Although this sounds backwards we've completed the UI integration for podcast download settings per feed but not for global podcast download settings for RSS Bandit. Below is what the "Attachments\Podcasts" tab on the properties dialog for a feed looks like currently

I decided that we would make the "Create a playlist for downloaded podcasts in iTunes" and "Create a playlist for downloaded podcasts in Windows Media Player" would only be global settings which can't be specified per feed. Are there any obvious settings that are missing from this tab that you'd like to see? 


Categories: RSS Bandit

October 31, 2006
@ 02:30 PM

I haven't really been blogging much about Windows Live over the past few weeks mainly because none of what I've wanted to write seems like it was worth an entire post. Below is a brain dump of most of the items I've wanted to blog about and haven't for whatever reasons.

  • One of the ideas I'm dabbling with now is how reputation and trust play into social networks particularly in the context of Windows Live. A couple of the things I've been considering are how to define reputation in the varous contexts we have in Windows Live and then how to represent it to users. So far, I've been looking across the various Windows Live services and seeing what they have in place today. When I first looked at a user profile in Windows Live QnA, I thought it was kind of weird that people have 3 reputation values attached to them; their Reputation which is on a five star rating system, their QnA Score and their Level. I read the explanation of scoring and the reputation system which makes sense but seemed to me to be somewhat complicated. I brought this up with Betsy Aoki who works on the team and she pointed out that this isn't much different from the XBox gamer card and people seem to understand that. I dunno, that still feels fairly complicated to me. Also, I'm not sure if the paradigm that seems to work for a video game reputation system translates well to other contexts (e.g. buyer/seller reputation in Windows Live Expo). What do you think? 

  • I heard we've released a beta of Windows Live Barcode which sounds like a pretty cool service. Unfortunately I couldn't get it to work in either IE 7 (beta 3) or Firefox 1.5. I suspect that this wasn't ready to beta but was discovered by some clever sleuths. Unfortunate.

  • I think I finally understand why the business folks would rather call the service Windows Live Local instead of Windows Live Maps. It's an attempt to indicate what the preferred user behavior should be. A maps website isn't very lucrative from a business perspective because when someone is looking for a map it means they know where they are going and ads won't be interesting to them. On the other hand, when someone goes to a local search website they are likely looking for a business near them and ads are very relevant at that point. Now I get it. However I still think we should rename the service to Windows Live Maps. :)

  • Speaking of Windows Live Maps Local, the team is once again taking feature requests for the next version of the product. My #1 feature would be the ability to overlay movie theater locations and movie times on a map. My #2 feature would be simplifying the UI and making it easier to (a) get a permalink to a map and (b) navigate to my collections. Let the team know what you think. A lot of the improvements in this version of the product came out of direct user feedback.

  • Mary Jo Foley has an article entitled Microsoft earns a mixed report card for its year-old Live initiative which gives some perspective from Microsoft outsiders on the entire "Live" initiative. As usual the #1 complaint seems to be that our consumer branding story is still very confusing with the existence of both MSN services and Windows Live services living side-by-side. Maybe we'll do better with regards to this on our second birthday.

  • The Windows Live Expo team have posted some information updates to the Expo API. It looks like the API now allows you to do searches using any combination of City, State or Zip Code which fixes my main problem with the API. Thanks Samir. :)

  • The Windows Live Messenger 8.1 beta is now available. Learn more about it in Nicole's post Messenger 8.1 Beta says: Hello World. Nothing major in this release, just a couple of nice touches such as improvements to the Contact Card and being able to use the same display picture across multiple machines instead of the picture being tied to your PC. The Messenger team continues to be my second favorite Windows Live team*. Keep on rocking.
*My favorite Windows Live team is the Windows Live Local crew.

Categories: Current Affairs | Windows Live

Mark Cuban just posted an interesting take on the recent purchase of YouTube by Google by a media industry insider. Below are some excerpts from the post Some intimate details on the Google YouTube Deal, it is interesting reading and gives some insight on how business is conducted in Corporate America today.

> I'm an experienced veteran in the digital media business and thought
> I'd share my version of events that happened at Youtube. Some of this
> is based on talks with people involved and some is speculation based
> on my experience working in the industry, negotiating settlements and
> battling in court.
> In the months preceding the sale of YouTube the complaints from
> copyright owners began to mount at a ferocious pace. Small content
> owners and big were lodging official takedown notices only to see
> their works almost immediately reappear. These issues had to be
> disclosed to the suitors who were sniffing around like Google but
> Yahoo was deep in the process as well. (News Corp inquired but since
> Myspace knew they were a big source of Youtube's traffic they quickly
> choked on the 9 digit price tag.) While the search giants had serious
> interest, the suitors kept stumbling over the potential enormous
> copyright infringement claims that were mounting.
> So the parties (including venture capital
> firm Sequoia Capital) agreed to earmark a portion of the purchase
> price to pay for settlements and/or hire attorneys to fight claims.
> Nearly 500 million of the 1.65 billion purchase price is not being
> disbursed to shareholders but instead held in escrow.
> While this seemed good on paper Google attorneys were still
> uncomfortable with the enormous possible legal claims and speculated
> that maybe even 500 million may not be enough -
> Google wasn't worried about
> the small guys, but the big guys were a significant impediment to a
> sale. They could swing settlement numbers widely in one direction or
> another. So the decision was made to negotiate settlements with some
> of the largest music and film companies. If they could get to a good
> place with these companies they could get confidence from attorneys
> and the ever important "fairness opinion" from the bankers involved
> that this was a sane purchase.
> Armed with this kitty of money Youtube approached the media companies
> with an open checkbook to buy peace.
> The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to
> get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the
> talent (musicians and actors)?
> It was decided the media companies would receive an equity
> position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them.
> This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by
> allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position.
> Since everyone was reaching into Google's wallet, the big G wants to
> make sure the Youtube purchase was a wise one.
> The media companies had 50 million reasons to want to help.
> Google needed a two pronged strategy which you see unfolding now.
> The first request was a simple one and that was an agreement to look
> the other way for the next 6 months or so while copyright infringement
> continues to flourish. This standstill is cloaked in language about
> building tools to help manage the content and track royalties,
> The second request was to pile some lawsuits on competitors to slow
> them down and lock in Youtube's position. As Google looked at it they
> bought a 6 month exclusive on widespread video copyright infringement.
> Universal obliged and sued two capable Youtube clones Bolt and
> Grouper. This has several effects. First, it puts enormous pressure on
> all the other video sites to clamp down on the laissez-faire content
> posting that is prevalent. If Google is agreeing to remove
> unauthorized content they want the rest of the industry doing the same
> thing. Secondly it shuts off the flow of venture capital investments
> into video firms. Without capital these firms can't build the data
> centers and pay for the bandwidth required for these upside down
> businesses.

