US Small Businesses

INc notes that “a report released by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy last week reveals that 99.7% of the nation’s businesses are small (fewer than 500 employees), 50.1% of the nation’s non-farm sector employees were employed by small businesses in 2000, and that small businesses created 75% of the net new jobs between 1999 and 2000.”

I wonder what the corresponding figures for India would be.

Know Your Presentation Cold

VentureBlog has a tip for entrepreneurs making presentations to venture capitalists: “After sitting in on a very good meeting today, I thought I’d share another presentation tip — know your presentation cold. From the perspective of someone sitting on the other side of the table, it is impressive when an entrepreneur is able to handle questions during a presentation without losing track of where he is in the presentation and without losing momentum in the process of answering the question. It is far more impressive when an entrepreneur is able not only to answer that question but has anticipated that the question will be asked, has a slide that speaks to question, and is able to quickly jump to that slide, answer the questions and jump back to where he was in the presentation. Obviously the answer to any question has to be compelling, whether accompanied by a slide or not, but I always find it telling when an entrepreneur knows his business and his presentation so well that he can answer any question with the aid of an appropriate slide and get right back to where he was without skipping a beat.”

Combatting Spam and Viruses

Considering that I am writing about email and the impact of spam and viruses, it is good to know what Jon Udell does – using a combination of SpamPal, SpamAssassin and SpamBayes.

A broader solution: “There’s been a lot of talk about replacing email with RSS. I don’t buy it. Although I am a huge fan of RSS, and expect it to largely replace email for subscription-related purposes (e.g., mailing lists), I don’t see it as a general solution for ad-hoc person-to-person communication. Nor do I buy the argument that we need to toss SMTP. Obviously, we need to use it in a slightly different way. Of the various proposals floating around, the RMX idea — a DNS-based solution that enables a receiving mail server to verify whether the sender’s IP address is authorized to send from the domain within the sender’s address — seems particularly interesting.”

Business Week’s cover story is on Epidemics. “Combine viruses with the scourge of spam, and you have two heavy anchors dragging on an already sluggish economic ship. Indeed, the virus epidemic may undermine tech’s productivity boost. A new focus on defense could even discourage corporations from making investments in the latest computers and software.”

Adam chimes in: “Email has worn out its utility as a medium. Just as HTTP subsumed FTP (and Gopher!) by becoming wildly popular on the client side by adding some features users wanted, I’m convinced some new protocol will subsume SMTP by becoming wildly popular on the client side by adding some features users need. Automatic whitelists and blacklists and the ability to share who’s considered a spammer with other clients seem to be bare-minimum requirements; auto-classification (and sorting) like POPFile does seems important too. Also useful: a protocol that supports client policy and is easily configurable; auto-extraction of bits like dates and phone numbers and addresses; auto-backups client-side or server-side if desired (better than the lame offline sync mode!); the ability to see a unified view wherever you’re checking your mail from; something like Google search for past mails; and a linking model between from/to’s, subjects, keywords, and dates that makes mail more weblike. And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. The revolution is coming. Better PIMs like Chandler are only part of the solution. A new layer-seven protocol that incorporates policy is needed.”

Smarter RSS Clients

Jon Udell wants “to be pleasantly surprised by an RSS newsreader that notices how I save and organize items from my subscribed feeds. No breakthrough in artificial intelligence is needed to make this happen. We do the pattern recognition ourselves, quite naturally, as we process our information flows. If software paid more attention to what we attend to, and how, there could be more pleasant surprises.”

Come to think of it, there is very little of software-that-learns in our lives.

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Technology Review has an article on MIT’s Roofnet. “a project to create a self-organizing wireless network in which an amorphous, unmanaged collection of cheap Linux computers equipped with Wi-Fi cards collaborate to efficiently route data packets.”

Each computer and roof-mounted antenna at students apartments and MIT buildings is a node on the network and the arrangement in which they are connected to each otherthe topology of the networkis constantly changing. We want to understand how a whole bunch of computers with short-range radios can self-configure a network, forming order out of chaos, says computer science professor Robert Morris, who coordinates the project. The network has now more than 30 nodes in a 4-square kilometer area surrounding the MIT campus. We hope to reach a hundred nodes within a few months, he says.

Asks Reuben: “I have to wonder whether something similar would work in India, of for that matter in any part of the world where there is a reasonable dense population, enough anyways to justify the cost of installation.”

TECH TALK: The Death and Rebirth of Email: Solution Ideas (Part 4)

One of the casualties of the current problems with email has been the email publishing industry. Writes Chris Pirillo: If the world was a perfect place, e-mail publishing would still be a viable model for getting the word out. But marketers and morons (two groups that are far from mutually exclusive) have flooded the space with noise. So now, instead of spending our time on crafting quality content, we waste it with endless bickering. We now have to fight with ISPs, begging them to let our messages pass through without being filtered or flagged. We have to go out of our way to educate anti-spam solutions on our product to make sure we don’t get blacklisted. We have to explain to our subscribers how someone between here and there is possibly blocking the transmission, possibly troubleshooting their software, trying to figure out if there’s a utility that’s keeping them from receiving the stuff they asked for. Ugh.So, how do we surmount these ever-maddening hurdles? [What is] the solution? The Rosetta Stone of online data. RSS.

Concurs John Robb: E-mail publishing is on the ropes. It has been one of the major engines of revenue on the Internet for tens of thousands of legitimate publishers. Who is the white knight that will save the e-mail publishing industry? It should be Microsoft. Here is sobering thought: given Microsoft’s update capability, the company could put a basic RSS reader on 30 million desktops by the end of the year. What a shot in the arm for the publishing world that would be.

The use of RSS in email does not stop with email newsletters. Adam Curry takes the use of blogs, RSS and the publish/subscribe model further: I like this model best because it requires both sides of a conversation to commit to the relationship and simultaneously allows for either side to break it off if desired. Just unsubscribe if you’re on the receiving end, and stop publishing if you’re the sender. Pub/Sub also makes email lists and groups simpler. Just let new subscribers actually subscribe to your message flow!

Vishwanath Gondi summarises Adam Currys idea: I send an email to my mom with a link to a pub/sub outlook plugin and the feed that I publish privately for her. After receiving the email, my mom downloads and clicks on the plugin, which creates her own blog on a server with private pages/feeds for each of her friends. It also automatically subscribes her to her private feed that I publish and creates a folder in outlook. When she sends a mail to one of her friends, it gets sent through smtp and also to her blog. The mail sent through smtp includes the link to plugin and the friends private feed, so it is viral in nature. Other problems like encryption and finding new personal feeds can also be solvedIf this pub/sub model becomes successful, most of the data will reside on the servers. Central can be of help with the client interface because there is very little local data to be stored.

Tomorrow: Solution Ideas (Part 5)

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