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21 posts from April 2007

Information Week: Second Life to Open Source Server source code

This isn't exactly new news, "Linden Lab to Open-Source Second Life Servers", but the fact that Information Week is running the story will undoubtedly give it more publicity.  What Information Week blogger Mitch Wagner is focusing on in his article is comments made by Linden Labs VP Joe Miller as part of the "Platforms and Technologies Panel" at Virtual Worlds 2007 in March in New York. In that presentation on March 28, 2007, he mentioned making the server side available as open source and included this now often-quoted (in blogs) phrase:

Second Life cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid.

Indeed it cannot... so it's nice to see that voiced by Linden Labs.  In addition to the great writeup (by blogger Mark Wallace) of the panel session, the audio for that panel is also available, which makes for great listening (if this kind of thing is of interest to you).

The thing missing from the Information Week article (and others quoted) is, of course, a timeframe.  It's great that Linden Labs has the objective of open sourcing the server code.  Ultimately, they really have to do so if Second Life is going to become the dominant "virtual world" as we look at how to make a 3D web.  It's really a question of when Linden Labs can do it... not just from a business model point-of-view, but also from a technical point-of-view.  They control all the servers right now and therefore can ensure the (sometimes limited) degree of stability that SL has.  But allowing others to connect into that grid is a big step and is fraught with all sorts of issues that could even further destabilize the virtual world.

We'll see.  In any event, it is good to hear the continued public statements about making the server code open source.

By the way, the Information Week article also pointed to a couple of other articles that make for good reading:

It's interesting to note, too, that on both of those articles as well as the Information Week article, there were lengthy comments left by Prokofy Neva, which make for interesting reading in their own right.


What does a "corporate blog portal" need to have to be successful?

In report today into For Immediate Release I raised the question of "What do you want to see in a corporate blog portal?"  Either one for internal blogs on an Intranet, or one on a public site.  I first posted this list back in February, but have refined it a bit since then... and this is where I'd like your help:

  • What do you think a corporate blog portal needs to be effective?  (intranet or external)
  • Are there specific corporate blog portals you have liked better than others?
  • If you have implemented one, what have you found made it most successful?
  • Also, what software (or combination of software) did you use?

I would love to have your comments either posted here or sent in to FIR (fircomments@gmail.com) for the next show.

P.S. If you don't understand the kind of site I'm talking about, take a look at http://blogs.sun.com/ or http://blogs.cisco.com/home as two examples.

 


 

DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR A CORPORATE BLOG PORTAL, version 2.0 

The following is a list of requirements for a "blog portal" for a company or organization.  This could be for either an internal or external (i.e. public) blog portal.   I've broken this into two area: 1) the web interface that visitors see; and 2) the technology used by the software program implementing the blog portal. 

User Interface Requirements 

1. LIST OF AVAILABLE WEBLOGS - Ideally if you went to the blog portal you would first see a web page that listed all the various weblogs that are hosted on the website, complete with brief descriptions, links to their RSS feeds, etc. 

2. AGGREGATION OF BLOG ENTRIES ON A MAIN PAGE - There should be a listing of "recent entries" across all blogs. This would allow someone unfamiliar with different blogs to simply look there and see what people are writing about. Two approaches I've seen work for this: a) raw aggregation of all recent entries across all blogs; or b) recent entry for each of the various blogs. 

3. RSS FEED FOR ALL BLOGS - It would be great if the portal provided an RSS feed for this aggregation of blog entries. Think of it as the "everything" feed. There might not be many folks who would want this "entire" feed (outside of true company junkies, analysts, and competitive intelligence staff at competitors) 

4. SEARCH ACROSS ALL BLOGS - On that same "main page" that lists all blogs on the platform, there should also be a Search box that allows you to search across all blogs for any entries in any weblogs that have the search words/phrase. Another search box (or the ability to use the same one with an option) for "tags" or "categories" would be a bonus. 

Technology Requirements 

5. DESIGN INTEGRATION WITH MAIN WEBSITE - It probably doesn't need to be said, but a company is going to want to integrate this with the rest of their corporate website, so there needs to be the ability for the web design to be modified, customized, etc. to seamlessly fit in with the rest of the enterprise web site. So full ability to modify CSS, change headers, footers, graphics, etc., etc.

