From Greg Reinacker we find out that Newsgator Acquires FeedDemon and Nick Bradbury confirms this in his post NewsGator Acquires FeedDemon, TopStyle...and Me!. I think this is a great acquisition for Newsgator. Acquisitions are usually about getting great people, key technology or lots of users. With this acquisition Newsgator gets all three although it'll be interesting seeing how they manage to deal with rationalizing the existence of two desktop clients even if one of them is a Microsoft Office Outlook plugin.

I think this will have an interesting ripple effect on the aggregator market. Both Nick & Greg have already raised the bar for RSS readers to include synchronization with a web-based aggregator. Desktop aggregators that don't do this will eventually be left in the dust. So far Newsgator Online and Bloglines have been the premiere web-based aggregators but its been difficult building applications that synchronize with them. Newsgator Online doesn't seem to have any public documentation about their API while the Bloglines API is not terribly useful for synchronization.

This definitely puts pressure on Bloglines to provide a richer API since two of the most popular desktop aggregators on the Windows platform will now have a richer synchronization story with its most notable competitor. It also puts pressure on other desktop aggregators to figure out a strategy for their own synchronization stories. For example, I had planned to add support for synchronizing with both services in the Nightcrawler release of RSS Bandit but now it is unclear whether there is any incentive for Newsgator to provide an API for other RSS readers. Combining this with the fact that the Bloglines API isn't terribly rich means I'm between a rock and a hard place when it comes to providing synchronization with a web-based aggregator in the next version of RSS Bandit.

Sometimes I wonder whether my energies wouldn't be better spent convincing Steve Rider to let me hack an API for :)


It was announced at E3 this week that XBox 360 will be backwards compatible with the original XBox. My good friend, Michael Brundage, was the dev for this feature. Read about XBox Backwards Compatibility from the horses mouth. My favorite quote from his article is

The first impression you should get is that these numbers are fantastic for high-definition Xbox 360 games. Wow! But on further reflection, they're not so good for emulating Xbox games at 30 fps. On my 1.25GHz G4 PowerBook, VPC 7 emulates a 295MHz x86 processor -- so the emulator is more than 4 times faster than the machine it's emulating. So most people look at these numbers and conclude that Xbox backwards compatibility can't be done.

Then there are a few people who understand emulators at a very technical level, or understand both Xbox systems inside and out to an expert level of detail that I'm not about to go into here. They perform more sophisticated calculations using the Art of Software Engineering, but ultimately reach the same conclusions as those not skilled in the Art: Backwards compatibility can't be done. [One such skeptic interviewed me for my current job, and pointedly asked during the interview how I planned to handle the project's certain future cancellation.]

And yet, here it is. It's magic!

Last year I got to meet J Allard and one of the questions I asked was about backwards compatibility in the next version of the XBox. He gave the impression that they wanted to do it but it would be a very difficult task. I would never have guessed that Mr. XQuery would be the one to get the job done.

Great job, Michael.


Categories: Technology

James Snell posted IBM's blogging guidelines today in his post Blogging@IBM. Some have heralded this as another triumph for corporate blogging, I'm, not so sure this is the case. The particular sticking points for me are the following

2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time -- protect your privacy.

3. Identify yourself -- name and, when relevant, role at IBM -- when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.

Basically IBM states in these two bullet points that blogging isn't a way for IBM as a corporate entity to engage in conversation with its customers, partners and competitors. Instead its a way for regular people to talk about their lives including their work. What IBM seems to have done is give its employees permission to state that they work for IBM, and recommended that its employees post a disclaimer. For people like Sam Ruby of IBM, this is actually a step back since he now has to post a disclaimer on his personal weblog.

As I mentioned in a comment on Sam Ruby's blog I guess I must be tainted by Microsoft where product teams use blogs to announce features (e.g. the IE team) or engage in conversations with customers about product pricing (e.g. a conversation and its results). Simply giving your employees permission to mention their employer in their personal blogs doesn't a corporate blogging initiative make. In addition, the position that one has to give employees permission to state where they work if communicating in public is also rather startling.

Why I like blogging as a Microsoft employee is that it allows me to have conversations with our customers, partners and competitors. It isn't just me spouting off about my likes and dislikes, it is a way to communicate to our customers and partners. I've lost count of the amount of times I've referred people to posts like What Blog Posting APIs are supported by MSN Spaces? or Why You Won't See XSLT 2.0 or XPath 2.0 in the Next Version of the .NET Framework. Posts like these led to interesting conversations both internally and externally to Microsoft and informed our decision making processes. Additionally, our customers also appreciated the fact that we are up front with them about our plans and kept them in the loop.

