Scoble Leaving Microsoft?

SiliconValleyWatcher just posted an article stating that everybody’s favorite blogger and the guy who has done more to bring blogging to the mainstream than any other person is leaving Microsoft and joining Podtech.net.

I don’t know all the facts surrounding Robert’s alleged departure, but I will say that this is a huge loss for Microsoft. Scoble gave Microsoft the sort of blogosphere credibility and influence that simply cannot be replaced at any price.

Since I am sure Microsoft knows that, I have to wonder what this tells us about Microsoft’s view of the relevance and future of blogging?

I wish Scoble the best at his new gig.

As a shareholder, I wish Microsoft had stepped up to the plate and done whatever was needed to keep Scoble in the fold. Instead, Microsoft may have stumbled into another PR mess and certainly just became less relevant in the blogosphere.

Get Your Vista: Public Beta

vista

Microsoft released a “Customer Preview” of Vista today, which is available to the general public. Previously, Vista has been in private beta testing. According to C|Net, Microsoft is still planning a January release.

Casual users beware, Microsoft warns that the beta version is not yet ready for primetime:

“This is beta code and should not be used in a production environment or on a main machine in the home. Beta 2 is intended for developers, IT professionals and technology experts to continue or begin their testing of Windows Vista. Before you decide to use Beta 2, you should feel comfortable with installing operating systems, updating drivers, and general PC troubleshooting. Some risks of using beta operating systems include hardware and software incompatibility and system instability. If you have concerns about installing this beta software on your computer, we encourage you to obtain the final release version of Windows Vista when it is available in 2007.”

I will probably install the beta on one of my extra computers this weekend. If I do, I’ll post the results and my thoughts.

The Anti Microsoft Eat Google Rule?

Google wants to tell the teacher on Microsoft for making its search engine the default search engine in the new version of Internet Explorer.

From the New York Times article:

The move, Google claims, limits consumer choice and is reminiscent of the tactics that got Microsoft into antitrust trouble in the late 1990’s.

Oh please. If this is the best thing Google can think of to tattle about, Google needs to cowboy up.

Ed Bott demonstrates exactly how oppressive it is to poor little Google to have to convince someone to select Google from the already-provided list of other search engines one can select as their alternative default search engine. Basically, a user clicks the box and selects Google. It takes maybe 10 seconds.

Meanwhile in Firefox (which I use as my default browser and which is very chummy with Google), Google is the default search engine. The process to make Microsoft your default search engine is substantially identical to the one used to do the reverse in Internet Explorer.

See Ed’s post for more details and screenshots.

I hope whatever authority figures Google runs to to tell this sad tale of woe laugh Google out of the building and suggest that Google stop crying over nothing.

Somewhere along the way someone decided that since Microsoft was so successful it had to stop trying to be successful. All of this jargon about default search engines and whatnot is merely a poorly disguised campaign to let a bunch of other companies leverage off of Microsoft’s prior successes. Somehow the argument has evolved from “don’t prevent my trains from running” to “I am entitled to sell tickets on your train.”

Even Nick Carr took a break from thinking about how smart he is and how dumb the rest of us are to actually make a very good point that us idjits can actually understand:

If Google wants to fully live up to its ideals – to really give primacy to the goal of user choice in search – it should open up its home page to other search engines. That would be easy to do without mucking up the page or the “user experience.” You could just add a simple drop down menu that would allow users to choose whether to do a search with Google’s engine, or Microsoft’s, or Yahoo’s, or one of the other, less-well-known engines that now exist.

Even us numbskulls can mostly grasp the goose and gander rule.

Anyway, I am no Microsoft apologist (DISCLAIMER: though I am a shareholder). I don’t even use Internet Explorer. But I know the sound of a crying baby, and that’s what I hear coming from Google’s crib.

Vista Versions Made Easy

Ed Bott has a good post and an even better chart that explains the differences in the various versions of the upcoming Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP.

It’s still going to be a little tough to figure out which one to buy for a home/office power user with a network. At first glance, I suspect I’ll buy the Home Premium for the computer attached to our audio video equipment and Professional for the other computers on the network.

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Bott vs Cringely and My Lawyer Newsome Story

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never watched much public television. Yes, I like Austin City Limits. And yes, I love PBS’s children’s shows, which my kids used to watch a lot before they learned about Sponge Bob and Scooby-Doo. But other than the mysteries that used to come on on Thursday nights, which I quit watching when that guy who played such an excellent Sherlock Holmes died, I have watched very little public television.

