on your phone

Google brings maps to phones
Verizon's phones use a different programming language, as do BlackBerrys and
Palm devices, so they are not compatible.
Feh >:-[

AJAX and ad revenue

There are a couple of articles emerging about how AJAX will compromise ad revenues - here are those:

Ajax Challenges Web Development Leaders -- And Web Publishers And Advertisers (July 2005)
AJAX bad for publishers, good for users?
AJAX Good or Bad Part II (or What should publishers do with AJAX?)

From my perspective, I don't think it will actually be that disruptive. Unless I'm misunderstanding, there are basically two types of ads on websites: 1) dynamic content-specific ads, and 2) static ads manually sold to companies. Examples of the first type would include Google AdSense and Yahoo! Publisher Network ads. Examples of the second type might be the fish store down the street that buys space on my site for a static ad, or maybe Oracle buys some static space if I've got a big tech blog.

I don't see AJAX as much of a threat to the dynamic ads, except for when someone navigates away from the first page into a different section. At that point, AJAX would make it so a new ad might not be generated (but some examples, like Gmail, somehow still serve up new content without refreshing the page). Maybe that would matter to folks who have a different setup than me, but I'm just using Blogger and don't currently see AJAX as a threat to how the ads work here. Am I wrong?

As for the static ads, I don't see a threat there either, just a difference in how payments are determined. In the past, you might go to a vendor and say "I get 10000 page views per day on my site, and will sell you space for $X." Now you'd instead say "I get 25 clickthroughs per day on my site, and will sell you space for $X." So you'd change the metric away from page views, but so what? The only vendors I can see this not working for are those that just want a static ad to their brick-and-mortar business, that don't have a web presence. Those guys definitely aren't my target market anyway.

So the threat from AJAX? Not so much, in my opinion.

The threat from JavaScript, though, is a different matter. For example, see all those great del.icio.us links I've got on the right hand side? That's all "content" specific to my interests, yet it's not being factored into ads because it's just a .js pull from the del.icio.us site instead of being recognizable HTML. I also don't get revenue at the source of that "content" (on del.icio.us). That to me is a much bigger revenue loss than any AJAX app.

How could this even become a trend?

I hope this dies out quickly:

You are under arrest on charges of not securing your Wi-Fi network...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

VOIP / Skype / Vonage - still not an option for this cowboy

I'm currently paying $20+ per month just to have a local phone line in Denver (thanks Qwest). I use this only for making local calls maybe 10 times a week with 2 people (my boss and my mom), though each of those can go 30-45 minutes. So for local rates, I'm paying about $2 per call. I know I can't beat that with Vonage, since they've got high monthly subscriptions ($30+ if I remember right).

I decided to see what Skype has to offer, since I've heard so much about it - even if I had to pay $.05 per minute for those calls to/from a computer, I'd still be saving money. There would be issues to address (quality issues? tied to computer? etc.) to make sure it was viable, but it was worth looking into.

So here's the thing - I get to this page:

and there's no currency converter or anything. I have to know what currency a C with a line through it is to continue my purchase. Is that British? Canadian? Chinese? The Euro? I could look it up, but if I'm having to look it up, so are hundreds of other people. So Skype doesn't get my business/recommendation until they have a way for you to already know what you'll pay. I was surprised to see such low customer proactiveness from a company with so much buzz.

All alone on the del.icio.us error

I got an email back from "Seven Block":

this had been happening for a few months. i switched to firefox, and
the problem completely went away. good luck!

Looks like I'm all alone in resolving this del.icio.us error, whether by continued email with their support or by making the jump to another social bookmarking tool. Seven Block, I thought we were comrades in arms!

I don't know if support is just unskilled or what, but I can't believe the only way to resolve this is to jump to an entirely new browser (I used Firefox in the past, not going back until I see what IE7 has to offer)...

Streamlining my RSS feeds - I want a SELECT DISTINCT

This post by Matt over at Peer Pressure reminded me of an improvement I'd like. I think a great improvement for RSS aggregators would be the ability to act like a SELECT DISTINCT does in SQL scripts.

For example, my aggregator would look at my list of 50 feeds (each of which has about 10 updates per day, so about 500 posts total), and group the posts so that I'd only see "Oracle faces old friends as foes" once with an "10 similar posts" note, and I'd only see one "Microsoft introducts Live software-as-a-service" with a "16 similar posts" note, instead of seeing each of these same/similar articles 29 times spread throughout all of my different feeds. I bet this would make it so I was only skimming through about 200-300 posts per day maximum, instead of 500.

It's not really addressing getting the cream of those to rise to the top, but at least it's dramatically improving the signal to noise ratio. If you could collapse the related sections on 'meme'orandum and apply that concept to your own personal RSS aggregation, that would be getting towards what I'd like to see. Thoughts?

Adding ad revenue to social bookmarking

From Mike's comment a couple posts ago, I realize I hadn't been clear about what I'm aiming for from del.icio.us, BlinkList, MyWeb2.0, or any other social bookmarking sites. In short, I want ad revenue capabilities anywhere I've got content specific to my interests - including my social bookmarks.

Here's the email thread between me and del.icio.us support:

Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2005 07:18:42 -0800 (PST)
From: "Chris"
Subject: AdSense/YPN capabilities?
To: support@del.icio.us
It seems like social bookmark sites like del.icio.us are a great additional place to host
AdSense/YahooPublishingNetwork ads, as it's still content specific to my website target audience's interests, but I don't want to point people to del.icio.us but away from potential ad revenue on my website. If there were also ads that provided me revenue on del.icio.us, that wouldn't be a concern.