I think communications via "official channels" and "company spokesmen" pales in comparison to the various conversations I've mentioned above. IBM has taken the first step towards accepting corporate blogging. Hopefully, they'll eventually go all the way.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

Stan Kitsis, who replaced me as the XML Schema program manager on the XML team, has a blog post about XInclude and schema validation where he writes

A lot of people are excited about XInclude and want to start using it in their projects.  However, there is an issue with using both XInclude and xsd validation at the same time.  The issue is that XInclude adds xml:* attributes to the instance documents while xsd spec forces you to explicitly declare these attributes in your schema.  Daniel Cazzulino, an XML MVP, blogged about this a few months ago: "W3C XML Schema and XInclude: impossible to use together???"

To solve this problem, we are introducing a new system.xml validation flag AllowXmlAttributes in VS2005.  This flag instructs the engine to allow xml:* attributes in the instance documents even if they are not defined in the schema.  The attributes will be validated based on their data type.

This design flaw in the aforementioned XML specifications is a showstopper that prevents one from performing schema validation using XSD on documents that were pre-processed with XInclude unless the schema designer decided up front that they want their format to be used with XInclude. This is fundamentally broken. The sad fact is that as Norm Walsh pointed out in his post XInclude, xml:base and validation this was a problem the various standards groups were aware of but decided to dump on implementers and users anyway. I'm glad the Microsoft XML team decided to take this change and fix a problem that was ignored by the W3C standards groups involved. 


Categories: XML

From the press release Microsoft Delivers Powerful Upgrade to Desktop Search Capability for Windows Customers we find out

The MSN® network of Internet services today launched the new MSN Search Toolbar with Windows® Desktop Search, a suite of tools that helps people rapidly search across the Web or their PC and provides easy access to world-leading MSN services. The final version of the MSN Search Toolbar includes free enhancements for Windows® 2000 and Windows XP customers, providing a dramatically upgraded desktop search experience. These new innovations for Windows customers will make it easier than ever to find and retrieve documents, e-mail, images, video and more on their Windows-based personal computers.

"By offering the most integrated desktop search capabilities for Windows, now people can search their PC as fast as they can search the Web," said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for the MSN Information Services & Merchant Platform division at Microsoft. "The new MSN Search Toolbar makes it easy for customers to find precisely what they're looking for, no matter where it resides."

The MSN Search Toolbar, available for free download today at, enables people to conveniently search their desktops from within familiar applications they use every day -- including Microsoft Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office Outlook® -- combining the one-step ease of a Web search with the richness and power of the PC environment.

I was a bit confused by some aspects of this release. One of the reasons for this is that, and all have different content. It looks like the various toolbar related subdomains are now deprecated in favor of

As mentioned in my post from last year, Some Thoughts On the MSN Toolbar Suite Beta, the main feature I use is desktop search within Microsoft Office Outlook®. I notice that there has been one nice improvement in this feature; the inclusion of a preview pane for search results. This is very useful for skimming through mail messages returned by the search engine without having to open multiple mails. Even cooler is that the preview pane supports lots of different file types not just mail. Sweet.

One interesting data point is that at around the same time the MSN Search team blogged about adding tabbed browsing to Internet Explorer in a future release, the Internet Explorer team announced that IE 7 will have tabbed browsing. It looks like one way or another I'm going to get tabbed browsing in Internet Explorer in the near future.


Categories: MSN

In his post Reconsidering blogrolls (and what the heck are "folks", anyway?) Uche Ogbuji writes

In Shelley Powers entries "Ms Pancake" and "Let’s keep the Blogroll and throw away the writing", I've learned that there is some controversy about blogrolls. When I threw together Copia I tossed in a blogroll, which was just a random list of blogs I read. I hardly worried that the list would grow too long because I have limited time for reading blogs.

