5 of the Now

Do you ears need something fresh? Here are 5 I picked out from the local farmer's market of music.

Bonus Track
Eric Prydz vs. Pink Floyd - Proper Education This might fade quickly once I've heard the whole thing, but from the sample, I'm feeling it. I'm really curious to see what a certain friend will say about the inclusion of Pink Floyd.


Unified Communication Highlights

Bill Gates. Some hate him, some love him. I find him to be a sharp guy and consistent in his grasp of where the tech industry is heading.

On Monday, Bill sent out an email detailing his thoughts on Unified Communications. It's a good read and I highly recommend you check it out. You'll find overlap with previous posts here on Thoughts Abound, but Bill has a lot of good survey detail to strengthen his position. Here are the keepers I pulled.

"A decade’s worth of software innovation has transformed the workplace and empowered information workers to do their jobs with greater speed, effectiveness and intelligence. But communicating with colleagues and sharing information is still far too complicated."

Along with systems that don't talk to each other, part of the problem is lack of adoption of the various communication methods company wide. Instant Messaging is quite valuable but loses value as the people you need to talk with end up on other networks and clients. Solutions, like Jabber, exist to help, but in general, people aren't yet familiar with them.

"The irony is that rather than making it easier to reach people, the proliferation of disconnected communications devices often makes it more difficult and more time consuming."

You IM client can tell you when someone is away, but how many times do you send messages like "Are you there", even when you see they are Available? The Available indicator needs to be smarter. Is the person on the phone? Is someone in their cube? Do they appear to be deep within an email reply?

"Our goal is to integrate all of the ways we contact each other in a single environment, using a single identity that spans phones, PCs and other devices."

I know I'm wearing this post out, but I can't help but point to my post on communication identity when that's exactly what we are talking about. Sadly, I'm not sure Microsoft can convince people that they should be the single communication identity. Do you remeber Passport? That was about logging in. This goes a step further. They definitely have a challenge ahead of them.

"To get an idea of what the unified communications world will look like, watch the young people in your organization—particularly the ones who are fresh out of college."

Work extends to the home and personal life extends in to the work day. I fear that many companies look down on IM because "it's for chatting with friends and wasting time". That may be true and should certainly be curbed, but we can't let it be absent from our communication identity.


Care to Comment?

Today's thoughts are about online discussions. BBSes and USENET are the granddaddies of online discussion. They've since given way to web boards, blog sites with comments, and Google Groups. These might seem like different beasts, but the common thread amongst them is they are...

  • Usually Short

  • Topical and Specific

  • Conversational

Blog comments are just like message board topics, only the commenters don't get to start the thread. That honor resides with the blogger.

Web boards are big. You need not go any further than Big-Boards to see that online forums are a huge deal. You'll see single boards with hunderds of millions of posts. You can find a board for whatever floats your boat. Cars, computers, kids, they're all there.

Blog sites are the hot thing right now. Slashdot has enjoyed success for quite some time, but recently it has had to share the playground with Engadget, Digg, and Gizmodo. The problem with the newcomers is their comment systems suck. Engadget is a mess, even with their recent improvements. They still lack threading, moderation, and identity. These are all things that Slashdot has had for years and the reason I still visit there. Plenty will complain about the poor editing at Slashdot. Slashdot isn't about the stories. Slashdot is about the comments. The stories are just there to get people kicked off. Engadget claims to have a new comment system in the works. I'm quite curious to see what they bring. An innovative comment system might be enough to pull posters away from Slashdot.

So what's an innovative comment system? This would be a system that solves many of the problems with comment systems today.

  • Comment spam, which leads to captchas

  • Trolling

  • First Post

  • Whether you can edit a comment or not

  • Offtopic and downright disruptive comments

  • Requirement to join a site to comment

  • Username overlap

  • Conversations without a critical mass

  • Poster reputation

Quality of posts is a large concern. Mark Cuban has a very successful blog site. His posts have a critical mass of commenters, but recently, during the NBA playoffs, the noise in the comments grew to a deafing roar and made Mr. Cuban turn off comments completely,
"For the record, Im not turning on comments, they have devolved to the point where they add no value."
This is very sad as the comments on his posts had good people posting interesting and informative things. Will comments come back to Blog Maverick? Maybe, but take a look at this post to see why comments were turned off.

Sites that allow comments have come up with many ways to build poster reputation. You can see post counts, "star" ratings, whether the poster has friends or foes, moderator status, and on and on. The problem is, the systems each have their own touch and they are specific to that site. Blogger has a moderation system, sort of. Their moderation consists of letting the blogger approve or disapprove comments. That's not a moderator, that's a censor.