6. SUPPORT FOR USERS AUTHORING IN MULTIPLE BLOGS - Ideally a user should be able to login to the blogging platform and then contribute to whichever blogs they have been granted access. I don't want to have to login separately for each of them - and from the admin side, it would be nice if there was an interface that made it easy for the admin to set permissions across blogs. (Step 1 could be requiring the admin to config ACLs on each blog, but ideally a Step 2 would centralize that into an interface that shows who can write where, etc.)

7. PRIVACY/PASSWORDS - There should also probably be the ability for a weblog author to "opt out" of the cross-blog search and appearance on the main page. Similarly, I could see the use in the ability to restrict access to *viewing* the weblog (and/or subscribing to its feed) to specific users. There could be a blog with content that is ideally only for executives, for instance. To me this is a lower priority because I think the greater value is in sharing information widely... private information can still be kept in email or on a specific hard drive. Still, I could see it being a request at some point. 

8. STATISTICS - Everyone loves stats and at some point champions of a blogging project will be asked how it is going. Anything that can give overall stats, typical web stats like number of page views, etc., but also more blogging-specific things like total number of posts, average number of posts per day/week/month, total number of comments, average number of comments per day/week/month, avg number of comments per post, subscribers to RSS feed (which I grant is tough to discern), number of posts in last day/week/month, etc.. If the portal was for external blogs, you could get fancier and give stats on number of trackbacks, external links, etc. Overall summary stats would be great, but also stats for individual blogs. Ideally even a page that compared all hosted blogs in those stats. This would enable the champions of the blogging program to see which blogs might be doing exceptionally well, which might be struggling and indeed which have stopped - without having to visit all the individual blogs. Bonus if the software generates nice pretty charts that can be used as eye candy in powerpoint presentations.


 

Comments and feedback are definitely welcome!

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Chris Brogan asks: Why do "new media types" have so many projects on the go at the same time?

Chris Brogan today posted "Why Do New Media Types Like Multiples" asking why so many of us involved in new media/social media are involved in so many different things (i.e. we might have many different blogs, podcasts... be using all sorts of tools, etc. etc.).  Many people have now commented (including yours truly) and the responses are definitely very interesting.  Do give it a read... (and add your thoughts as well!)


Kathy Sierra moves on... Alec calls for civility and an apology... and some thoughts on the mob rush to judgement

Per Alec Saunder's great post this morning, I learned that Kathy Sierra wrote a "final post" on her blog and is now debating what to do next... but fairly certain it won't involve blogging or public speaking, at least for some period of time.  Her post is a good one and includes at the end of her text a collection of some of the great pictures that populated her posts.  I always enjoyed her posts not only for her great content, but also for all these great graphics that she created.  She has a fun and witty way of simplyifying complex issues into simple pictures.  If you haven't seen her work, do scroll down through her post to see the images.  They're worth it.

I think it is a loss for us all if she is now ending her blogging (at least in this form and place), but I don't underestimate the issues with which she is grappling.  Given all that has transpired and the heinous images and text she had to deal with, it's definitely understandable that she's going to take some time to figure out what's next.  I do hope she does figure out a way to continue her teaching... she's good at it and her continued voice would be good to have out there.

Alec's post, though, brought my thoughts back to the third post I was intending to write here on the situation.  When the whole storm started, I wrote some initial thoughts and wondered if maybe this might make people think.  I followed up with a post of links, but I had another post I started which I titled "Kathy Sierra and the Blogosphere's Mad Rush to Judgement"... but then life intervened and the time to write that post never materialized...  in the meantime, though, others did perhaps a far better job than I would have. Two in particular I liked:

Stephanie's post included this text, which said it well:

Please, Blogosphere. Keep your wits. This is a messy ugly story, and oversimplications will help nobody. Holding people guilty until proven innocent doesn’t either.  <text snipped>

If you have something thoughtful to say, then say it. But if all you have to say has already been said out there ten times, or if you won’t take the trouble to check your sources, read carefully, calm down before blogging, avoid over-generalisations, and thus avoid feeding the already bloated echo-chamber — just go out for a walk in the sun and let the people involved sort themselves out.