Shelley's posts made me think about the matter more carefully. To draw the basic lesson out of the long and cantankerous points in her blog entries (and comments), a blog is about communication, and in most cases communication within a circle (if an open and, one hopes, expanding one). Based on that line of thinking, Chime and I had a discussion and thought it would be best if rather than having a "blogroll" list of blogs we read, we had a list of other Weblogs with which we have some more direct and reciprocal connection. This includes people with whom we've had personal and professional relationships, and also people who have taken the time to engage us here on Copia. There is still some arbitrariness to this approach, and there is some risk of turning such a listing into the manifestation of a mutual back-slapping club, but it does feel more rightly to me. We do plan to post an OPML as a link on the page template, so people can check out what feeds we read (if they care); this feels the right compromise to me.

I was going to write a lengthy counterargument to the various posts by Shelley Powers about blogrolls then wondered whether the reason I even cared about this was that her writing had convinced Uche Ogbuji to drop me from his blogroll? Wouldn't I then be justifying some of the arguments against blogrolls? It's all so confusing...

While I'm still trying to figure this out, you should read Shelley's original post, Steve Levy, Dave Sifry, and NZ Bear: You are Hurting Us and see whether you think the arguments against blogrolls are as wrong as I think they are.


Today I was reading a blog post by Dave Winer entitled Platforms where he wrote

It was both encouraging and discouraging. It was encouraging because now O'Reilly is including this vital topic in its conferences. I was pitching them on it for years, in the mid-late 90s. It should have been on the agenda of their open source convention, at least. It was discouraging, because with all due respect, they had the wrong people on stage. This is a technical topic, and I seriously doubt if any of the panelists were actually working on this stuff at their companies. We should be hearing from people who are actually coding, because only they know what the real problems are.

I was recently thinking the same thing after seeing the attendance list for the recent O'Reilly AJAX Summit. I was not only surprised by the people who I expected to see on the list but didn't but also by who they did decide to invite. There was only one person from Google even though their use of DHTML and IXMLHttpRequest is what started the AJAX fad. Nobody from Microsoft even though Microsoft invented DHTML & IXMLHttpRequest and has the most popular web browser on the planet. Instead they have Anil Dash talk about the popularity of LiveJournal and someone from Technorati talk about how they plan to jump on the AJAX bandwagon.

This isn't to say that some good folks weren't invited. One of the guys behind the Dojo toolkit was there and I suspect that toolkit will be the one to watch within the next year or so. I also saw from the comments in Shelley Powers's post, Ajax the Manly Technology, that Chris Jones from Microsoft was invited. Although it's good to see that at least one person from Microsoft was invited, Chris Jones wouldn't be on my top 10 list of people to invite. As Dave Winer stated in the post quoted above, you want to invite implementers to technical conferences not upper management.

If I was going to have a serious AJAX summit, I'd definitely send invites to at least the following people at Microsoft.

  1. Derek Denny-Brown: Up until a few weeks ago, Derek was the development lead for MSXML which is where IXMLHttpRequest comes from. Derek has worked on MSXML for several years and recently posted on his blog asking for input from people about how they'd like to see the XML support in Internet Explorer improve in the future.

  2. Scott Isaacs: The most important piece of AJAX is that one can modify HTML on the fly via the document object model (DOM) which is known by many as DHTML. Along with folks like Adam Bosworth, Scott was one of those who invented DHTML while working on Internet Explorer 4.0. Folks like Adam Bosworth and Eric Sink have written about how significant Scott was in the early days of DHTML.  Even though he no longer works on the browser team, he is still involved with DHTML/AJAX as an architect at MSN which is evidenced by sites such as and

  3. Dean Hachamovitch: He runs the IE team. 'nuff said.

I'd also tell them that the invitations were transferrable so in case they think there are folks that would be more appropriate to invite, they should send them along instead.

It's kind of sad to realize that the various invite-only O'Reilly conference are just a way to get the names of the same familiar set of folks attached to the hot new technologies as opposed to being an avenue to get relevant people from the software industry to figure out how they can work together to advance the state of the art.


Categories: Technology

A few months ago Robert Scoble wrote a post titled Yahoo announces API for its search engine where he asked

Seriously. Blogs are increasing noise to lots of searches. We already have good engines that let you search blogs (Feedster, Pubsub, Newsgator, Technorati, and Bloglines all are letting you search blogs). What about an engine that lets you search everything BUT blogs? Where's that?

Is Yahoo's API good enough to do that? It doesn't look like it. It looks like Yahoo just gave us an API to embed its search engine into our applications. Sigh. That's not what I want. OK, MSN, your turn. Are you gonna really give us an API that'll let us build a custom search engine and let us have access to the variables that determine the result set?