So I’d never heard of Robert X. Cringely until a few months ago. Apparently he’s a tech writer for PBS. While I’m in confession mode, I didn’t even realize there was one PBS. I thought PBS was a name for the various public television stations around the country who produce those great kids shows and other stuff favored by hybrid drivers and vegetarians.

But I digress.

Ed Bott came out swinging yesterday over an article Cringely wrote that touched on computer security.

It seems that Cringely mischaracterized some comments made by Mike Danseglio, program manager for the Security Solutions group at Microsoft, at the InfoSec World conference. World conference. Why not Universe conference? I know, why not Conference that Encompasses all of Time and Space? World conference. World Series. My old neighbor World B. Free. Names are the tattoos of the needle averse crowd.

Without going into a bunch of detail, Cringely quoted Danseglio as saying that the best way for companies and governments to deal with malware and spyware infestations is to put in place automated processes to wipe clean hard drives and reinstall operating systems and applications periodically.

What?

Has this guy ever even been inside a big corporate office? Does he have any idea how hard that would be to implement? It would require first and foremost a way to backup everything on every computer on the network. And here’s a news flash. Many if not most big companies store emails and documents on central servers. What they do not do is back up the hard drives of every local computer regularly, if at all.

You can’t rely on the desktop users to know how not to open an email from a stranger that says “I Love You,” so you certainly can’t expect them to know to or how to back up their hard drives. You also can’t explain to them why all of their locally stored data disappears every couple of weeks or months.

In sum, that is an unworkable solution for many companies.

To make matters worse, but much more interesting, Ed busts on Cringely for mischaracterizing what Danseglio said. Ed says, and based on what I read at the eWeek article I’d have to agree, that Danseglio said only that a hard drive wipe and reinstall is a last resort against a deeply infected machine. He also said that prevention was the best approach. From the eWeek article:

“The easy way to deal with this is to think about prevention. Preventing an infection is far easier than cleaning up,” he said, urging enterprise administrators to block known bad content using firewalls and proxy filtering and to ensure security software regularly scans for infections.

Ed smacks Cringely around pretty good and concludes:

If it says Cringely, you know it’s wrong.

I also didn’t know that Robert X. Cringely wasn’t this cat’s real name until I read Ed’s post. Why, exactly, does a tech writer for PBS need to pull a Marion Morrison and create a stage name? I am highly suspicious of anyone who isn’t a John Wayne-equivalent who uses an alias. A handle, like The Internet Guy, The Sports Guy or whatnot is fine because nobody believes that’s a given name. But using another name is just too Dragnet for me.

Also, I get really hacked when someone introduces themselves to me using their middle initial. “Hello, I’m Harcourt P. Livingston,” usually results in me going half caveman and half Cher by thumping my chest and saying “Kent” a couple of times.

Some people have like five names. I once met a guy who had five names and was the IVth. We didn’t hang out much.

All of this reminds me of something that happened many years ago in my wife’s hometown. We had been to her parents’ church and were standing around talking outside after the service. Some guy walks up to me and puts out his hand (now remember, this was a social setting) and says “Hello, I am Dr. So-and-so.” I shook his hand and said “Pleased to meet you, I’m lawyer Newsome.”

As I knew he would be, he was offended. My point was made.

Names. You have to love ’em.

Microsoft Onfolio!

Scoble reports that Microsoft has bought Onfolio.

Assuming they didn’t pay nutty money, this is a great acquisition by Microsoft. I am a long time user of Onfolio and have sung its praises here before.

Scoble, please tell your guys to figure out a way to use Onfolio with FolderShare to allow us to synch our Onfolio content across computers, including (and this is important) what RSS feeds have already been read. Stop whatever you’re doing and go tell them that.

My Duke loving pal Buzz Bruggeman is another fan of Onfolio. And while he doesn’t know how to pick a college, he certainly knows good software when he sees it.

I wonder if Onfolio will become a part of One Note or remain a separate program.

JK (my mobile technology guru), want to venture a guess?

