Saturday, February 24, 2007

Google Apps, the market analysis

PC World's Harry McCracken argues that Google Apps has a narrow niche right now, but could grow into something significant with time:

So who might want Google Apps in its current form? Well, there are certainly scads of workers in the world who really only need basic tools. There are absolutely many companies--especially small ones--for whom $50 a year is a far more appealing pricetag than several hundred dollars for a copy of Microsoft Office. There are definitely corporations who'd rather offload the management of e-mail and other applications to an expert like Google than to worry about them themselves. And there are unquestionably organizations who are adventuresome enough to be willing to be among the first to try dumping Microsoft Office for a Web-hosted alternative.

Whether there are enough of them right now to make Google Office a viable business, I'm not sure...

Of course, Google is one of the few companies on the planet who can cheerfully pour resources into businesses that aren't viable if it feels like it. And if it's really interested in pursuing this--rather than simply yanking Bill Gates's chain--Google Apps could evolve into something interesting.

PC World's Techlog Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office

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Google's "Dog Food Initiative"

PC World has an article about Google "eating its own dog food," i.e., using Google Apps internally. This part is not surprising, but worth repeating:

All of the applications "were really built from the ground up to focus on collaboration," Glotzbach said in a follow-up interview. "Using them ourselves has really helped us expand on how we work with one another, making [communications] more real time, making it easier to collaborate when we're traveling, when we're on the road, from a mobile device, from any PC or workstation inside the company."

He describes an incident in which he began a document outline, shared it, and collaborators built the document together, like a wiki.

But Googlers also use Microsoft Office and OpenOffice for their work. This point is a bit downplayed in the article.

PC World - Living with Google Apps--at Google

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The transparent society comes of age

Virginia Postrel has a really interesting post on the "transparent society," in which everyone can watch everyone else. She points out that younger technology users have generally accepted the implications, but problems come largely via adult policing.

One point I found interesting is that she acknowledges the problems of a transparent society, especially for those of us who have grown up expecting privacy:

Aside from the old-fashioned notion that some parts of life don't belong in public, I don't want to live in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business, and I wouldn't want my teenage persona following me around forever.

Sound familiar? Hiere's Michel Serres:

When everyone knows everything right now about everybody and lives by this knowledge, you have antiquity's notion of freedom and the ideal city, and also the ideal of modern philosophers since Rousseau, the ideal of the media and social science, of the police and bureaucracy: poll, clarify, inform, make known, expose, report. A terrifying nightmare, one that if you've lived in small villages or large tribes, you'll want to avoid all your life, for it is the height of enslavement. (Serres 1995, p.68)

Dynamist Blog: The Transparent Society and Its Clueless Adult Enemies

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Distributing knowledge about conflict:
One reason I've posted some "academic-like" posts on this site, in addition to files, is the hope of using MountainRunner as something of a repository of knowledge. In spite of my writing skills, I'm still hoping to accomplish this and have decided to create a wiki after looking at entries like counterinsurgency, Blackwater, public diplomacy, SWET, Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah, and even John Nagl on Wikipedia. These just aren't adequate for the needs of the SO/LIC, PMC, public diplomacy, smart power, and terrorism communities. As these groups are intricately linked together and require greater or at least different details on these topics.

ConflictWiki (Updated) (MountainRunner)

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Linden Lab looking for tech writers

Just saw this via the Austin Tech Writers list.
Linden Lab is seeking a full time Documents and Technical writer. This position will take on the expansive Second Life Knowledge Base and tame it in record time. This role will also be responsible for preparing the transition from the current format to a new service, and edit incoming articles for style and content. Long term expectations will be for this role to maintain this and other support documents in accordance with release schedules and retain editorial control over the Knowledge Base and other forward facing support documents.
It doesn't say whether you'll be paid in Linden dollars or whether you get your own island.

Documentation and Technical Writer/Editor | Linden Lab

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Stalking with Facebook

Saw this via TechMeme. What interests me isn't the nature or politics of the dispute (peace: I'll fight you for it!), but the fact that social networking makes this sort of stalking possible. Not the panopticon, the agora.