The first question Robert asks is hard but you can take shortcuts to get approximate results. How do you determine what a blog is? Do you simply exclude all results from LiveJournal, Blogspot and MSN Spaces? That would exclude millions of blogs but it wouldn't catch the various blogs on self hosted domains like mine. Of course, you could get even trickier by always asking to exclude pages that match certain words like "DasBlog", "Movable Type" or "WordPress" which would probably take out another large chunk. By then the search results would probably blog free as you can get without resorting to expensive matching techniques. For icing on the cake it would probably be useful to also be able to skew results by popularity or freshness.

The second question Scoble asks is whether there is a search engine that gives you an API that can do all this stuff. Well MSN Search gives you RSS feeds which as I've mentioned in a previous post is sometimes the only API your website needs. More importantly, as pointed out in a recent post by Andy Edmonds entitled Search Builder Revealed, one can control how variables such as popularity or freshness affect search results. For example,

  1. Search results for "star wars revenge of the sith" by popularity

  2. Search results for "star wars revenge of the sith" by freshness

One could probably write a first cut at the search engine Robert is asking for using the MSN Search RSS feeds in about an hour or so. In a day, it could be made to be quite polished with most of the work being in the user interface. Yet another coding project for a rainy day.


Categories: MSN | Syndication Technology

Since we launched MSN Spaces I've found it interesting to see how our competitors have reacted by producing competing services or features. First it was Yahoo! 360 which showed up 4 months after we went into widespread beta with a press release whose primary pitch -- an innovative new service that allows people to easily share what matters most to them and keep connected with the people they know -- was a lot like ours.

Now according to the Infoworld article Google ponders Blogger, Gmail integration we find out

Google is also evaluating an enhancement that lets users natively upload images to their blogs from within the Blogger interface, Stone said. Currently, images can be posted to Blogger via e-mail or using other indirect methods, such as Google's Hello image-transmission service. "There is a button there now [in the Blogger interface for image uploading] so we're working on making that a useful button," Stone said. "We're looking into that right now."
Although users can password protect their Blogger blogs with third-party software or services, Blogger currently doesn't offer native ways for users to limit access to their blogs. However, Google is mulling over the possibility of adding some native privacy features, such as the ability for users to create private groups and that way control who can view their blogs, Stone said.
Google introduced the latest enhancement to Blogger last week, when it launched Blogger Mobile, a feature that lets users create a new blog and post to it from mobile devices. "There's lots of people walking around with little blogging appliances which others may call mobile phones," Stone said.

Although it is interesting that most of the features described in the article is stuff that we shipped last year, what I find even more interesting is that they aren't pre-announcing any features that aren't playing catchup with MSN Spaces or Yahoo! 360. I wonder if this is because they want to underpromise and overdeliver or whether this means 2005 is the year Blogger ends up playing catchup with the rest of the industry. Only time will tell.


Categories: MSN

May 12, 2005
@ 11:02 AM

From the press release MSN Acquires MessageCast to Expand Automated Alerting Services 

The MSN® network of Internet services today announced that it has acquired substantially all the assets of MessageCast Inc., a leading provider of automated alerting and messaging technology that currently supports the MSN Alerts service. This acquisition builds on the robust MSN Alerts platform, enabling tighter integration with the MessageCast technology. It also extends MSN Alerts to new content channels, helping to expand the ability of MSN to connect consumers to the information and people they care about most.

MSN Alerts empowers consumers to receive time-sensitive information from sources such as MSNBC, Fox Sports, Xbox®, MSN Hotmail®, MSN Money and other content partners. MSN has worked with MessageCast since 2003 to make it easier for content providers to offer free MSN Alerts services to MSN customers. These alerts can be delivered via any combination of MSN Messenger, Microsoft Windows® Messenger, e-mail and text messaging on mobile or handheld devices that are compatible with MSN Mobile. The service is currently offered in Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish, and is available throughout the U.S. as well as select markets in Europe and Asia.

MessageCast was an obvious acquisition target and we've been working so intimately with them I'd wondered why they weren't part of MSN. By the way, if you're an MSN Spaces user you can read Ryan's post Got Alerts? from last year to find out how to enable MessageCast alerts for your space. This gives your readers yet another way to get updated about changes to your space in case they aren't savvy enough to use an RSS reader.


Categories: MSN