This is very interesting reading and has a ring of truth to it. It definitely explains a lot that has happened with regards to the YouTube sale to Google for such a high price, the announcements of deals between YouTube and major copyright holders at the same time, as well as the fact that a number of video sharing sites got sued but not YouTube.

PS: This latest finaly convinced me to take the plunge and subscribe to Mark Cuban's blog. Great stuff.


In a blog post entitled Reinventing HTML Tim Berners-Lee writes

The perceived accountability of the HTML group has been an issue. Sometimes this was a departure from the W3C process, sometimes a sticking to it in principle, but not actually providing assurances to commenters. An issue was the formation of the breakaway WHAT WG, which attracted reviewers though it did not have a process or specific accountability measures itself.

There has been discussion in blogs where Daniel Glazman, Björn Hörmann, Molly Holzschlag, Eric Meyer, and Jeffrey Zeldman and others have shared concerns about W3C works particularly in the HTML area. The validator and other subjects cropped up too, but let's focus on HTML now. We had a W3C retreat in which we discussed what to do about these things.

Some things are very clear. It is really important to have real developers on the ground involved with the development of HTML. It is also really important to have browser makers intimately involved and committed. And also all the other stakeholders, including users and user companies and makers of related products.

Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn't work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn't complain. Some large communities did shift and are enjoying the fruits of well-formed systems, but not all. It is important to maintain HTML incrementally, as well as continuing a transition to well-formed world, and developing more power in that world.

The plan is to charter a completely new HTML group. Unlike the previous one, this one will be chartered to do incremental improvements to HTML, as also in parallel xHTML. It will have a different chair and staff contact. It will work on HTML and xHTML together. We have strong support for this group, from many people we have talked to, including browser makers.

Wow. It's good to see the W3C reacting to all the negative criticism it has received on its stewardship of HTML in recent times. A few months ago I linked to a number of the complaints from the markup geek crowd that  Tim Berners-Lee references in my post entitled W3C Process is Broken? Film at 11. Although it was clear the writing was on the wall, I didn't expect the W3C to change its course anytime soon. The inertia within that  organization is just that massive. With browser makers and Web developers being disenchanted with the W3C, this is the only thing they could do if they planned to remain relevant in the world of Web standards. Kudos to TimBL and the rest of the W3C crew for making this course correction. 

PS: I really need a personalized meme tracker. The linked post didn't make it onto TechMeme but it did make it onto the meme tracker on Planet Interwingly. I suspect it would have made it onto my list of 'interesting posts' if I had a personalized meme tracker running over my feed list as well.


Categories: Web Development

October 30, 2006
@ 03:35 PM

I read an interesting pair of posts about Web startups competing with big companies like Google and Microsoft over the weekend. The first was a post by Bill Burnham entitled Search Applications: Search Startups Are Dead, Long Live Search Startups where he writes 

In response to a question about the prospects for the myriad of search start-ups looking for funding Peter basically said, and I am paraphrasing somewhat, that search start-ups, in the vein of Google, Yahoo Ask, etc. are dead.  Not because search isn’t a great place to be or because they can’t create innovative technologies, but because the investment required to build and operate an Internet-scale, high performance crawling, indexing, and query serving farm were now so great that only the largest Internet companies had a chance of competing.

Priced Out of the Market
While the comment might strike some as self-serving, the fact of the matter is that it is true.  Any start-up trying to displace Google, Yahoo, or even MSN or Ask (or for that matter any VC trying to fund them) should just get in their car (or hop on a plane) and go look at Google’s new server farms at The Dales in Oregon.  And if that doesn’t convince them they should head up the Columbia river a bit and check out Microsoft and Yahoo’s digs.   The costs to compete in core search , are now simply to high.

Bill then goes on to argue that the opportunity may lay in building applications on top of the APIs provided by the big software companies such as the Alexa Web Search Platform instead of trying to compete head to head with companies that have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building out their search infrastructure. In a post in response to Bill Burnham, Tim O'Reilly agrees that "we're entering the platform phase of Web 2.0, in which first generation applications are going to turn into platforms".

Dave Winer comes to the same realization but with a different conclusion in his post Someday search will be old too where he writes

Many years ago, when the Internet was still the domain of geeks, researchers and college students, the smart folks often said that the opportunities for new software companies were over, it simply required too much scale to compete in an industry dominated by Lotus, Microsoft and Ashton-Tate. Now it's clear how ridiculous that was, even though it was correct. The next layer comes on not by building on the old layer (a trick, the guy you're building on will eat your lunch), or re-doing what they did (what the naysayers correctly say you can't do), but by starting from a different place and building something new, and so different that the old guys don't understand it and don't feel threatened by it.

Dave seems to be disagreeing with Bill Burnham and Tim O'Reilly that building on the platforms provided by the big software companies is a good idea because the companies can turn around and compete with you. Although I can see Dave's point, simply having the same base platform doesn't mean you can build the same application. We all have access to Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP but how many people have or can build something like Flickr? You should definitely examine the risks when building on any platform but eventually you have to be ready to face off against a competitor that may have access to the same or a similar platform as you. You're development platform cannot be your only differentiator.

I do agree more with the spirit of what Dave Winer is recommending than what Tim O'Reilly  & Bill Burnham are. If I ever founded a startup, it would take advantage of the knowledge I have of what big companies like Microsoft are good at and what they aren't. For example, YouTube would never have come out of Microsoft because the company would have been too scared of lawsuits. Of course, now that YouTube has money they are getting hit up from every angle so that fear does make sense for a big company but not a small startup especially if the exit strategy is to flip it


October 30, 2006
@ 02:38 PM

I had some DNS issues last week because I forgot to renew my domain name registration. According to my FeedBurner statistics page, one of the consequences of this lapse on my part is that I've lost about 1,000 subscribers to my feed on Rojo. It looks like they may have decommissioned my feed in their service once the domain name stopped resolving after a couple of hours. This seems like a reasonable thing to do.

I've sent some mail to the Rojo folks through their feedback email address but don't hold out much for ever getting a response. It may be that there is nothing for them to fix since the relationship between my feed and the subscribers may have been deleted from their database once my domain was considered to be gone.

Anyway, if you are a Rojo user wondering why my feed disappeared from you subscription list, now you know. 


Thanks to Marc Canter's post, And what about the Aggregator Vendors? I'm reminded that there is still work to do before I've turned RSS Bandit into a satisfactory podcast client. With the basic code for downloading podcasts now implemented I've now turned my mind to how to get the downloaded rich media content onto a user's device and/or media player of choice. For the most part, I'm assuming that people are either using iTunes (version 6 or later) or Windows Media Player (version 10 or later).

