Quotes on Software and Syndication

Two short quotes which we would do well to remember:

Theodore Patrick: “The purpose of software is to simplify, automate, and save the end user time. The more time a piece of software saves, the more valuable it is.”

Anil Dash: “The magic isn’t RSS, the magic is syndication. The magic isn’t people manually creating feeds, it’s consistently being able to pull information into one place. With email, we get the benefits of aggregating information from many sources into one place. We also see the dangers of loosely defining and not checking data, as it becomes trivial to fake or corrupt any part and make things like spam.”

How Technorati Works

Dave Sifry, the creator, writes:

1) We spider weblogs, and correlate each weblog’s outbound links to any page on your blog/site
2) Technorati works on any URL – not just URLs for weblogs. For example, you can see what people are saying about an interesting article or favorite company, and get an instant read on the conversations going on around that article or site.
3) The simplest way get your weblog included in the Technorati index is to ping us whenever you update your weblog. That puts you in the high-priority queue for indexing. You can save the page as a bookmark, or you can program your weblog software to do it automatically.
4) To calculate the inbound blog list, we use the outbound links from the blog homepage, not from the archives
5) We do process RSS feeds an other metadata, but that doesn’t affect your inbound blog stats. As long as you produce HTML, you’re OK.
6) Nightly, we go through the database and re-calculate the number of inbound blogs and links to every weblog we track, which helps us double-check our work and also allows us to create the interesting newcomers list, the interesting recent blogs list, etc.

Information-based Product Development

News.com has a McKinsey Quarterly article, which states that “product development is facing a fundamental challenge. Unfortunately, at the very moment when companies need to make better products more efficiently, previous performance innovations in product development have hit a plateau.” It suggests a new approach.

The key to the new approach is an entirely different way of making product development decisions. By improving the quality, timing and synthesis of product and process information throughout the development cycle, such companies have turned a linear and sequential process into a flexible one that reacts to information continually rather than at intervals and in batches.

A team that used an information-based approach began by creating three simultaneous work flows: one for the needs of customers and the design features of the product, a second for its cost and a third for its reliability. The three subteams communicated daily and assessed all of their findings every week. By organizing around the flow of information, the team looked at market research through a new lens and made an important discovery: Customers care most about the cost and reliability, not their throughput performance and other advanced features, as the team had previously assumed.

Instead of using a linear approach to collect information, make a decision and then base other decisions on the first one, information-based teams solve problems continually and combine their findings frequently. Like the medical device companys team, they work in a way that allows them to converge on the best solution. This style of work resembles the “daily-build” method that many software companies use: The code produced by individual programmers is compiled every day so that project leaders can test it for bugs and functions. Problems are reported immediately, and the team knows, on a daily basis, how close it is to its ultimate goal.

By gaining the ability to delay the point when product designs must be “frozen,” information-based teams keep their options open longer and can respond to changes in the market at later stages of the development process. Senior management imposes fewer constraints on these teams than on their conventional counterparts so that they can consider a broader set of solutions; concepts may take longer to develop, but the company ultimately saves time.

Participatory Journalism

A series by JD Lasica. An excerpt:

Whatever the yardstick one uses — a strict definition that says journalism must involve original reporting and an editorial filter, or a broader one that considers travelogues, op-ed commentary and analysis journalism — it’s certain that audience participation in the news equation is on the upswing.

And it’s likely that forms of audience participation will become more widespread once mobile devices such as video-enabled phones — which allow you to transmit text, photos and video directly over the phone — become commonplace.

Participatory journalism generally falls into these broad categories:

1. Audience participation at mainstream news outlets
2. Independent news and information Web sites
3. Full-fledged participatory news sites
4. Collaborative and contributory media sites
5. Other kinds of “thin media”
6. Personal broadcasting sites

It is fascinating to see how a combination of various technologies is changing journalism and how we get news and interact with it.

In my own case, 15 months ago, I was just a consumer of news created by others. Now, I am able to participate by presenting my own selections and views.

Pub-Sub News System

Anand writes:

RSS has been the defacto information/news syndication protocol for the web for quite some time now. It is easy. It is simple. But for one little problem, it is perfect for what it is intended.

It is a bandwidth hog for the webmaster who hosts the RSS file due to the polling nature of the protocol. This may not be immediately visible to the reader but every webmaster who monitors his bandwidth usage knows this to be a problem.

If you scan through the backpages of Comp Sc ( both software and hardware ), Polling as a technique to communicate was always the first method chosen due to the trivial nature of its implemenation. But almost always, It has been replaced by a message box / interrupt driven / event dispatch styled architecture.

Even weblogs.com moved away from a hourly crawling implementation to a clean and much faster XML RPC Ping based approach. So why is still that RSS is dependant on polling ?

I pointed this out in a recent discussion on kottke to which Dave replied by pointing towards this post on the RSS site.

I must admit, This was new to me. Seems like RSS 2.0 indeed can be morphed into a publish / subscribe based news system.

I have been thinking along similar lines – the PubSubWeb is where we are heading.

