Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogging: least trusted form of user-generated content

According to study by Forrester Research, almost 25% of all online consumers publish some form of User-generated content (UGC). [ Link via:]

The Forrester study also found that review by a blogger was at the bottom of trust ratings.

Types of blog-based reviews thriving today

- Web 2.0 services reviews by the Techcrunch and others.
- Arts reviews by Blogcritics.
- Software review from already established Zdnet blogs.
- Consumer champion blogs like Consumerist.

These findings do little for the cause for paid blog reviews such as Reviewme and Payperpost.

However, I think there is much scope with review aggregation like Metacritic.

To be really web 2.0-savvy, mainstream media must use Web 2.0 tools, not just buttons

Richard Macmanus writes about more mainstream media sites using popular web 2.0 services. Actually, he is talking about buttons: Digg this, add this to and so on. These buttons are common on many blogs.

Merely using some buttons does not make these mainstream sites Web 2.0 – savvy.
The Big idea behind Web 2.0 is two-way conversation.
Do you see 3-4 buttons making that happen?

You read a story on NYT, digg it; then, someone browsing Digg notices it, he diggs it as well, or, he may choose to add a comment on Digg itself. If he goes to NYT site to read the article, will he comment, if he indeed can? Apart from the Guardian, and the Washington Post, commenting is still heavy weather on many news sites.

To be really Web savvy, mainstream media must use Web 2.0 tools in a way that nurtures community.

1. They have to use Forums,
2. Have Digg style rating, voting & commenting.
3. The Guardian’s Comment is free service is a nice idea that other sites must look into. Even the venerable Economist is integrating blogs with its web offering, here and here.
4. Daily Live sessions on the topic–of-the-day may also be considered.

Let the conversation flow.


Vista's launch: a blockbuster that was to be?

Microsoft launched its new operating system on January 30 amidst a ho-hum reaction from buyers and analysts, much unlike the rapturous response given to announcement of Apple’s iPhone, which at present is still some months off.

The sobering reality for Microsoft:
PC OSes do not pack as much power as the so-called online OS (read Google) or handsets do.

Techdirt reports that Vista’s launch saw ‘the smallest crowds of any OS launch by Microsoft-- less than Windows 95 and Windows XP’.

Some will say consumers want better security with their systems. On that front, most security analysts are not impressed with Vista:

Security issue # 1: Pay more for better security
Many say that Microsoft has reserved most of the security features for the high-end editions of Vista, namely Windows Vista Ultimate, which costs $250.

Security issue # 2: Short shrift to third world
Vista comes in 6 flavors. Users in the developing countries will have to make do with what Microsoft calls the “Starter edition”, which in all probability, will be choke full of irritating update notices on every start and may be most vulnerable to security attacks.

I guess Microsoft’s main market in developing are the high-end government and corporate contracts.

Here in India, it is amusing to see ministers and corporate chiefs lining up like eager schoolchildren at the zoo gate, to be seen and clicked with Bill Gates.

Security issue # 3: It is only software

Remember, it is only software. No software can hope to defend your castle against the ever-increasing army of hackers, most of who may now belong to ‘proper’ criminal gangs.

The best way to be safe is to be careful – for example, you must closely scrutinize your download activity.

You may also consider having a firewall and have just one download folder which users must constantly check for viruses, spyware and other threats.

Lesson: Do not dump XP
If you have a functioning PC running Windows XP with Service Pack 2, experts suggest you stay with that, no need to spend $200 to upgrade to Vista.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The 13 main problems with Vista

In this age of mobile handsets, burgeoning online content, gaming consoles, iPods, it comes as no surprise that Microsoft will spend $ 500 million to market Vista.

It is currently running ads for Hotmail in India promising 1 Gb of space! Very much in the tradition of England on the eve of 19th Century and U.S. around 2000, an entity about to begin a painful and slow fall from the top, Microsoft can do as it pleases with its hoard of cash. You didn’t see Google doing that when it launched Gmail.

In words of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft will spend all money telling people that ‘buying Vista is a potentially life-changing event’.

Buying Vista is indeed life changing.
When you buy Vista, you are giving up your power over the software and hardware, you paid big bucks.

The problems with Vista will come out to the fore when it gets in hands of large number of buyers. The mainstream media has so far focused on the Bill gates personality cult rather than the negative things with Vista, other than Walter Mossberg’s ‘I am not impressed’ review.

The difference between Online and mainstream media is an old one: MSM often writes puff pieces around technology issues while there is a wealth of information online which needs to be read by actual users and the general populace.