Getting the music or videos onto a playlist in the users media player seems to be mostly straightforward. I've found C# sample code for creating playlists in iTunes and creating playlists in Windows Media Player. The tricky part has been figuring out how to get the music onto the users portable media player  (e.g. their iPod or Creative Zen) as opposed to their PC hard drive and creating a playlist on the device that includes the newly downloaded file. Doing the first isn't that bad if the device can be mounted as an external hard drive because the user can just specify that RSS Bandit should download files to a folder on that external drive. On the other hand, none of the sample code I've seen talks about creating a playlist on the portable media player. Any help here from my readers would be greatly appreciated. 

PS: I briefly considered embedding an instance of Windows Media Player in RSS Bandit but that seems like overkill compared to just having a [Play] button that opens the file in the user's preferred media player for that file type.


Categories: RSS Bandit

October 25, 2006
@ 06:39 PM

Robert Scoble has a blog post entitled New audience metric needed: engagement where he writes

I was just reading Jeneane Sessum’s post about the latest Ze Frank/Rocketboom dustup and she’s right, we need to measure stuff other than just whether a download got completed or not. She says we need a “likeability” stat. I think it goes further than that.

There’s another stat out there called “engagement.” No one is measuring it that I know of. What do I mean?

Well, I’ve compared notes with several bloggers and journalists and when the Register links to us we get almost no traffic. But they claim to have millions of readers. So, if millions of people are hanging out there but no one is willing to click a link, that means their audience has low engagement. The Register is among the lowest that I can see.

Compare that to Digg. How many people hang out there every day? Maybe a million, but probably less. Yet if you get linked to from Digg you’ll see 30,000 to 60,000 people show up. And these people don’t just read. They get involved. I can tell when Digg links to me cause the comments for that post go up too.

I've heard Frank Shaw state anecdotally that blogs are more 'influential' than traditional media websites. You get more click-throughs from being mentioned in a popular blog than from being mentioned in a more popular technology website. I'm interested in theories on why this is the case. Could it be that bloggers are more 'influential' over their audience than traditional media? Are blog readers more 'engaged' as Robert puts it?

PS: I read Jeneane's Sessum's post to be quite irritating. The smug assumption that if you like something then it must be more popular or at least 'better' on some made-up axis than what everyone else likes is a hallmark of the blogosphere echo-chamber. You see the same kind of egotistical thinking in Stowe Boyd's post criticizing Yahoo! bookmarks in comparison to


Categories: Social Software

In his blog post entitled Yahoo Bookmarks Enters 21st Century Mike Arrington writes

Yahoo is unveiling an entirely new Bookmarks product this evening at - new interface, new back-end, the works. A screencast created by Yahoo developer Tom Chi is here which gives an excellent overview of the service (Chi also created the background music for the screencast). Compare that to the existing Bookmarks product (screenshot is here) and it’s clear how significant the overhaul is.

Yahoo Bookmarks, while invisible to most cutting edge web users, still claims around 20 million active users (compared to only 1 million for

Until today, Yahoo Bookmarks (which is a separate product from and My Web) stored only the URL, title and comment for a particular bookmark. The new product caches all text on the page, stores a thumbnail view, and allows both categorization (folders) and tagging of each bookmark.

There are two things that I found striking about this announcement. The first is that Yahoo! has three bookmarking products;, My Web and Yahoo! Bookmarks. The second is that it looks like my shunning while continuing to use Yahoo! Bookmarks isn't so weird after all, there are twenty times more people using Yahoo's regular bookmarking service compared to its social bookmarking product.

At this rate it looks like is destined to be a niche service unless something radical is done such as merging Yahoo! Bookmarks and into a single service. Of course, given the user outcry when revamped to be more Digg-like, the folks at Yahoo! may not have the stomach for this.

Faint heart never won fair lady. 


In the past few months there have been a couple of announcements from the big search engines such as Yahoo! and Live Search on the topic of enabling people to build their own custom search engines. Google has finally showed up at the party with their own offering which was unveiled today. Below are my thoughts on their offering versus that of Windows Live.

Google Co-op

In his blog post entitled Review: Custom Search Engine Matt Cutts of Google writes

Google just announced something that I’m really jazzed about: Google Custom Search Engine. Several people mentioned that Google’s Accessible Search was built by using Google Co-op under the hood. Co-op has opened much of that power up to the public, so that anyone can build a custom search engine.

Most custom search engines (whether it be Google’s free sitesearch or Yahoo! Search Builder) only let you select one site to search, or you can offer websearch. Even Rollyo only lets you search over 25 sites.

This new offering lets you easily add hundreds (thousands?) of urls. You can search over ONLY the sites you choose, or (my favorite) you can apply a boost to the sites you choose, with regular websearch as a backfill. That’s really nice, because if your chosen urls talk about a subject, you’ll often get matches from those urls, but if the user types something completely unrelated, you’ll still get web results back. So it’s a true custom search engine, not just an engine restricted to showing matches from some domains.

You can also choose to exclude results from different sites. As far as I can tell, this happens in pretty close to real-time, even for complex url patterns. For example, I added the pattern “*” and started to get results from the Google directory, so I excluded “*” and the Google directory results went away immediately.

There is also a screenshot included in Mike Arrington's post at TechCrunch entitled Google Co-op Launches which is excerpted below
This isn’t new - Rollyo, Eurekster and Yahoo already have similar products. But Google is also offering, as an option, to bundle the service with Google Adsense ads and share revenue with websites that embed the custom search engine into their site. Only Eurekster currently shares revenue with users. Yahoo’s product, which got a lot of press at launch, has barely been mentioned in the nearly three months since then.
I didn't even realize that Yahoo! had an offering in this space until reading the TechCrunch entry. This doesn't seem to have gotten that much blogosphere love.

Live Search Macros

The Windows Live Search team wrote about the changes to the Search Macros feature originally announced in March in their blog post entitled Create your own search engine (an update to Live Search Macros) which states

Search Macros are personalized search engines for any topic area of interest.  You can create them, use them, share them with friends or discover macros created by the community on Windows Live Gallery.

I’d like to use this post to give you a basic overview of using and creating macros.  We’ll use future posts to dive into more of the nitty gritty on specific macros features.

Finding and using macros

Users of the first Macros release told us that using a macro was difficult and not very user friendly.  In this release, every macro now has its own homepage and human readable URL.  This makes them much easier to use, bookmark, and send to friends over email or IM.  For example, check out the homepage for the Reference Sites Search Engine macro (at
Enter a search term on this page and press Enter. You’ll be taken to the main Live Search page to see your results.

On the results page you'll see that the macro’s name appears in the search bar at the top of the screen.  This enables you to switch back and forth between Web, Images, Local, QnA and your favorite macros.

Here are some macros to try:

You can also find many more in the Windows Live Gallery!