Indeed.  That's largely why I didn't post here more on the issue... I didn't have the time to check sources and do the other work to add anything thoughtful.  Without that work, what could I have added?   Not relying on a single source is absolutely critical... and yet it is something that seems to be forgotten by so many as rumors simply propagate through the blogosphere.  (I found myself just this morning sitting on a story that I could have run with (for an internal blog)... but waited until I could confirm with a second source.)  It's a lot easier just to hit Publish and send the words off.

I also was not involved directly in the issue... and it seemed that certainly initially there was a huge amount of posting - without hearing from all the folks involved.

It's also key to remember that we have many other ways of communicating and getting information directly from people involved in the situation.  Jim Turner has provided some good and detailed coverage of the whole situation and one of the things that I have most respected is that he has done the extra work and done things like, oh, calling up people involved on the phone!  Novel concept, eh?  In our online world, people often tend to forget about that little phone thingie sitting on their desk...  but having that direct conversation can be so critical. 

I note that the storm continues... the NY Times: "A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs"... Tim O'Reilly issued his draft code of conduct... Business Week: "Web Attack" (which isn't about Sierra but about similar online nastiness as it relates to business) and "Managing the Menace of Online Mobs"...

Do we need a defined "code of conduct" for the blogosphere?  I don't know that we need something formal to which people agree... I'd like to hope we're all adults here (and yes, I realized that there are kids posting out there)... and if you look at Tim's code of conduct, you could more or less summarize it as:

Call it what you will... in the end I think we all need to just be a bit more civil to each other... to make sure there are verifiable sources for what we write... to take deep breaths (and breaks) before responding to emotionally-charged issues/comments... to treat other bloggers the way we want them to treat us.

Will we?  The optimist in me would like to hope so...   (they cynic in me says we've been dealing with this issue since the dawn of time and so while this whole episode is a welcome reminder, it's certainly only a matter of time before it crops up again...)


Technorati Authority Widget does NOT do what I thought...

Hmmm.. so the "Technorati Authority Widget" I mentioned in my previous post (and described on the Technorati blog and Tools page) does NOT do what I thought it would do.  Based on this:

What's your Authority? Are you considered an authoritative blogger who's fluid prose rakes in link love by the bushel? Now you can proudly display your official Technorati Authority with our new Authority Widget.

I assumed that the widget would return your Technorati "ranking".  Instead, it returns "the number of blogs that link to you", which is an okay thing to display... but not my expectation.   It's also the opposite of the "ranking" in that you want a higher link count.

It seems to me that Technorati needs to clarify, at least for this widget, what they mean by your "official Technorati Authority" because they have two (well, really three) measures in their stats (example - stats for this blog):

  1. Technorati Ranking: lower is better - ranking of your blog against all others based on some metric Technorati developed. Down side is that widget could get quite huge due to large numbers and there is also little incentive for someone who is #1,891,345 to put it on their blog.
  2. Number of blogs that link to you: higher is better - number of blogs that have linked to your site in the last 6 months.  Appears to be a major input into "ranking" and is a good sign of potential "authority" of blog.  Widget size is probably no issue because count grows up and realistically won't get too high (top blog list currently has high of 26,866). More bloggers might use it because again it is counting up and not on such a massive scale as the "ranking".
  3. Number of links from other blogs: higher is better - number of links to your blog from the blogs counted in #2.  Useful in that some blogs might link to you many times.  The challenge is how to interpret the number.  Knowing that a blog was linked to several times by a highly-regarded blog is useful information.  Having it linked to many times by a spam blog (or one of the author's other blogs) is not terribly useful.  This number would seem very easy to game.

Obviously they have chosen #2 for this widget... but my feedback to the Technorati folks would be to clarify in the text on their Tools page exactly what this widget is showing.


Technorati rolls out new widgets for blog authority, tag clouds, top searches...

UPDATE: See my follow-up post about how the "Technorati Authority Widget" does not work like I thought it would. 


