Link from Corante’s Premium Blend

Corante’s Premium Blend has a reference to my ongoing Tech Talk Series: “Rajesh Jain takes an interesting look back at what the top minds in tech were pushing five, ten years ago.”

They’ve used the Related Entries link rather innovatively (we just added this yesterday), so that it gives the links to all my relevant Tech Talks on a single page.

India Today article on Blogs

India Today (September 23 issue) has an article (not yet available online) entitled “The Blogs are Coming”. From what I can tell, this is the first blogging-related article in the mainstream Indian press. Its written by Nidhi Taparia Rathi [her blog].

The article has a small mention of Emergic: “And then there is Rajesh Jain, CEO, Emergic, a software solutions start-up, for whom blogging is business. He maintains a blog on emerging technologies underlining business plans of his own startup and also finding valuable business feedback from his readers.”

The first sentence has 3 errors:
– I am Managing Director, Netcore Solutions Pvt Ltd. Emergic is the name of the blog and my vision for cost-effective technology solutions.
– Netcore is not a start-up, it is 4+ years old.
– Blogging is not yet business for me or Netcore. It is more a way to (a) build a personal knowledge management system of all that I’ve read and liked so I can find them again later (b) share my ideas and get feedback on them (the second sentence is quite accurate, except for the startup bit).

Two additional thoughts (more generally):

– when mainstream publications write on technology, they invariably make errors. It would be nice if they could run the quote or the relevant excerpt with the subject so as not to make factual errors (the journalist is entitled to his/her opinion, but at least, let us get facts right). I have seen this happen to me on more than a few occasions. All it requires is a quick phone call or a short email. The final prerogative on what to write still rests with the writer and the magazine.

– an article like the one on blogging needs URLs – either with the websites mentioned, or perhaps separately in a sidebar. Rather than waste so much of space on the fancy graphics which serve little purpose, it would have been better to give 8-10 URLs of good blogs and blogging tools/sites.

Nevertheless, a good effort. One thing about India Today: they are always the earliest in India with the trends of tomorrow.

100 Days Ago

I have added a section in the right column entitled “100 Days Ago”. This links to my blog posts from the past. It is interesting to see what I was thinking a quarter ago. For example, as I was writing yesterday on the desktop, I found a reference to a post on June 6 (100 days ago) on “A New Desktop“. The similarity in thinking was quite uncanny, even though I had approached the same issue from a different angle.

One of the things blogs are not good yet good at is extracting similar past posts. The Related Entries that we’ve done is a good start, but quite primitive, and requires me to manually give a set of keywords. Blogs capture ongoing thinking, and so it is necessary to be able to put posts in context, provide the bigger picture. Blogs currently have only two navigation parameters: time (calendar) and categories.

Would be good to create “Blog Maps” or more approrpiately, Mind Maps, which show how thinking may have evolved over time, or even the type of posts that one has been doing over time.

Related Entries Feature

We’ve added a neat feature to the blog: the “Related Entries” at the end of some of the posts. When I am entering a post, I can assign some keywords in the Movable Type “Excerpt” box. Our software does a search and then takes the top 4 entries which match the post and posts them as Related Entries. For example, see the Related Entries below for the words “blog enhancements”.

What I like about this is that it allows (a) to easily link to other related posts from my blog, and (b) more importantly, chain posts together. When blogging, one writes as a continuing story – like a soap opera unfolding daily. The Related Entries allows me to link up threads so a reader can also see what else I’ve said on a similar topic earlier.

To enhance this threading and linkages, we’ve also added “Prev/Next” links from the individual entries (try doing a search, and click on one of the entries). We have, in addition, added links to “Prev/Next” posts in the same category also.

Continue reading Related Entries Feature

Public and Private Spaces

Jon Udell has a comment on a point made by Ray Ozzie of Groove who says: “I’m pondering what it will mean if I begin to post my thoughts here in public, as opposed to using Groove-internal blogs/sts/notes/groove spaces. Forcing myself to partition internal vs. external on a daily basis would truly be a mindset change… ”

Writes Udell: “There are many voices telling your story every day on the Internet. Telling it yourself, in your own words, helps make sure it gets done right…People increasingly expect that blogs are avatars that represent us in cyberspace…As a practical matter, flowing some of that which is not necessarily secret to a blog should not cost anybody more time or effort. It’s really a redirection of thoughts and keystrokes that are happening anyway into a venue that can have much wider impact — while also including audiences privy to internal communication.”

I fully agree. This is what this blog does. I put out our thinking and what we are doing in the company. I am not worried about someone else replicating that thinking – its well-nigh impossible to live through what I have in the past year or so. What we do is an outcome of our reading, thinking and experiences. In fact, blogging about one’s ideas in public also helps others who may have similar thoughts connect to us. For small companies willing to “open-source” themselves, blogs are a great way to get into the radar screens of people who matter.

Movable Type Trackback

Writes Dan Gillmor on an interesting new feature becoming available in MovableType (the software I used to write this blog): “TrackBack — this is about peer-to-peer communications connecting a) blog entry to blog entry; b) category to category; or c) entry to category. The idea is a threaded view of blog conversations — an automated and explicit equivalent to referrer log tracking. It generates RSS, which means you could use it to start one entry, a root distributed over several blogs and build a threaded conversation across a bunch of blogs.”

Need to understand this more, and also implement as part of this blog.