As you know, I'm big on identity. I want a comment system where I can take my identity with me from site to site. For instance, you can read through the various Apple computer boards and see conversations from a common username. This could be the same person, but then again it might not be. If I trust (or don't trust) the content coming from that person, why don't I have the ability to apply that trust to things they say on other sites?

Ezboard has the best identity of comment systems on the net. They actually do have accounts that can be used across boards within their community. They are currently working on their next generation, Yuku system. Yuku will add blorums. Blorums are a blog and forum in one. What does that mean? Well, it sure sounds like comments on a blog post, but organized a little better, and hopefully with a critical mass to make discussion worthwhile. While it is nice that Ezboard and Yuku let you maintain one account across multiple forums, I want the reverse as well. I want multiple sites to be able to participate in a single conversation.

I'd say that most blogs, like this one, lack the critical mass necessary to have a meaningful conversation. 1 or 2 comments saying "I agree" or "this is a good post" stroke the ego of the blogger, but don't do much to encourage discourse. What if the brilliant minds (and venture capital) of the web got together and made a way for connecting the small conversations in to larger ones. This would be a bit like TrackBack, but perhaps with some AJAX yumminess to make it easier to use and manage.

I want a YouTube style drop-in for comments. I don't want to install and run my own message board. For awhile I ran a YABB board. It was ok, until it ran for a few months and then had critical vulnerabilities that could be exploited. I don't have time to keep up with the content on sites I run and visit. You think I have time to sysadmin my own board too? That's one of the reasons blogs are so popular. I get automatic site creation and integrated comment handling for free. People have abandoned useful websites for the convenience of blogs. Blogging software exists to integrate with your owned domains, but what about those folks that don't own a domain, and don't even know what owning a domain means? Perhaps Google will spin off a Google Discussion out of Google Groups. Insert a discussion ID in your web page and instant managed comments. This would allow for the added benefit of cross-site identity and opportunities for moderation that isn't site specific.

Of course, there is a downside to identity and single sign-on. People like to be anonymous. Sometimes it's because they want to be a jerk. Sometimes they don't want their online life tied to their real life job. Sometimes they just want to be someone else online as an escape. This means people might have to be a little more careful about what they say and to who they say it. Is that a bad thing though? If you wouldn't say it in real life, should you be saying it online? Just because you can hide on the net, is it ethical and moral to do so?

Finally, we have the evil hacker angle. The stronger the identity you build on the web, the easier it is to learn things about you that can be used to socially engineer you, attack your computer, or even steal your identity, offline or otherwise.

Now, as you digest what I've said and decide whether to comment or not, think about all of the crap you will deal with if you do comment. You'll have to login. You'll have to use whatever tools Blogger has allowed you for communicating your ideas. You'll have to enter a captcha (I was getting too much comment spam). You comment will sit along side a handful of other comments (at most) and fade with time in to search-only land and your friends and fans won't know you've even said anything unless you link them here or they already happen to be here.



They Blue Through That File

We still aren't talking LoCps (Libraries of Congress per second), but I had a chance to do a Bluetooth 2.0 file transfer live and in person and was impressed. The test consisted of two MacBooks using object push.

The test file was about 16 meg and I saw sustained transfer rates over 100KBps.

These rates are more than double any speeds I ever saw with Bluetooth 1.1. You still wouldn't want to use Bluetooth for ripping DVDs, but I think it is plenty fast for occasional file transfer and light syncing duties. Just remember, you probably spent time connecting to the Internet with a 56Kb (bit not byte) modem and while slow, you loved it.


Is the Game On?

In a little more than a day, FIFA World Cup 2006 will kick off. If you are reading this from the US, you are probably thinking so what?. The rest of the world knows what's up and will spend much of the next month watching the games.

There are 64 games. So how's a soccer fan to know when to watch? Well, you can view the schedule on the web at the official Yahoo! site, but who wants to do that? Microsoft will help you load the schedule in to Outlook with an .exe (why an .exe?). If you are a regular reader, you know what's coming next... where is the iCalendar schedule!

The official site lets you down, no .ics to be found. I could have rolled my own, but that's silly when the power of the Internet fills the void. With a few minutes of searching, I found multiple sources ready to load in to iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook, or whatever your favorite calendaring app is.

Truefan serves up an .ics for you. Too bad they don't know anything about MIME types. Worldcupkickoff does better.



5 of the Now