Andy Edmonds from the Live Search team has written a couple of blog posts about the cool things you can do with search macros such as Search Macros Recap: DiggRank and the Power of Trusted Networks
Macros are often compared to Rollyo or other site bundling search offerings, but I hope the blog post describing LinkFromDomain, LinkDomain, and featuring other operators, sets the record straight.  Defining a set of sites to search is cool, and an idea well due to be commonly available. To be fair, Rollyo's UI and integration is slick, but  Micah Alpern hacked up a search of his blog, the blogs he linked to, or the web at large with a Google API hack back in 2003!

Using the link domain operators, you can go well beyond a simple set of sites.  You can:

  • keep a living list of the sites that link to you and search them
  • keep a living list of the sites you link to and search them
  • do the same for a set of trusted sites

Access to other advanced syntax differentiates further from simple site search amalgamations.  Heck, Scoble pontificated about a search engine that excluded blogs that participate in pay per post.  While I didn't figure out a way to focus this on only those PPP bloggers who don't disclose their interest, I think it's impressive that the basics can be done at all.  It's called macro:andyed.realBloggers, and uses to exclude sites that use the PPP tracking script (I think!) and hasfeed: to restrict to blogs (or other pages with syndication).

Super Hubs: DiggRank
The promise of personal networks of trust in information retrieval is not fully realized by the macros offering, but it's an important step in the right direction.  For super-hubs, like Digg or Delicious, linkFromDomain captures some really interesting human attentional residue.

Let me introduce macro:andyed.DiggRank. Try it for:

The Bottom Line

I tried out both services as well as Yahoo! Search Builder and they all seem to have some room for improvement. Both Google & Yahoo! have primarily built a way to add a custom search box for your site. Windows Live Search is primarily about adding your own customized search results to your search engine of choice. I think both scenarios should be covered by all the services. I think Live Search should give me the option of adding a search box on my blog that is powered by a search macro I wrote. Similarly, I'd like to be able to perform custom searches from the Google or Yahoo! search UI without having to remember how to get to or I have to agree with Sergey Brin here, Features, Not Products. This is yet another Google service that I have to perform a Google search for before I can find it and use it (others are Google Music Search and Google Blog Search).

One thing I do like about Google and Yahoo!'s options is that they provide a more user friendly UI for creating complex searches than Live Search which provides you with direct access to the search operators. This is more powerful and desirable to geeks like me but it is not very user friendly for the non-geek. A checkbox with 'prefer search results from these sites' is preferable to crafting a search query with "prefer: AND prefer:".

The management page for Google Co-op needs a lot of work. It is sparse in the typical Google way but it also doesn't seem coherent nor does it give you enough information about what you can or should be doing. The management page for Yahoo! Search Builder is a lot more coherently organized and aesthetically pleasing. The search macro management page for Live Search also could do with some improvement, primarily in simplifying the process for creating complex macros.

PS: Revenue sharing is a nice touch by Google and I'd be quite surprised if Yahoo! doesn't follow suite soon.


I found the time to start on integrating the ability to download podcasts in RSS Bandit today. One of the things I realized is that we can't make the blanket assumption that every enclosure we see in an RSS or Atom feed is a podcast. I decided that instead of only exposting enclosures as podcasts, it would be more generic and maybe more useful to treat them as file attachments to feed items.

Below is a screenshot of what this looks like

There are other bits of UI we have to add such as a download queue and a podcasts inbox. I've also been thinking of adding the option to enqueue downloaded podcasts in iTunes or Windows Media Player. I wonder if the Zune player will provide an API so I can add that as an option as well. I should ask around at  work.

I also explicitly decided against any sort of podcasts directory functionality. If we don't typically use 'blog directories' why do we need feed directories? We're about two weeks from being done with this feature after which we'll ship a beta of the Jubilee release. My current thinking is a beta before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and the final release just before the Christmas holidays.


Categories: RSS Bandit

October 19, 2006
@ 06:06 PM

I got an email over the weekend from a friend of mine who's leaving Microsoft. I wasn't surprised to see him leave Microsoft, given that the every project he's worked on at Microsoft has either been cancelled mid-project or end of lifed in that release. After being at Microsoft for five years, I've now begun to see the signs that a project is likely to crash and burn early on. Below is a top five list of signs your software project is in trouble I compiled as part of my 'parting career advice' to my intern.

  1. Schedule Chicken: This is typically a sign that the project's schedules are unrealistic. A project with unrealistic schedule is either an indication of poor communication between layers in the product team or even worse, bad management that punishes the messenger when there is bad news (e.g. poor initial estimation of project length). The main problem with schedule chicken is that you can be "date driven" or you can be "quality driven", you can't be both.

  2. Scope Creep: Requirements changing as a software project progresses are natural. They can change due to feedback from the customer after they get to try out a prototype, due to changes in the competitive landscape or because the original requirements had hidden conditions which were not discovered until after implementation. When things get bad is when the goals of a project are changed or increased significantly without a corresponding significant change to the expected timeframe for delivery. WinFS merging with Object Spaces is my canonical example of scope creep at Microsoft.

  3. Underresourced: You don't bring a knife to a gun fight. So you shouldn't expect that 3 developers and $50,000 will be able to compete with the Googles and Microsofts of the world. Similarly, if you work at a big company and you have a handful of folks working on a product where competitors have large teams or entire companies working on the same problem space, you're probably in over your head.  

  4. Second System Syndrome: Once you ship a software application, it instantly becomes legacy code. To a developer this means there is something newer and sexier that can solve the same problem in a more elegant way. Eventually a project is started which is intended to replace the existing product which customers are finding useful. This is often a double whammy. The new project is hamstrung out of the gate by having to meet customer expectations on backwards compatibility, performance and new features in comparison to the old product. This burden is often a crushing weight on the second system which eventually collapses under the strain. In addition, the old project is often abandoned or at best put in "maintenance mode" with only a skeleton crew working on it even though it pays the bills.  

  5. No Entrance Strategy: There is a lot of talk in the software industry of exit strategies but a lot of the time software products do not have an entrance strategy. How do you get people to use the application? How do you get the first 100,000 or 1 million users? Sometimes in big companies, there is also the corporate strategy tax to consider when deciding whether a product has an entrance strategy or not. When I was on the XML team at Microsoft, there were folks on the team working on a project they called X#. The project was basically C# with extensions to handle relational and XML data access as operations native to the programming language. I attended an internal presentation about the project and when asked what the deliverable from the project would be, the team members actually showed a Photoshoped image of a Microsoft Visual C# box which read Microsoft Visual X#. Of course, this was at the time Microsoft was taking heat for introducing both C# & Visual Basic.NET at the same time. It was unlikely that Microsoft would ship a third similar language anytime soon. The project was killed, resurrected  and morphed a couple of times. The story eventually ended happily with a lot of the innovations in the language eventually showing up as .NET Language Integrated Query (LINQ) (aka C# 3.0). That was one instance with a happy ending, a counter example is the new file system for Windows being cancelled a few years after it was announced to be shipping separately from the operating system. A file system that doesn't ship with the operating system doesn't sound like a product with an entrance strategy to me. How about you?


