Monday, June 09, 2003

Weblog Business Strategies 2003 X

Bricklin, Dash, Frankston, Gartenberg, Robb, Searls, and Shellen: Blogging Technologies And Platforms -- Today And Tomorrow

Dan Bricklin is CTO of Interland Inc., Anil Dash is the new vice president of business development for Six Apart, Bob Frankston is an independent consultant, Michael Gartenberg is vice president and research director for Jupiter Research, John Robb is president and COO for Userland Software, Doc Searls is senior editor of the Linux Journal, and Jason Shellen is an associate program manager for Blogger. Here is a rough transcript of their discussion:

Doc Searls: It already feels like the end of the day. Long day. We'll try to lighten it up a little bit. The topic is blogging tools today and tomorrow, and I'm going to try to focus on the latter. I'm going to give each of these gentlemen the opportunity to explain not what they're doing in life, but where they're going. What are the technologies they're adopting? What are the issues they see? What are the potholes in the road?

Jason Shellen: A little bit of what Blogger is doing is playing catch up, honestly. We had a very small team for very many years. The space that we were in we felt like we were building a tool for Web designers. It quickly spun out of that community into a more mainstream audience. They're no longer all designers any more. That means that our tool changes. It's probably more akin to Geocities. That means that we need to change. We're undergoing a code revision that we're rolling out right now, and we really see that as the platform for the future. What's nice now is when we see something that would be great to tie into the community, we can put it together in a week. We're also at Google. We can use the resources there and bounce ideas off of really interesting folks. A core area of our focus for the future is definitely the community side. Blogger used to be the core for people to find new blogs. That didn't scale well. Now we have access to as many servers as we can eat. We're definitely looking at the way that people find blogs. The way that people write blogs. I think Tim was saying that the tools were fading into the background, not that blogging was fading into the background.

Bob Frankston: I want to distinguish between two opposing issues. One is improving the blog by some definition. Those are all mechanisms that make blogs better by some measure. But we don't know what that measure should be. We need to be open to looking at blogging in a much more general sense. There was a period in which the Web was confused with the Home Shopping Channel. I use Blogger for one site. For another, I built my own tools. The advantage of using Blogger is that I get a lot of advantages from Blogger such as the RSS feed. We need to encourage both trends but be aware of conflicts. We need users, but we need to encourage people to be developers.

Dan Bricklin: The tools we had at Trellix showed that blogging was important, but blogging is part of your Web site. You've got to integrate the tool together, the look together. I see something about blog tools. If you look at Tripod and Geocities, there are millions of sites made using those, more than blogs. The blog tools automate a lot of the tedium. Just like spreadsheets like Visicalc. That's what Blogger, Manila, and Radio did. They tool tedious housekeeping. Then 1-2-3 came along. It didn't just give you automation. It gave you better output and better stuff. Then we get to Excel. We're not there yet. The guys at Lotus couldn't imagine what Excel would be.

One important thing is media forms. I believe in photos and stuff like that. Multimedia is important in many aspects. When we think about communicating, not everyone can write well. Not everyone can photograph. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Anil Dash: Our today is Moveable Type, a tool that is very powerful, has a lot of great features, but is a pain in the ass to get started. Our immediate future is TypePad, which makes it easier for people to make Weblogs. We think that the anatomy of a Weblog has been decided. They've emerged over the last few years. Permalinks came out not long ago. And the tools haven't kept up with this. As a direction, the goal is going to be working backwards from the format to what people are doing with it.

Michael Gartenberg: I'm not a tool vendor. And there's something I haven't heard. At Jupiter we talk a lot about digital ubiquity. We carry multiple devices. People don't want one device. Our research indicates that the magic is number. And in some cases three devices. The challenge here is not only the tools on the PC side. We've got to take images, content, etc., to cell phones, PDAs, and other devices.

John Robb: We're about to come out with version 9.1, which Manila rides on. It includes RSS, email to Weblog. It's much smoother and very, very slick. If you've looked inside Manila, you'll know that it has a huge set of features. You can tweak almost anything. Our goal is to keep up with the interface. Soon, Radio will be able to synch with multiple desktops. The other thing is that I've been looking at P2P systems that you can hook up with Weblogs, a system that would augment your ability to upload large files. A link would go up, point to the file on your desktop, and other people using Radio could access the file. There is room for the desktop client.

People talk about having Weblogs everywhere. My time is too valuable to have my Weblog in multiple places. I'd rather have one Weblog that I can publish to multiple places.

Shellen: What we're saying isn't that you'd have multiple blogs. The concept of blogs living in different places doesn't mean that you have different data stores.

Dash: You have a cloud presence that embraces your entire identity online. It's broadened out to passive things that you're doing. People are using pedometers that hook up with Bluetooth to your computer.

Shellen: This fellow back there has Qblogger [???], which is a very interesting example of a personal data store.

Dash: We talked in another context about recording all your audio -- everything you've heard all day. Then I can decide what I want to share on my blog. Or with Jason.

Frankston: That's an interesting social experiment. People are going to get very good at creating synthetic personalities.

Dash: People already are!

Searls: I think we're going off in another direction. It's interesting that you can create a different persona, but if you try to use that persona in the real world, you can have trouble. It brings up issues about identity.

Dash: If everything about you is in your blog, is it a blog? I think so. It's not about the publishing tool. It's a social contract.

Searls: To me, controlling access to your blog is a tertiary thing.

Bricklin: In the business world, knowing who can read your blog is going to be a big thing.

Dash: Access control is a big part of it.

Searls: That's easier for me to understand than social contract.

Dash: We're trying to differentiate from Geocities. A permalink is a promise.

Shellen: My permalinks are much nicer to me.

Gartenberg: That doesn't change the very nature. Nothing gets more stale than a day-old Dunkin' Donut than a Weblog that doesn't get updated. It's not about social contract. It's about what you're trying to communicate. A business Weblog will have different goals than a personal Weblog. And they may be the same.

Searls: Let me take this down to a very mundane level. And it'll touch on problems that I have with your tools. John, is Radio Outliner going to come out soon? I want to hit a keyboard command and place a link.

Robb: It's not an immediate thing.

Dave Winer: Doc, I can build that for you.

Searls: Blogger, I've helped start maybe 15 blogs, and permalinks don't work right out of the gate.

Shellen: That's a feature.

Searls: A feature?

Shellen: Maybe first blogs aren't all that good. It was a problem with our old template, and we're rolling out the new version now. But I can't say that yours will roll out Thursday.

Searls: I have an ideal being a fotoblogger as well as a text blogger. What I would like to do is take a lot of pictures, put them on my computer, and serve them up. Does blogging have the leverage to make that dream happen?

Frankston: That reminds me of the fact that one of the first things I did was write a server app in javascript that allows me to publish photos.

Searls: Do movies in your home make that happen?

Bricklin: It's not blogging that's going to make it happen, it's digital cameras that are going to make it happen.

Dash: The tools are not keeping up with the way they're being used right now.

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