Berkshire Hathway’s Future

Barron’s writes that Warren Buffet’s magic touch means that his company’s best days lie ahead:

With a market value of $110 billion, Berkshire is the 16th largest company in the stock market…Investors’ biggest worry is over who will succeed Buffett, who turns 73 on Aug. 30 and who many consider the most irreplaceable CEO in the country. His extraordinary business and investment skills have produced a phenomenal 38-year record at Berkshire, during which its stock has risen 4,000-fold from around 18 a share…Buffett owns 31% of Berkshire and his stake is worth over $34 billion.

There’s something about Buffett that makes sellers want to part with their businesses for reasonable prices. A major reason: He takes a hands-off approach to acquired businesses and lets the prior managers stay on to call the shots. As Buffett notes in Berkshire’s annual report, he wants strong management in place at any company he considers buying. Berkshire doesn’t send its own executives to run acquisitions. In fact, its Omaha office employs just 16 people and Buffett draws a salary of just $100,000 annually. Berkshire holders are getting the services of the world’s greatest investor very cheaply. Buffett loves his job; he’s even said that he’d “pay to do it.”

Berkshire’s Class A shares, at about $72,000, are down slightly this year, despite the broad stock-market rally, and haven’t moved much since the end of 1998.

Berkshire holders can take comfort in the company’s financial strength and Buffett’s still-magical touch. Based on Berkshire’s growing earnings and book value, it’s entirely possible that the stock could approach $100,000 by the end of 2004.

TECH TALK: IT’s Future: NYTimes and Gartner

Post-Technology Era

Steven Lohr, writing in the New York Times (republished in the International Herald Tribune), discusses the wider impact on the technology industry:

The industry, according to IBMs Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a strategy executive at International Business Machines Corp., has entered “the post-technology era.” It is not that technology itself no longer matters, he said; but steady advances in chips, disk storage and software mean that the focus is no longer on the technology itself – with its arcane language of processing speeds and gigabytes – but on what people and companies can do with it.

As a result, industry executives and analysts say, the balance of power is shifting away from technology suppliers and toward their corporate customers. At the same time, the use of lower-cost building blocks of computer hardware and software is spreading, making it easier for companies and individuals to share data and work together using industry standards rather than remain dependent on one or two key suppliers.

These trends, they say, point to increased pressure on prices and profits for most technology companies, a good deal for corporate customers and a very tricky time for investors.

Most corporate executives say there is a lot they can do now with technology to give themselves an edge. Glen Salow, chief information officer of American Express Co., sees the recent trends in the industry as working to his advantage.

First, he said, the hard times in the technology business have increasingly meant that big corporate customers hold the upper hand in their dealings with suppliers. That shift, Salow said, has given him not only more bargaining power on price but also more influence in the development of products and services.

With their new power, customers are also pressing for greater flexibility in how they buy computing resources, including paying only for as much product as they use, as if they were buying electricity.

The widespread use of software standards, Salow said, enables the thousands of internal programmers at American Express to build applications almost as if snapping together Lego blocks, reducing the amount of code that has to be written by hand. A result, he said, is that the software for, say, a new credit card offering or a fraud-detection feature can be built and put in use in about two weeks; five years ago, this might have taken six months.

“It all frees you up to take more gambles because each risk is not so costly and you can move a lot faster,” Salow said.

The push toward utility computing, according to Wladawsky-Berger of IBM, fits neatly into his concept of a post-technology era.

“In the last few years,” he said, “the underlying components have become so powerful, reliable and inexpensive that you don’t have to worry so much about the underlying engine, and you can move up to higher-level concerns.”

IT and Business Results

Gartner writes:

The central issue is not technological innovation, as Carr believes, but whether firms can convert IT investments into business results. Innovation alone has never made firms successful. Carr concedes the point when he observes that enterprises investing the most in IT don’t turn in the best performances (we’ve known this for years). Companies that use IT to create business value have integrated business and technology leadership, management discipline, sound processes, and a focus on making the enterprise more effective.

But Carr is also wrong when he contends that IT innovation is winding down. Innovation through electronically enabled services, processes and products has only just begun, and CIOs still need to lead the enterprise forward with risk-managed innovation. Carr goes wrong by equating IT with hardware and networks; rather, the essence of IT is information. Successful firms will use information and IT intelligently and in new ways to solve business problems and create customer value. IT will increase the speed, scale and cost-effectiveness of doing business. So if you want to gain a competitive advantage from IT, focus on two things: first, what the computer conveys and processes the information on customers, suppliers and processes that remains underused and poorly managed and second, better governance between the business and IT sides. With this focus, you can assess IT risks well, and you can execute on good IT investments, whether innovative or otherwise.

Recommendations

  • Manage costs and risks carefully.
  • Integrate business and technology planning and execution.
  • Design IT governance so that business and technology executives share critical decisions and accountabilities.
  • Ensure transparency about who has the power to make decisions and who has accountability.
  • Reinforce the importance of collaborative behavior.
  • Continue building on IT-enabled productivity improvements.
  • Direct new IT investments toward pre-sale, selling and other business processes largely untouched by IT so far.
  • Tomorrow: Leslie Walker and Dan Faber

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