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

Jeffrey Zeldman has a blog post entitled Web 2.0 Thinking Game where he writes

A few weeks back, The Economist was calling “Web 2.0″ a trend. Their phrase was, “hot Web 2.0 trend.” The magazine now intends “Web 2.0″ to be understood as a sort of second edition:

This week’s pairing of Google and YouTube may come to be remembered as the moment “Web 2.0″—ie, the web, version two—came of age.

Clearly “Web 2.0″ means different things to different journalists on different days. Mostly it means nothing—except a bigger paycheck. But let’s simplify what The Economist is saying:

Web 1.0: AOL buys Time Warner.
Web 2.0: Google buys YouTube.

Put another way:

Web 1.0: New media company buys old media company.
Web 2.0: New media company buys new media company.

If we’re stuck with this meaningless Web 2.0 label, let’s at least have some fun with it. Here’s my new game. I’ll start, you finish:
Web 1.0: Users create the content (Slashdot).
Web 2.0: Users create the content (Flickr).

Web 1.0: Crap sites on Geocities.
Web 2.0: Crap sites on MySpace.
Web 1.0: Karma Points.
Web 2.0: Diggs.

Web 1.0: Cool Site of the Day.
Web 2.0:
Now you try it!

There are a lot of funny ones in the comments as well such as

Web 1.0: Old folks have no clue.
Web 2.0: My parents just left a comment on my blog. - Charlie

Web 1.0: Rational Unified Process implementing J2EE
Web 2.0: “Getting Real” using RoR - Kevan Emmot

Web 1.0: 20,000 Hits on my webpage!
Web 2.0: Ive been dugg 1000 times on Digg! - Regnard Raquedan

Web 1.0: Pamela Anderson
Web 2.0: Paris Hilton - Chase

Here're a couple of my own, let's see what you guys come up with

  1. Web 1.0: Netscape IPO
    Web 2.0: Google IPO

  2. Web 1.0: My startup just IPOed, I'm gonna be rich
    Web 2.0: My startup just got bought by Google, I'm gonna be rich

  3. Web 1.0: Napster
    Web 2.0: YouTube

  4. Web 1.0: Yahoo! Bookmarks
    Web 2.0:

  5. Web 1.0: Java applets
    Web 2.0: Widgets

  6. Web 1.0: Beth Goza
    Web 2.0: Niniane Wang


From a tech support article on the Apple website entitled Small Number of Video iPods Shipped With Windows Virus we learn

We recently discovered that a small number - less than 1% - of the Video iPods available for purchase after September 12, 2006, left our contract manufacturer carrying the Windows RavMonE.exe virus. This known virus affects only Windows computers, and up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers should detect and remove it. So far we have seen less than 25 reports concerning this problem. The iPod nano, iPod shuffle and Mac OS X are not affected, and all Video iPods now shipping are virus free. As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.

If all else fails, Blame Microsoft!

PS: Found on the Channel 9 forums.


October 18, 2006
@ 01:30 AM

From the ACLU press release President Bush Signs Un-American Military Commissions Act, ACLU Says New Law Undermines Due Process and the Rule of Law we learn

WASHINGTON - As President Bush signed S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage and called the new law one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.
"The president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions.  Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."

It's a good thing the American media is keeping on top of all the important issues like which gay Republicans were having inappropriate relations with heir male interns instead of mundane bits of legal mumbo jumbo like the death of Habeus Corpus.


Joshua Allen has a blog post entitled He Bought Houses for the Whole Village where he writes

In China, nearly everyone has at least one story about, “someone from village ‘X’ started a business and got really rich, so he bought houses for the whole village.”  I’ve heard several variations, from people in different walks of life, over the past couple of years.  Although the details vary widely, the stories are sometimes true, and follow that same basic pattern.

I began to wonder, why is this such an appealing story for people to tell one another, and do we have similar stories in America?  That is, what kind of “good fortune” story is likely to get quickly passed from mouth to mouth among Americans?

I found it interesting reading to see Joshua trying to map this concept to American examples and failing to find a good comparison. Similar stories are quite common place in Nigeria or at least were when I still lived there almost a decade ago. There are lots of reasons why such occurences are common in places like Nigeria & China but not in places like America. My impression is that the top two are

  1. Deeper Sense of Community: People from the same village in Nigeria typically share the same ancestors, the same culture spanning hundreds of years and speak the same language. Neither cities nor small towns in the America have the same history or depth of connectedness between people living in the same area. This sense of community also makes it more likely people will feel an obligation to helping their people from their village when they have good fortune. The closest analog to that sense of obligation being widespread in America has been college alumni associations. When I first moved here I found it surprising that people are more likely to spend money helping the school they went to college than their home town.
  2. A Little Goes A Long Way: In Nigeria, most of the affluent people are a generation or less removed from living in huts in some remote part of the country. When my dad grew up, the richest man in the village was the guy with a bicycle and a radio. In a country where 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day, it doesn't take much [by American standards] to better people's lives. In comparison, the average income in the U.S. is around $100 a day.

The rest of the reasons are mainly variations on the two mentioned above. The reason that in America
our word of mouth heroes are people who spend their money on incredibly stupid stuff.
as Joshua puts it can mainly be explained by the first point above. In Nigeria, you are expected to help those from where you came from as well as spend money on incredibly stupid stuff. In America, there isn't an expectation to help your roots except for looking after your parents and sending in donations to your college alumni association.


Categories: Personal

By now I'm sure you've gotten your fill of the news that Google is purchasing YouTube. The most interesting reactions I've seen are the the video of the YouTube founders talking about their newfound wealth on YouTube and the BusinessWeek interview with Steve Ballmer. After thinking about it for a few days, I've come to suspect that this may be an example of the Winner's Curse especially when you consider that the $1.6 billion Google is paying isn't all they have to pay. They'll also have to make deals with the major media content producers (i.e. movie & television studios, record labels, etc) which they've already started doing. I wouldn't be surprised if this deal eventually ended up costing north of $2 billion when all is said and done

Unfamiliar with the Winner's Curse? See the article Nasty Auctions which contains the following excerpt

Imagine a professor who holds up a $20 bill in a class and auctions if off to the high bidder. What do we expect to happen? It would make no sense for anyone to anyone to bid higher than $20, and if the high bid is below $20, someone in the class will have an incentive to bid a bit higher. The end result is that the $20 bill should fetch a high bid of something very close to $20, if not $20 itself. This image of people bidding up the value of an item to its true value is used repeatedly when economists discuss markets. However, auctions are not always so nice.