Is there any plan to incorporate dynamic ad capabilities into del.icio.us?
Thanks, Chris

Subject: [del.icio.us #] AdSense/YPN capabilities?
From: "Joshua Schachter" support@del.icio.us
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 18:03:58 -0500 (EST)
Joshua Schachter wrote:
We may add some advertising in the future, but we hope to keep it low-key.We are trying to provide tools to let you take your data out of delicious and use it to keep your website organized (where obviously you could run your own advertising.) Joshua

Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2005 06:11:10 -0800 (PST)
From: "Chris"
Subject: Re: [del.icio.us #2926] AdSense/YPN capabilities?
To: support@del.icio.us

Hi Joshua,

The text ads have pretty good buy-in as being low-key, and have a lot of support from most web admins as opposed to adding the flashing ads of 1999. To be honest, I will probably end up being a loyal user of whichever social bookmarking site provides ad revenue first.

I currently use the tools to display my del.icio.us links on my website, but Google/YPN don't recognize that text as it's just a JS snippet of code, not the actual link text. On the del.icio.us site, the actual link text is in the source code of the page. This is a great opportunity for ad revenue, and I would guess if you polled your user base and asked if they wanted to the ability to gain revenue from context-appropriate ads based on their del.icio.us items, they'd love it...


Now obviously I don't really care yet if I point people away from my blog, as you might have noticed from the brilliant "My blog is worth $0.00" icon on the right hand side.

From an "incoming information" standpoint, though, half of the content I collect from the web is collected in the del.icio.us column on the right hand site of the blog, from ongoing static sites I'm collecting relevant to my interests. (The other half is my list of RSS feeds, which currently isn't social either but I don't care so much about that). All of that del.icio.us info I'm collecting isn't captured for scanning on my blog (it's bundled into one line of HTML from the del.icio.us site) for targeted ads, but targeted ads also aren't available on del.icio.us at the source of my collecting that content.

Is there a flaw I'm not seeing, or wouldn't this be a great opportunity to enhance the value of social bookmarking sites?

Friday, November 04, 2005

I don't like podcasts

I thought I'd like podcasts - but I don't. I want to get my information quickly, and with podcasts you have no way of skimming to find where the salient points you're looking for are.

Sure it's nice to hear the person's voice, and it's more convenient for them to just record what's on their mind without editing, spelling, etc. - but none of that is a big value for me. The closest I came to getting hooked was listening to educational institutions' podcasts of biochem classes, etc. - but I don't have time to listen to all of that content, I want speed!

Am I missing something?

Yahoo’s Acting Like Its Old Self Again

Nickolas Means gives a good summary of my same observations around Yahoo's new web 2.0 tools (maps, MyWeb2.0, etc.). Pretty slick. Can't wait for ad revenue and social bookmarking to be integrated someday.

However, Nikolas is also a little too fond of Peppermint lattes (kidding). Give me hot chocolate or coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream any day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Google Print

I don't get all the hubbub about Google Print. I tried it out - I typed in "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I got results back, I was able to dive into a section of a book, but it was about 3 pages. I might use this as a reference, but in the same way I currently use the Amazon previews. Am I missing something?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

RSS for CRM: overhyped already?

I've now seen efforts to promote both RSS for Salesforce.com and RSS for MS CRM 3.0 - and I have to say, neither one impressed me even with some slick supporting tools. What is there to gain?

- Dashboard functionality? Maybe sort of, but you've got to learn a new tool to get it.
- Saving you effort to go into the system? Maybe, but is it really that hard?

From a conceptual standpoint, it's nice to have one place (RSS aggregator etc.) to remember to keep track of all your stuff - but it seems like you're giving up a lot of benefits from the app to get it. Even if you could also pull in an RSS feed from an ERP source to see forecast vs. actuals without coding, it would still be pretty limited.

Someone convince me of where the big value add is, please...

Yahoo Maps beta - so good, so good

I just tried out the Yahoo Maps beta and love it - even in beta it's got me hooked after three minutes. Being able to map multiple trip legs, the easy zoom/navigation combo, the tie-in with local services - it's great. Try it out...


MS CRM 3.0 earlier than it's late deadline

Alright, I can live with the underwhelming "Microsoft Live" rollout.

But I've seen bunches of posts about Microsoft CRM 3.0 being a month early, and it just irks me. Let's remember that the next version of MS CRM was supposed to be out back in Spring 2005. So while you've moved your release date up a little from when you last said it would be, you're still six months late.

Stop with the faux fanfare already, everyone in the industry knows how this release played out and thinks the repositioning effort is silly.

That being said, can't wait to get up and running on MS CRM 3.0.

I feel like less of a man now


Working on resolving the del.icio.us posting issue

Got my first response from del.icio.us support! We'll see if we can get it resolved...

[Sun Oct 30 11:32:33 2005]: Hi, almost every time I try to post to del.icio.us, I get a Page Cannot Be Displayed error. Usually if I go back to the Your Favorites and refresh, it's been added, but there have also been multiple times when that's not the case. A little help? Thanks, Chris

Britta Gustafson wrote: Hi Chris,Is this happening on a regular basis, like over the course of a few days? A failure to connect to del.icio.us may happen occasionally, for example when the servers have a heavy load, but should not be happening every time you post.If the problem does not resolve itself, can you send us some more details about your browser (including version number), connection, etc.? Thanks!

Date:Tue, 1 Nov 2005 21:24:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject:Re: [del.icio.us #2807] Page Cannot Be Displayed when adding links

Hi Britta, It's pretty much every time I post, and del.icio.us is the only site/tool it happens with. I'm on IE 6.029.. and a wireless connection. Fyi, I also found this person's blog post while searching for a solution: http://sevenblock.typepad.com/sevenblock/2005/10/delicious_canno.html
Thanks in advance for more troubleshooting,