I enjoy the fact that the folks at Technorati continue to roll out new tools of interest to bloggers.  This month brought new sidebar widgets for tag clouds, the top technorati tags and also for blog authority.  While I haven't yet decided whether I do want to add them to my sidebar, they are interesting to consider.  I'm going to try posting the "blog authority" widget here in an entry, primarily because Technorati's tools page says that it may take a bit to generate the widget:

View blog authority

I will be honest, though, and wonder how many people will actually use it outside of the truly "top-ranked" bloggers. I mean, currently this blog is ranked around 42,000, which, out of 71 million blogs, is admittedly quite good.  But is it good enough that I really want to clutter up my sidebar with something like that? (As well as adding yet one more thing to delay the loading of my page?)  I don't know...  I'd need to think about that a bit.

I also don't know about adding the tag cloud... but I'm thinking about the top tags, if for no other reason than the fact that it's interesting to see one way to view "the pulse" of what people are talking about.  (And I see my own blogs whenever I post, which means that I would see the list of top tags, which might then make me curious about what people are writing about.)

P.S. And yes, regarind the "authority widget", I fully realize that Technorati rankings are a very imperfect way of understanding how "important" a blog may or may not be... but until someone else comes along with something better, it's one of the few tools we have in our arsenal, IMHO.


Why I continue using Second Life, despite all my doubts and concerns...

Last week Chris Brogan wrote a post asking basically "What the Hell is Up with Second Life?" where he talks about his own uncertainty about the value of Second Life.  It's a good post to read, and has some great comments as well.  I wound up posting my own comment to Chris - and then decided that it was a long enough commet that I should also just post it here.  So here it is:  (comments are of course welcome)


Chris,
Nice post... I think that, like you, many of us are trying to figure out what exactly Second Life means "in the big picture" of online communication.

To me the interesting aspect is that the combination of increasingly faster CPUs and increasingly ubiquitous broadband access has brought us to a space where we can actually interact with people in a "3-D" virtual world in something close to real time - and so Second Life represents to me an attempt at a newer interface for online communication and collaboration.

If you go back to the late 1980s, the dominant interface on computer networks was text "terminal window" (vt100, telnet, whatever) and all the interfaces were entirely text-based. Going into the early 1990s probably the leading interface at the time was the menu-based (and text) gopher. I still remember one of the first versions of my "Introduction to the Internet" courseware I wrote then that had a final chapter on new and upcoming technologies which talked about this thing called "World Wide Web" which was access by telnetting to info.cern.ch and logging in as "www". To follow a hypertext link you pressed the number on your keyboard that was after each link (see the image to the left).

Then came 1993 and the introduction of NCSA's Mosaic browser which fundamentally changed the user interface paradigm. Suddenly you could use your mouse! (Gasp!) And.... you could have *images* on the same page as text! Of course network connections (and PCs) were far slower then, so image-laden pages sometimes took forever to load, but it was a huge improvement over the text-only world. (Which, folks from that era may recall, was why Netscape was such a huge immediate hit - it introduced the progressive loading of images.)

While the browsers we use have evolved substantially and brought in all sorts of added functionality, the reality is that we're still using the same basic user interface we had 14 years ago. And so the hunger and hunt is for what is the *next* evolution of the ubiquitous online interface. Enter Second Life as the latest poster child for what *might* be the next interface.

We've been experimenting with virtual worlds since the early days of the Net... we've had MUDs and MOOs and all sorts of things. We've been trying "3-D" for ages, too. (Anyone remember VRML?) What I think is happening now is that the intersection of increased computing power and increased network speed, along with an incredibly massive number of people online (out of which to draw more early adopters and experimenters), has brought us to the point where we can actually think realistically about a richer collaboration/commmunication user interface than that of the web browser.

Will the end result be the interface of Second Life? Will it be one of the other contenders being introduced on almost a daily basis these days? Will it evolve out of one of the games like World of Warcraft? Will it be some combination of all of the above?

I think those are the questions... and the reasons why I, too, put up with the clumsy controls, technical issues, annoying avatar name restrictions and other, um, "challenges" of Second Life. I think of it as "Internet 3-D interface version 0.4" (or 0.04? or 0.004?) and am intrigued to see how it evolves.

P.S. Maybe one of these weeks I'll catch you at Coffee with Crayon. I went for a number of weeks but haven't been able to attend recently.