Imagine instead that the professor presents his class with a bottle of coins. He lets them inspect the bottle, but they cannot open it and it is impossible to count the money in the bottle. He then asks everyone to write down a bid, and accepts the high bid. When this experiment is run in actual classrooms, the end result is that the average bid is less than the value of the bottle, because people are risk-adverse and will bid less than they what the expect the value to be. Some people err in underestimating the value of the coins in the bottle, but others err in overestimating their value. Usually one of the people who overestimate the value ends up winning the bid, and it is very common for the bid to be higher than the true value. Economists have dubbed this phenomenon "the winner's curse," and find it a featue of bidding for oil-exploration rights and for free-agent baseball players

Only time will tell whether this deal turns out to be a bargain like Rupert Murdoch purchasing MySpace or a bad move like the AOL<->Time Warner merger. One thing's for sure, it probably won't be considered as wacky as the eBay<->Skype purchase which will probably never make sense.


I'm in the process of putting the finishing touches on the infrastructure code for downloading podcasts in RSS Bandit. The main things left are handling the uncommon cases such as password protected enclosure files and resuming downloads if the application is restarted. I should be able to make some progress with UI integration by the end of the weekend.

The current question I've been trying to figure out is what podcast feed(s) should be in the default set of feeds when a new user installs RSS Bandit. My original plan was to go with Ask A Ninja but it seems there's some weirdness in the feed where some enclosures are Flash files while the others are Quicktime movies. The feeds I'm currently considering are

Which of these do you think is a good fit for the typical RSS Bandit user? Are there other podcasts I should be considering?

Update: It seems there are even more problems with the Ask A Ninja podcast. It seems the service hosting their podcast files (such as this one) rejects HTTP requests from the Windows Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS). I'm not sure what to do about this problem since there doesn't seem to be a way to change the User Agent string in the HTTP requests sent by the BITS client. :(


Categories: RSS Bandit

October 13, 2006
@ 04:32 PM

Stephen O'Grady has a blog post entitled What is Office 2.0? where he writes

As some of you know having spoken with me on the subject, I have little patience for philosophical discussions of what Web 2.0 really means. When pressed on the subject, I usually just point to properties like and say, "That is Web 2.0." Likewise, I'm not terribly concerned with creating strict textual definitions of what Office 2.0 is, as long as I can credibly cite examples that exhibit the tendencies of a "next generation" office platform. As this show amply demonstrates, that part's easy. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Joyent, Zoho, and so on? Very Office 2.0. Microsoft Office and Office 1.0. Q.E.D.

While the question of what Office 2.0 is doesn't really keep me up at night, however, what it means absolutely does. We have a unique view on the technologies, because we're not merely covering analysts but avid users. And what's obvious to me, both as an analyst and a user, is that Office 2.0 has strengths for every weakness, and weaknesses for every strength.

The trend of talking about things without defining them and then revelling in the fact that they are ill-defined really makes me wonder for the future of discourse in the software industry. I thought all the discussions about SOA were bad but "Web 2.0" and "Office 2.0" puts all that to shame. I'm especially disappointed to see people who call themselves "analysts" like Stephen O'Grady join in this nonsense.

The problem with his example is that when I look at I see a bunch of things, I see a site that has

  • tagging/folksonomies
  • open APIs
  • user generated "content"
  • supports syndication via RSS feeds
  • a relatively small amount of users and is likely to stay a niche service
  • nothing of interest that will ever draw me in as a regular user

The problem with lumping all these things together is that the impact of each of the main bullet points is difference. The impact of the trend of more websites filled with user generated content from blogs to podcasts is different from the impact of the trend towards open APIs and "the Web as a platform".

Similarly when it comes to "Office 2.0" the impact of anywhere access to my business data from any thin client (aka browser) is completely different different from the promise of Web-scale collaboration in business environments that some of the products Stephen O' Grady mentions portend. Lumping all these things together then failing to articulate them makes it difficult to discuss, analyze and consider the importance [or lack thereof] of what's going on on the Web today.

Please, stop it. Think of the children.


Categories: Technology

October 11, 2006
@ 01:33 AM

Niall Kennedy has a blog post entitled Widgets Live! conference in San Francisco on November 6 where he writes

The first ever conference dedicated to widgets, gadgets, and modules will take place on Monday, November 6, in San Francisco. The one-day conference will capture and summarize the emerging widget economy and allow developers, business leaders, and content producers to collaborate and better understand how they might participate in syndication at the edge of the network.

Widget endpoints

A small web loosely joined.

I am organizing a conference named Widgets Live! next month in partnership with Om Malik to capture the emerging webspace of widgets. There's so much happening in the fast-moving widget space right now it's a bit difficult to keep track of it all....There is so much activity in the customizable web powered by widgets we felt it was time to bring together the major players for a one-day industry overview and tutorial. We hope you can join us.

Tickets are only $100 and available now.

I've been talking to folks at work about this conference since Om Malik responded to my blog post about having a get together to talk about gadgets widgets. So far it looks like Microsoft folks from, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Gallery and the Windows Vista sidebar should in the house. The conference will be during the same week and in the same city as the O'Reilly Web 2.0 which has worked out perfectly for fitting people's schedules over here. Well, except for the folks who will be going to TechEd Europe.

Be there or be square . :)


Categories: Web Development

October 9, 2006
@ 05:44 PM

Last week I got an email from someone at Microsoft asking if my dad was the president of Nigeria. I almost deleted the email without responding until I looked at the person's email signature and it said "Executive Assistant to Bill Gates". So I responded and it turned out that Bill Gates was going to be in Nigeria over the weekend to meet with my dad and he wanted to chat before his trip.

We met on Friday and according to my mom he met with my dad over the weekend. After our talk I asked if it was OK if I blogged our meeting and he was fine with it. What follows are my impressions from our meeting and the topics we chatted about.

The last time I talked to Bill Gates in person was five years ago at the annual event for summer interns at Microsoft where we get to meet him at his house. When I was an intern they had to split the event into two seperate trips due to the number of interns. After introductions, I mentioned that we'd met before at the intern event in 2001 and asked if the event continued to this day. It still goes on today and has now grown to four separate rounds of visits. BillG said he appreciates hearing from college students about companies and trends they find interesting before their opinions get influenced by their employer when they get out of school.

BillG asked a couple of questions about me and my family such as how long I'd been at Microsoft, where I want to school, if my mom was Stella Obasanjo (she isn't), what my mom did, if I had any siblings back home and so on. I appreciated talking about myself and was put at ease before being asked about Nigeria or my dad. 