The main problems with Vista so far:

Problems Part 1

1. Costlier than the $100 Laptop and Gaming consoles: Vista Home Premium is $239, $159 upgrade; Vista Ultimate costs $399, $259 upgrade.

2. No instant plug and play: upgrading and setting up Vista will take much of your time.

3. Expensive for normal use: Vista is probably not for you if you use the PC for normal jobs like surfing and typing. Use Mozillla Firefox for same and better functionalities than Explorer 7. Microsoft may however try to convince you otherwise showing how cool Vista looks. If you are into looks, get a skin for your desktop.

4. Too expensive for Gaming: If you are into Gaming, for the price of a Vista, get a Gaming Console.

5. No big Vista application announcements: IBM, Intuit, large software vendors and even Microsoft’s own Dynamics ERP division have so far been quiet about their software for Vista.

6. Online software providers such as do not plan to modify their offerings to suit the new Explorer

Now, we come to the actual problem with Vista.
After the lukewarm response to DRM initiatives by big companies, I am positive users will not like Vista’s draconian features that threaten to take the power away from them. Vista is actually worse than DRM.

To users, Microsoft says that it wants to protect them from computer viruses. To content owners (especially big media corporations), Microsoft says it will protect copyright. Actually, Microsoft ends up on the Big Media’s side, virtually controlling how users use and control their machines.

Problems Part 2

Highlights from the Vista user agreement, which comes into force once you choose accept and install the software.

7. This agreement only gives users only a few rights to use the software. All other rights belong to Microsoft.

8. If you do not like Vista's limitations, Microsoft says in the agreement that "you may not work around any technical limitations in the software."

9. Microsoft has the right to regularly check the legitimacy of the software (which you paid for) and CAN DELETE certain programs without your knowledge.

10. Microsoft can revalidate the software anytime or it may require you to reactivate it if you make changes to ‘your’ computer components.

11. Microsoft has set significant limits on users’ ability to copy or transfer the software. It prohibits anything more than a single backup copy and has set strict limits on transferring the software to different devices or users.

12. Only Windows Defender, the much-hyped anti-virus program –will determine what constitutes unwanted software. That means Microsoft can install Spyware and Adware with impunity.

13. Vista Content protection only helps Big Media: A computer scientist in New Zealand found that Vista intentionally degrades the picture quality of premium content when played on most computer monitors. Microsoft wants you to see that content on TV or bigger, pricier displays.

Options for existing PC (not using MAC OS, Linux) users

- Continue using Win XP
- For gaming, you are better off with the consoles
- Use online office application from Google which are getting better by the day, including better integration with other online apps, in a seamless experience.
- OpenOffice is getting better by the day.
- Home Entertainment: Steve Ballmer says Vista as the center and the launching point for the next generation of connected entertainment in the home. Translation: Expensive Home Servers, premium content, all controlled by Vista’s draconian features.

The world’s needs an open source home entertainment server along the lines of Openoffice, if that is our entertainment future.

End notes
Despite having come up with a Big Brother type of software, Microsoft is sitting pretty. Microsoft knows that for Vista, it at least has the lucrative (&captive) OEM and Corporate market (which still has to show faith in online office applications).

Apple users may take heart with this article that extrapolates Apple’s current growth rate and finds that Apple may overtake Microsoft in the year 2011.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A-listers vs. the Long Tail: an underdog's life

In a world where link is ‘the’ main form of currency, bloggers and the long tail are finding out that they may be playing the roles of extras and character actors.

The A-listers and all who came before make it tough for new entrants to get noticed by Google and their peer bloggers. It is also true that the blogosphere is 90% rewriting and this makes even tougher for quality to reach out and prosper.

For your consideration, some recent developments:

1. Wikipedia's ‘NO FOLLOW’ attribute policy. What if other big portals decide to do the same – NYtimes, Washington Post and others?

2. Diggers ignore blogs 90% of the time, unless the blogger has dutifully digged stories submitted by at least 50 other Diggers. Desperate for attention, blogs in reply get heavy on link bait.

3. Techmeme and its group of A-listers: It is hard to break into that elite group. Often Techmeme links up to A-listers just rewriting major news versus a small blogger writing a great analytical piece.

4. The A-listers are squabbling among themselves over whom to link and whom not to. All this while, the ‘link hungry’ small-fry blogger slogs on, weaned by article upon article advising him/her to link to the big guys.

If you complain that how come only the A-listers have all the brains, ideas and story ideas, I am with you, my fellow bloggers. Let us sit around the fire, have some warm Indian tea and think how to deal with the A-lister's menace.