Michelle Malkin: Facebook nightmare: College Republican targeted by stalker speaks out

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KairosNews on Google Apps

cel4145 asks:

Can We Dump GroupWise and Switch to Google Apps Education Edition? | Kairosnews

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


Slife is a new application for the Max OS X that lets you visualize and organize your computer activities like never before. Slife observes your every interaction with applications such as Safari, Mail and iChat and keeps tracks of all web pages you visit, emails you read, documents you write and much more.

All activities observed by Slife are graphically displayed in visualizations that make it easy for you to understand where and how you are spending your time.

Slife Labs

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Roundup on Google Apps

As you may have gathered, Google has launched the premier Google Apps service. Google Apps now comes in a free edition and a premier edition; the premier edition is $50/year (compared to Microsoft Live's $24/mo). Apps currently include Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Docs & Spreadsheets, Page Creator and Start Page. Advantages include tech support, guaranteed uptime, optional rather than required text ads, larger storage, etc.

Here are some resources on the launch:

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Collaborative mind mapping

I'm not a big fan of it, but if you are, this looks like a good way to go.

Thanks to a tip from a reader and his gracious offer of an invite (thanks Robbie!), I've discovered MindMeister, a web-based mind mapping tool that does three things I consider to be absolutely essential for an online offering in this category. First, it is compatible with MindManager, the mapping application I use on both my PCs and my Mac. Second, it allows maps to be shared with others in either read-only or full collaboration mode. Third, it integrates Skype so that IM or VoIP chat can be conducted while collaboratively editing a map.

The Skype integration seems really smart. It would be nice to see something like this with collaborative office suites.

» MindMeister - collaborative web-based mind mapping | Office Evolution |

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Wil GDocs remain free?

I think so, at least in the short to medium term, for several reasons. See the comments on a previous post. A lot depends on how Microsoft handles Office Live -- whose document sharing starts at $19.95/mo.

For fun, here's a snippet from a review for Office Live that nicely frames the new services-oriented strategy we're seeing across the sector. It's not like Microsoft is caught flat-footed, they're just trying to figure out how to leverage their legacy apps rather than be chained down by them:
The nice thing about this model, aside from the healing effect it will have on Microsoft's soul, is that it doesn't require customers to rip and replace what they already have. Instead, customers can determine which Office assets they'd like to use, in both software and service form, and utilize only those things which are of value to them. Cetinok told me that the Live Era changes Microsoft's business model in two ways. First, with the services model, the company can change the way in which it delivers software to users. A single services upgrade instantly upgrades thousands of clients, with no client-side software installs or deployment hang-ups. Second, the Live Era enables a new hybrid business model, where services can generated income for Microsoft in a number of different ways, depending on the situation. "Some of the things we'll do will be advertiser supported, transaction fee supported, or subscription fee supported," Cetinok told me. "It's like TV. Many TV shows are advertiser-supported, but you're starting to see product placement in network TV shows, while many people pay $10-$15 each month to get the premium programming on channels like HBO. There will always be high premium services and products, and those might come with transaction fees or subscription costs, but there will also be services that we can bring to price sensitive segments with advertising."

"Eternal damnation always makes me hungry"

Heard on the West Mall of the UT campus, around noon, as the speaker passed an itinerant preacher lecturing a large crowd on abortion.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Freestyle consulting for political campaigns

Jeff Jarvis' new blog, PrezVid, is all about how cheap video equipment and distribution are revolutionizing political campaigns. So far, the most priceless find is this guy, who offers candidates advice on leveraging YouTube. The setting is his dorm room, but the advice sounds spot-on.

High-powered consultant at PrezVid

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Keep your friends close, but not too close

The dangers of social networking for campaigns:

Since John Edwards is probably doing more social network outreach than any other candidate, I pulled up his MySpace page. A quick click through to John Edwards' friends list reveals a porn photographer, a playboy model, a guy who calls himself "Sir Bitchmaster" and enough T & A to make Larry Flynt proud.

techPresident – How the candidates are using the web, and how the web is using them.