BillG had read my dad's Wikipedia entry and thus was a little familiar with my dad's background story. This is my dad's second time around as president. The first time was between 1976 and 1979 when he became the military president because the sitting military president was killed in a failed coup. He made history by being the first African head of state to voluntarily relinquish power by having elections and stepping down once a winner was announced. He became president this time around after spending three years as a political prisoner. After the military president that jailed him died of natural causes, he was released. A number of others who were jailed at the same time as him were not as lucky and died in prison such as Moshood Abiola and Shehu Musa Yar'Adua before the military president that jailed them passed away. I talked about meeting my dad in Atlanta back in 1998 when he was released and hearing for the first time that he planned to run for president. I thought it was an insane idea given that Nigeria had never had a civilian president finish out their term without there being a miltary takeover of government. I can still remember my dad sitting there and saying "If I don't do it who will?". He won the election and also won a second term. My dad still gives me a hard time today because I never called to congratulate him. I did attend both inauguration ceremonies so that should count for something, I guess.

BillG wondered what my dad would do after he left the presidency. He mentioned that he'd had some angst about leaving Microsoft in two years and also gave an example of a good friend of his, Bill Clinton, who also had similar angst when he left the U.S. presidency. I pointed out that my dad had been a retired head of state for almost two decades before this time around and had found things to do. Besides becoming a large scale farmer, he still did the international statesman thing and once was in the running for the position of UN secretary general which he lost to Boutros Boutros-Ghali back in the early 1990s.

He'd read that my dad was a born again Christian and wondered if that extended to the entire family. It doesn't, I'm not terribly religious and my mom is a devout catholic which it turned out BillG's wife is as well. This segued into a conversation about religion and Nigeria. The country is about half Christian and half Muslim but over the past few years, the division has become more stark. Since I've been in the U.S., a number of states in the northern part of the country have embraced Sharia law which has led to some negative international responses. The religion issue is now divisive enough that questions about religion and ethnicity were removed from this year's census. It wasn't like this when I was growing up. Speaking of ethnicity, BillG asked about the national language and whether there was a major ethnic group in Nigeria. The national language is English since we were colonised by the British and although there were three large ethnic groups (Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo) there are hundreds of indigenous tribes with their own cultures and languages.

The reason BillG was visiting Nigeria was to talk about some of the work that the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has been doing in Africa. One of the issues he wanted to discuss were the efforts they had been taking to eradicate polio in Nigeria via vaccination. There had recently been some rumors about negative effects of polio vaccines in the northern part of Nigeria which had actually lead to at least one state banning them. The problem with polio, BillG said, is that unlike diseases such as smallpox it may be hard to detect so an outbreak could occur with the authorities being none the wiser until it is too late. He said the tipping point is about 15% of the population being infected while containment is when < 5% are infected. He also mentioned that their foundation was working on vaccines for malaria and sleeping sickness. I mentioned having malaria a few times while growing up and thinking how weird it was when I heard people in the U.S. talking about malaria as if it was ebola. However there was a difference between how I grew up in the city and the average Nigerian who lives in the villages and rural areas. The main problem with malaria that BillG wants combated is preventing it in pregnant women. Not only is the chance of infant mortality increased but also if the child makes it, the baby is usually born having a low birth weight which contributes to a lifetime of problems. He feels they are close to breakthroughs in creating vaccines for these diseases especially since not a lot of research has been done in this area due to big pharma not investing a lot in research for diseases affecting the poor in Africa. BillG acknowledged that he was being an optimist when he says this and it may take a little longer in much the same way that his optimism about the future of Tablet PCs and voice recognition software has taken longer than he expected to become mainstream. 

My comment about the differences growing up in the city versus the life in the villages reminded BillG of a similar contrast in another African country, South Africa. The life in places like Sun City [where most Americans go when they say they are going to South Africa] is radically different than the life in various South African townships. BillG took his children to some townships when they were in South Africa so they could see how the other half lived, his children were resistant to the idea but he thought that it would be a good idea to see what life is like in these places. We also talked about how widespread AIDs is in South Africa (affecting 30% of the population by some estimates) while it seems relatively contained in countries like Nigeria. I mentioned seeing the billboards for the ABC campaign (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) while in Nigeria and he agreed that the campaigns seemed to have been working. Using condoms has seemed to be very effective but unfortunately there are some religious and social objections to the idea. Their foundation is working on creams and gels that can be applied just like spermicidal creams and gels which can be used to prevent AIDs and will be more acceptable to social norms [his exact words were "eliminate the negotiation during encounters"].  BillG also said that there seemed to be a strong correlation between improving healthcare and the number of children people had. This means that there is the double benefit of having healthy children and being able to afford to have them since you don't have that many. In addition to healthcare, BillG was also going to talk to my dad about their efforts around improving agricultural practices to improve crop yield and some of their suggestions for improving education. 

We did talk about Microsoft a little. When I mentioned I work for the Windows Live platform group he mentioned that this would be an interesting area to be in over the next few years and commented on a number of Windows Live services such as Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail. He also talked about some of the leadership changes we've had across Windows and Windows Live. I asked if he'd continue with his biannual Think Weeks where employees from all over the company get to write him papers about ideas they have. He said he'd continue until he stepped down in 2008 and after that it would be up to Ray Ozzie [who will be replacing him as Chief Software Architect] to decide if he'd continue with the tradition or not. I did mention that I'd submitted a Thinkweek paper which he'd writen a response to, he hoped that he wasn't too harsh in his criticism and I replied that his feedback was quite favorable and has led to some good things happening in Windows Live.

The meeting ran over by 15 minutes and I felt bad for taking up so much of his time. As I was leaving the building I overheard the following exchange between the receptionist of the building and a visitor

Visitor: Where is Bill Gates's office?
Receptionist: I'm not at liberty to divulge that information.
Visitor: I need to see him, I just downloaded Windows Vista and I have a number of complaints.
I wonder how often that happens. :)


Categories: Personal

October 7, 2006
@ 04:55 PM

Jeremy Zawodny has a blog post entitled A List of Amazon S3 Backup Tools where he writes

In an effort to replace my home backup server with Amazon's S3, I've been collecting a list of Amazon S3 compatible backup tools to look at. Here's what I've discovered, followed by my requirements.


  • s3DAV isn't exactly a backup tool. It's provides a WebDAV front-end (or "virtual filesystem") to S3 storage, so you could use many other backup tools with S3. Recent versions of Windows and Mac OS have WebDAV support built-in. Java is required for s3DAV.

I was chatting with a coworker last week and one thing we couldn't figure out is why Amazon S3 doesn't use WebDAV as their REST protocol. Besides the fact that there are WebDAV clients widely deployed on major operating systems from Mac OS to Windows (including Windows Explorer and Microsoft Office), adopting WebDAV wouldn't even require that many changes to the Amazon S3 REST API. All you'd need to do is

  1. Replace the URLs for listing keys with supporting the PROPFIND method.

  2. Replace the usage of custom HTTP headers prefixed with "x-amz-meta-" for adding or retrieving user-defined metadata for objects with supporting PROPPATCH and PROPFIND methods for setting and getting the object's metadata.

  3. Support the COPY and MOVE methods by translating them to PUT and PUT + DELETE operations respectively

  4. Return an HTTP 501 error code when applications attempt to perform LOCK or UNLOCK operations since Amazon S3 doesn't support locking objects.