Design, RSS and Internet Explorer

Fraser Kelton talked a little bit yesterday about blog design, the memetrackers and the effect of both (or either) on a blog’s RSS subscription count.

rsslogoI’ve been thinking about and actually charting my RSS subscription numbers for a couple of weeks now trying to pattern out where my subscribers are coming from and why they do or don’t stick around. I haven’t arrived at any conclusions yet, but here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

First, My Tragic Template Tale

Fraser was responding in part to a post by Jeff Jarvis bemoaning the limitations of blog templates. In large part I agree with Jeff, but I think that limitation is really a function of the connected structure of the internet itself. By that I mean even if you didn’t use a blogging platform and hand created your web site and all the articles/posts thereon, you’d run into the same problem. Why? Because blogs by definition have to make it easy and efficient for search engines, other blogs and desired web applications to easily mine them for data.

For example, blog platforms have to know where to put and not put new posts, old posts and other content so the Technoratis, Googles and memetrackers can identify new content, index it and extract the relevant portions. I’m sure if you were a code writing guru you could accomplish just about anything you wanted as far as your blog template goes, but if you went too far into uncharted territory, none of the search engines could find your content. Those of us who have had problems getting indexed correctly by Technorati are exhibits aplenty for this proposition.

But there are other problems related to blog templates that make me crazy. My blog template is the result of hours and hours of work, both by me and a CSS-guru friend of mine. We worked very hard to get the 3 column layout to work the way I want it to. Now it does. But as a result I am highly resistant to any major changes to my template, because of the resulting change to the look and feel of my website. So I am a slave to my template in that regard. But that’s only because I like it.

There’s an even bigger problem.

Because of my occasional partial RSS-feed problem that I can’t get anyone at Bloglines to address, much less fix (and it happens to other people as well) and because there is some evidence that the problem is caused by Blogger, who I use to publish, but not host, Newsome.Org, I have been in the process of trying to move over to WordPress. Another friend of mine is helping me do that- the biggest hurdle being the mandate to preserve the prior posts, comments and look and feel.

Well guess what? We can design a template that looks just like this one. In fact we (by we I really mean he) have already done so. The problem arises when we try to import my old content. Because of naming conventions and other problems, it is very hard to do. We’ll probably figure it out, but it’s a lot harder than it ought to be.

Porting blog content around should be easier. There need to be standards here, and as of now there are not.

Now About Those Subscribers

I have not been able to fully pattern out my subscriber situation.

But one thing I know, which supports Fraser’s Internet Explorer theory, is that I get a lot more web traffic than I do RSS traffic. Probably 10 times more, though the numbers fluctuate wildly.

By fluctuate wildly, I mean my subscriber count goes up and down, sometimes by hundreds in a matter of a day or two. Maybe this is normal, but sometimes, for no apparent reason, my count goes up or down by the hundreds. The overall trend is up at a good rate, but the chart looks like a day traders’ dream.

I also know that when I get linked by one of the mega-blogs, like Steve, Scoble, Doc or Hugh, my subscription numbers spike way up and then recede like a wave. Not all the way back, but I estimate that I lose over 50% of my new subscribers within a week after the link. I don’t know if that’s just me or if this is representative of a larger trend.

My web site traffic spikes when I get a link from a mega-blog too. But it recedes even more. I often lose over 75% of my web traffic spike over the following week.

Maybe this means I can’t write or that my blog is boring, but, again, the overall trend is very positive. My numbers are growing very steadily. But it’s a pretty wild ride if you believe the charts- like riding a bucking bronc up bloggers hill.

Obviously, the answer to part of the web traffic loss is that the hurdle to an RSS subscription is higher, but retention is probably greater, since you have to elect to unsubscribe. On the other hand the hurdle for a web visit is very low (merely a click) but there is no subscription to automatically bring you back. Plus, almost all of the RSS subscribers come first via a web link and won’t need to come back that way once they subscribe to the RSS feed.

But it’s still a wild ride.

My Conclusions

Nothing particularly mind-bending, but here they are:

1) A lot more people visit my blog via a web browser than via an RSS feed.

2) Web browser visitors are less likely to return.

3) Mega-blog links provide significant traffic spikes (thanks guys, please keep them coming).

4) Well over half of the mega-blog traffic spike melts away within a week.

5) A link from a big but not mega blog that shares your target audience will result in more long-term growth than a link from a mega-blog that doesn’t.

What this tells me, of course, is that getting to the top of bloggers hill takes more than a link from a mega-blog. It takes a regular flow of links from both mega-blogs and other blogs that share a similar target audience and content that attracts that traffic back to your content.