Blog Enhancements

Recent developments on my blog:

– Have added 20 months of archives of my Tech Talk columns (since November 2000). A full listing is available on the Tech Talk category page (in reverse chronological order).
– Have also added 20-odd columns on the Internet I wrote during 1997-98. You will need to search for “Net.Columns” to access those.
– Missing: the Internauting series I wrote for Express Computer in 1995-96. The electronic versions no longer exist on IndiaWorld and have also been deleted from the Google cache (had seen them there a few months ago, should have taken a copy!)
– Added Google Box to provide contextual links to a post
– Made the monthly pages as links to the stories rather than thefull posts, so its possible to get a quick glance at all the posts easily
– Search now covers all the posts. We have now put each post on a separate page, so search will take one directly to the post (rather than the day on which it appeared). Am finding this very useful to refer to some of my older posts.
– Have started a daily email service (see in the right column). So, now you can subscribe for the daily updates (its free!!).
– Have streamlined the Category pages so that the first 20 posts show in full, and more posts show up as links. The pages were getting too long, otherwise.
– Each of the categories also has its own RSS feed which you can subscribe to.

Next on the list of ideas:

– to put up daily reports on site traffic (automatically, at the end of the day)
– to do referer log analysis and add “backlinks”
– upgrade perhaps to the new MovableType (v2.2), which has support for “Trackback”

– to add a capability to link to related posts, so that I can easily provide the context and additional reading. I can do the same today, but it is too much effort. I have in the past two-and-a-half months done nearly 400 posts (an average of 5 a day). Add to that the Tech Talks and it totals about 800. So, there’s plenty of background material to link to within the site itself. Ideas don’t age easily. In fact, reading some of the older posts is very helpful because sometimes, we drill down too much and miss out elements of the bigger picture.

– see if we can enhance the Htdig search provide entries reverse chronologically
– to make a glossary so that first-timers can understand terms like RSS and Weblog
– become an Amazon Affiliate so I can provide links for purchase
– think of innovative ways on the content side eg. Book Blog. Also, take a relook at the BlogDaily concept. There are some ideas here.

Blog Update: Categories Added

I have added Categories to the blog – there is a list of categories in the panel on the right. I have also classified the previous 250+ blog posts into categories. Currently, each post belongs to a single category. This should make it easier to understand my thinking since its possible to get related posts together. At the end of each post, it gives the Category it belongs it.

Among the next few enhancements we are working on:
– making the monthly archives page into an outline (listing of Titles) so that its possible to see all the entries for the month at a glance
– see if it is possible to link the category at the end of the blog post to the Category page
– enhancing the Search so that it takes you directly to the post rather than the date on which the post appears; also make the search entries show up reverse chronologically (newest first)
– adding a Google Box so I can provide additional links to a topic I may have written about
– adding the Tech Talk archives into the Blog, so that I can reference them individually and they become part of the site search engine also

Blog Enhancements

Over the next few days, we will put up some of the enhancements we have been working in (through software) for this blog. One of them is making the monthly pages as outlines to give a quick glimpse of all the postings at-a-glance. This will make it easier to search for some of the older postings, especially for me!

A few other ideas:
– creating to listserv so that the daily updates can be emailed to people (no need to remember to visit everyday!)
– adding a GoogleBox to show the top 10 links to emergic and perhaps other keyword searches (like in Jon Udell’s blog in the right column)
– showing access statistics every day in a blog post which is created at the end of the day. This way everyone knows how many people are reading and where people come from
– extend this “referer log” analysis to take it to the blog post level, and provide “backlinks” for each post (to provide an idea of who has linked to a specific post)

The aim is to over time build a “second-generation blog”, which combines many new ideas which we have seen around the blog world.

Personally, a big change in how I read is about to happen: we have built our own RSS Aggregator which can post to MovableType. We are also building (as part of the BlogStreet project) a blog categorisation engine with neighbourbood analysis. Now, we intend to add for each blog a link to its RSS feed, thus allowing a one-click subscription of the feed into my RSS aggregator. This completes the flow:
– I can search BlogStreet for interesting blogs
– I can add the blogs I like to my RSS feed
– The RSS Aggregator helps me view many items from various feeds on a single page, thus increasing the quantum of information I can process
– Post an item from the aggregator to my blog

This is the foundation of the Digital Dashboard. Next few steps:
– be able to make this entire flow a “service” so others can create their blogs
– enable it to work within the enterprise (as part of the Thick Server)
– create a super-RSS Aggregator to collect feeds
– build a search engine by “post” for the feeds (current and archives)
– enable subscriptions to the feeds
– enable filters to search all feeds (and not just the ones one has subscribed to). This is like the “subject-based addressing” concept as part of the publish-subscribe mechanism.

So, one can now imagine a “Blog Bus” where all blog entries are flowing (getting published) and there are “agents” for each of us, scanning these feeds and filtering them based on what we like (either by the source of the feed or its contents) and then posting them to personal RSS aggregators. From there, we can browse through the items and decide which we want to post on our multiple blogs (each of which may have multiple catgeories). Each blog publishes its own RSS feed which flows back into the system.

Take this a little further. The “Blog Bus” becomes an “Information Bus” with the entries being posted no longer limited to just blog entries from within and outside the enterprise, but any kind of “events”, coming from different sources like calendars, mail, enterprise software applications, and other programs. The rest of the system (RSS Aggregator and Blogs) is the same. What we now have is the Digital Dashboard for the enterprise. [Also see my recent post: RSS, Blogs and Events.]

This will dramatically change the way we process information. The best part of this is that it is all built on standards. Anyone can create an RSS feed from content they have. It is like the early days of the Web when HTML revolutionised publishing. What RSS will now change is the way information consumption.