The last one is tricky because there are a number of WebDAV clients that don't fail gracefully if the server doesn't support LOCK and UNLOCK but in general I think supporting WebDAV would have made the reach of S3 even greater. I wonder if the folks at Amazon even considered that as an option or whether it was an explicit choice?


Categories: XML Web Services

October 7, 2006
@ 02:33 AM

Tim Bray has a blog post entitled On Comments where he writes

I’ve had comments running for a few days here now (I prefer to say “contributions”, but whatever). People are irritated at me because an ongoing fragment shows up as unread in their feed-reader whenever a new comment comes in. I’m not sure what the right thing to do is. This piece outlines a few options and asks the community for discussion.

This is one of the reasons I've given about disliking the atom:updated element in blog posts like Indicating Updated Items in RSS Bandit. It should be up to the user to decide what count as 'significant' updates that warrant marking the item as changed or new in the user interface, not the publisher. Tim thinks that new comments in a blog post should lead to the reader being notified by their aggregator, I think this should only be the case when the user has explicitly opted in for notifications on changed new comments. This doesn't extend to updates because the definition of what counts as a 'significant' update is going to vary from publisher to publisher and from user to user.

My advice to Tim is to  use the Atom threading extensions which provides explicit mechanisms for indicating changes to the number of comments and provides a way to link to comment feeds as opposed to hacks like changing the value of atom:updated or putting the comments into the atom:content of the entry. Those both sound like recipes for a negative user experience when reading his blog in many aggregators.

The title of this blog post is probably harsher than I intend. I think it is useful to have a last modified date in the form of atom:updated on items in a feed. What I disagree with is impacting the user experience based on changes to that element.


October 5, 2006
@ 05:03 PM

After my workout this morning, I was in the locker getting undressed to shower when I turned around after locking my locker and realized someone had taken my towel. So there I am in my birthday suit with no towel yet about to take a shower. So I have to make a decision do I

  1. Get dressed and go back to the front desk to get another towel?
  2. Hang around the locker room until an attendant shows up and ask him for a towel?
  3. Take a shower without a towel and "air dry"?
  4. Steal somebody else's towel?

Guess which one I picked? :)


Categories: Personal

Last year, in the comments to a blog post entitled Career Development at Microsoft: The internal interview process, there was the following exchange

# re: Career Development at Microsoft: The internal interview process

Monday, October 24, 2005 11:38 PM by hrbp
I have a question.
For internal candidates, is there a selection meeting including the job owner (manager), supervisors of the internal candiates, a representative from the talent management team, and the HR gen? If not, will the job owner talk with the candidate's current supervisor?

# re: Career Development at Microsoft: The internal interview process

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 4:22 PM by JobsBlog
Hrbp - The hiring manager (job owner) will look at the employee's previous reviews and speak with his/her manager AFTER the employee has notified his/her team of upcoming interviews. The current manager must also grant the employee "permission to interview."


The concept of "Permission to Interview" is probably the worst idea that Microsoft's HR group has come up with and this is after considering other questionable practices like The Curve & getting rid of the towel service. What happens when you tell your manager you want permission to leave the team? First of all, your manager has veto power over this decision or at the minimum can delay it for months at a time. Secondly, you're automatically labelled as a "bad" employee which sucks if you don't make it through the interviews on the team you want to transfer to or your opportunity to move is delayed for so long the other team finds someone else. 

I've lost count of the amount of times I've heard someone say that they or someone they know is interviewing with Google or some other external company because they (i) don't want to risk asking for permission to interview or (ii) their management team has placed a temporary ban on permissions to interview. This means that the awesome thing about "permission to interview" is that it encourages people to leave the company once they've decided to leave a team because they are no longer a good fit or have a bad manager.

Why am I writing about this now? See the Mini-Microsoft post Microsoft Internal Transfers Just Got a Whole Lot Easier. Another Dilbert-style HR practice bites the dust. Lisa Brummel is slowly becoming my favorite Microsoft employee.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

Dick Hardt has a blog post critical of Yahoo's recently announced BBAuth entitled Yahoo’s Identity Silo where he writes

Yahoo has joined Google’s silo building by releasing BBAuth, a mechanism for other sites to access services and data within the world of Yahoo.

Unlike Google’s Account Authentication, Yahoo is allowing their service to be used for SSO and registration.

BBAuth is clearly targeted at Web 2.0 site developers, encouraging them to build apps on the Yahoo platform so that they get access to all those Yahoo users.. While I understand how this helps Yahoo strengthen their relationship with their users, it would seem Yahoo did not learn what Microsoft learned with Passport, as Yahoo is deepening their identity silo, rather then participating in the emerging identity infrastructure.

Given that I've been crusading for Microsoft to build solutions similar to BBAuth and Google's Account Authentication for Windows Live I'm interested in whatever criticisms of these approaches exist. The first thing I should note is that I don't like the term "identity silo". On the one hand it could be considered accurate but on the other it automatically potrays the party being described in a negative light. It's like using the term "baby killer" to describe people who consider themselves pro-choice. Any website which authenticates its users (i.e. has a username/password requirement to utilize aspects of the site) is an "identity silo" because the identity I've created on that site is only usable on that site and cannot be utilized elsewhere.

Lots of really smart people from big companies (e.g. Kim Cameron of Microsoft) and startups (e.g. Dick Hardt of SXIP Identity) with products to sell have now told us that "identity silos are bad m...kay". Since I drink the company Kool Aid, I agree with this premise. From reading Kim Cameron's The Laws of Identity and Microsoft's Vision for an Identity Metasystem it seems the solution to the problem of identity silos is federated identity where I can use credentials from one site to sign-in to another site as long as the sites trust each other. This sounds cool, it's like the promise of Single Sign On without one company trying to be your Passport to using the Internet. :)

So let's say I'm a website that wants to allow users to access their data from other sources besides my wbesite thus liberating their data and enabling new applications, visualizations and mashups. I need some way to figure out whose data to give out to these mashups when they come calling...I know, I'll use the unique username to figure out whose data I'm to give out and I can verify that its really the user asking because I'll require their password. Except, according to Dick Hardt and Eric Norlin this is bad because I'm deepening my "identity silo". Since I'm a practical guy I have only two questions

  1. Are there shipping technologies today that allow me to do what I want in an "Identity 2.0" way?
  2. Are they as easy to implement as telling mashup developers to include a link to my website in their UI and then process the data they get back when the user is redirected back to their site after signing in?
From my reading, the answer to question #1 is No (but we're really close) and the answer to question #2 is Hell No. If you were Yahoo! or Google, would you wait a few years for a technology that is more difficult for the developers you are targeting to adopt than what you can roll on your own today to meet your needs? If the answer is no, does that make you a "baby killer"?

Let me know what you think.