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Europe proposes to track phone and net use very, very closely

A panoptic approach to security is proposed in Europe, and people are pointing out the flaws:

“This is an incredibly bad thing in terms of privacy, since people have grown up with the idea that you ought to be able to have an anonymous e-mail account,” Mr. Fleischer said. “Moreover, it’s totally unenforceable and would never work.”

Europe’s Plan to Track Phone and Net Use - New York Times

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Collaboration suites are spreading

Google Docs is what I've been using, but it's certainly not the only game in town:

» Central Desktop adds spreadsheets to their mix | Office Evolution |

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Writing collaborative documents

I recently presented a talk to graduate students here at the LBJ school about how to effectively coordinate and write long (300-page) policy documents. The exercise was useful, and allowed me to crystallize some of the ideas I've had about how to manage collaborative work in the classroom; I'll likely recycle the lecture in my own classes when we work on group projects. The Powerpoint presentation is up at my site. Comments are welcome.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"the core dual elements of future social applications: flow and traffic"

Really, really leveraging the interconnectedness potentiality in web apps:

We are sending all sorts of traffic -- different sorts of messages -- flowing through the various implicit and explicit social networks that we define ourselves through, and through which we discover meaning, belonging, and insight.

This traffic flow -- made more liquid by RSS and instant messaging style real-time messaging -- is the primary dynamic that I believe we will see in all future social apps. Yes, we will want to have our traffic cached -- for search and analysis purposes -- but we will increasingly move toward a flow model: where the various bits that we craft and throw into the ether -- blog posts, calendar entries, photos, presence updates, whatever -- will be picked up by other apps, either to display them to us, or to make sense of them. We want to consolidate all into one flow -- a single time-stamped thread -- that all apps can dip into.

Some good examples follow. Read the whole thing, as Instapundit would say.

/Message: Traffic And Flow

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At the English Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara, they have an interesting research and teaching project on the information society:

Transcriptions is a NEH-funded curricular development and research initiative started in 1998 by the English Dept. at UC Santa Barbara to focus on literary study and information society. (See our history.) The goal of is to demonstrate a paradigm—at once theoretical, instructional, and technical—for integrating new information media and technology within the core work of a traditional humanities discipline. Transcriptions seeks to "transcribe" between past and present understandings of what it means to be a literate, educated, and humane person.

Put in the form of a question: what is the relation between being "well-read" and "well-informed"? How, in other words, can contemporary culture sensibly create a bridge between its past norms of cultural literacy and its present sense of the immense power of information culture?

About Transcriptions

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New book: Philosophy of Technology

Jan-Kyrre Berg Olsen alerted me to this new book coedited with Evan Selinger:

Philosophy of Technology is a collection of short interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the most influential and prominent scholars in this field. We hear their views on technology, its aim, scope, use, the future, and how their work fits in these respects.

The project sounds similar to Chasing Technoscience, which Selinger also coedited. Looks really interesting. Contributors include Joseph Agassi, Albert Borgmann, Mario Bunge, Harry Collins, Paul Durbin, Andrew Feenberg, Joan H. Fujimura, Peter Galison, Allan Hanson, Donna J. Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Don Ihde, Ian C. Jarvie, Bruno Latour, Bill McKibben, Carl Mitcham, Andrew Pickering, Daniel Sarewitz, Evan Selinger, Dan A. Seni, Peter Singer, Susan Leigh Star, Isabelle Stengers, and Lucy Suchman.

Philosophy of Technology, Automatic Press / VIP

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More on phones as wallets

Payments by mobile phones are relatively commonplace in parts of Africa and Europe, and are gaining ground here.

Smart Mobs: Payments by mobile phone

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

When Linux is described as "revolutionary," this is not what I had in mind.

Cuba is switching, Venezuela is interested. Consider the irony of Cuba using "free as in speech" software. I guess it's less ironic than Cuba using Microsoft products.

Slashdot | Stallman Convinces Cuba to Switch to Open Source

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Excel as your dashboard

A while back, I used Excel to track my many projects. I eventually migrated to Basecamp for its collaborative features. But if you don't collaborate so much, Excel makes a good "executive dashboard."

Building an Executive Dashboard in Excel 2007 with Conditional Formatting

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