The wonderful "social" aspect of "social media" (a.k.a. Brunch with Bryper)

Probably the best part about "social media" is the wonderful people you wind up meeting!  In my weekly report into For Immediate Release last week, I spent most of the report addressing the question raised by a student about "what has podcasting done for you?" and my #1 point was that it has introduced me to a whole range of really amazing people... not just the listeners to both FIR and Blue Box, but also to all the other people working in the "social media" space.  Many of them have in fact become solid friends, even though in some cases I've never met them face-to-face... but just exchanged email, listened to their voices on podcasts, read their blogs, etc., etc.  The added fun is, of course, meeting face-to-face.

So it was only natural that when Bryan Person's family decided to have a mini-vacation and head to Burlington, VT, for a day for some skiing and to visit the area, he would drop me a note to see if I was around.  Bryan and I have been communicating with each other for quite some time and one time that my constant travels took me to Boston, we did actually meet for breakfast at my hotel, but this sounded like a great way to meet more socially.  We were around and wound up having a great dinner with Bryan's family and another couple in downtown Burlington.  In fact, we all enjoyed it so much that the visit extended into a brunch over at our house the next morning.  I mean, c'mon... if they come up from Boston we have to make sure they get some Vermont maple syrup!  (The other aspect of social media is that I'm sure it's only a matter of days before Bryper posts to Flickr some picture of me making waffles...  and I'm suddenly wondering how I looked that morning!  Of course, I'll probably know soon...)  Great conversations... the kids all played well together... all in all just a great time... with agreements to get together again in the future (like, when it is a wee bit warmer!).

Personal connections... created and fostered through the wonderful "conversational" aspect of this media... while it's true that you could always make online connections through mailing lists and websites, it's the "participatory" aspect of social media that I think really helps build those connections.  It is understood and expected that people will comment (on your blogs, podcasts, etc.) and otherwise engage in a conversation with you.  And out of those conversations can evolve relationships which can even evolve into friendships... and that's a powerful thing. 

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Giving Twitter its due... (addition to blog navbars)

If you notice the horizontal menu bar going across the top of this site or on Disruptive Telephony (sorry, RSS readers, you'll need to actually visit the site to see this), you'll notice a new addition to the list of the various blogs at which I write (you may have to refresh/reload your browser) ... yes, indeed, I figured it was probably time for me to add my Twitter page up there.

I've been experimenting with Twitter since the beginning of the year (courtesy of a tip from Chris Brogan) and as Jeff Pulver's "twitter is..." posting this morning shows, the definition of what Twitter is really useful for keeps evolving. 

For me, I've found it a great way to keep up with what some friends are doing... kind of like a RSS reader showing snippets from their blogs... but with occasional personal content.  It's also been a great source of links to things that are happening "now". Items that are "breaking news" within the circle of people that I find interesting... along with quirky offbeat things that people throw in as well.  I've posted some questions and received some great answers.  I'm not one of the "Twitter addicts" who seem to live on it... but I do check it a couple of times a day (more than I honestly check my RSS reader).  I have noticed in my own workflow that Twitter has replaced the "travel blogging" I used to post to my personal blog when I was on a trip. The ability to easily SMS from a phone helps with that.  I've also found it definitely driving traffic to my sites when I've posted a link there.  All in all I've found it quite useful.

Useful, enough, anyway, that I figured I ought to add it to my blog navigation bars... it is now one of the places I "blog".

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Any opinions about Podnova as a podcast directory?

Over on my Blue Box podcast website, I have easy subscription buttons that let you subscribe with iTunes, Yahoo!podcasts or Podcast Pickle (as well as providing a link to the standard RSS feed). There are probably 359 other services that I could put up there, but to be honest, those were the three I put up there when I started the site 1.5 years ago... and I've never really bothered to add more.  From a design point-of-view, I didn't really want to clutter up the sidebar with a zillion buttons... and in fact sometime I may go back in and clean the buttons I have there up a bit.

In any event, a listener wrote in and asked if we could add a button there so that folks could easily subscribe with podnova.  Which of course made me ask the obvious questions - what is podnova?  how many people use them?  why should I give them some of my precious sidebar space?

Being a JuiceReceiver user, I was intrigued to see that podnova was started by one of the original Juice developers, but still, I'm curious to know more.  Do any of you reading this use podnova on a regular basis?  What do you think of it?  Should I add a button to subscribe via the site? 

All comments and feedback are welcome.

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