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What is the difference between a blog and a newsgroup?

Recently in a conversation I was asked to comment on what really was the big difference between a blog and a newsgroup. After all they are both a reverse chronological list of postings , right? My answer, maybe obvious, is this: a newsgroup is (typically) focused on a certain subject matter, and has many different people posting their comments and questions on that topic. So you follow a newsgroup because you are interested in a specific subject matter. A blog is (typically) focused on a certain author's voice, and often covers many different topics, of interest to the author. So you follow a blog because you are interested in a particular author 's point of view. Of course in reality it's not quite that black and white, and there are shades of grey in between.

“Pure Entrepreneurship” article in tbe Boston Globe

"Pure Entrepeneurs", according to this article in the Boston Globe,

… are loopy and obsessed. They have a vision of the future, and while others are casting their lines into the water to see what will bite, pure entrepreneurs are jumping over the gunwales and swimming after the white whale. Pure entrepreneurship, by my definition, is often driven by a belief that a major shift is coming -- and thus it's hard to find customers who already understand that they need the product a pure entrepreneur is developing.

You know the funny thing that my wife pointed out? For me , being called "loopy and obsessed" high praise!

Seeing the other side of someone

Adam Bossworth is a guy who I've written about before, in a very technical context. He's well known in techie circles for many important accomplishments and contributions. It is nice to see him writing about a totally other side of him, the side that you of course always knew had to exist, and yet in his tech industry persona would probably never ever come up. It 's easy to agree with what he is saying.

Is Sarah McLachlan is Video Podcasting?

sarah_wof[1].gif On her site, World On Fire, Sarah McLachlan has an interesting video, which reminded me what Video podcasting or Video blogging can become. Picking up on a theme of mine from a few days ago, one of the important characteristics of the blogging phenomenon is that people who otherwise would have no access to broadcasting are able to get their content (text, pictures, audio and video) delivered to interested people. This perspective says that the barriers to creating the content are low enough now (typing, digital cameras, recorders, video cams etc.) that once the distribution (broadcasting) barriers go away a lot of people who have something to say/show are able to do it on their own. Podcasting represents a major lowering of the distribution barriers. The connection with this video? She made this Video on a total shoestring, like a Podcaster would. it's the kind of video I'd expect to see video podcasted. And another thing: the video and the story about why she made it is pretty cool too!

Gmail, Part Deux: Strategy

So what might GMail's strategy be? I listened to a wonderful Podcast with Georges Harik all about GMail and some of the thinking about it. If you are interested in GMail, it's a worthwhile listen. I noticed that Georges kept referring to GMail as providing great emailand communications capabilities. An interesting and fine distinction to be stressing, although the interviewer never referred to it. Another interesting strategic point that was covered was the question of providing free POP and SMTP, which is certainly counterintuitive if you believe that GMail is being made to make money, and the only way they make money is via ads. For example, the way I am using GMail, through Outlook, I never see the ads. Something that was said also made me think about GMail as more than a consumer service. Georges seemed to focus totally on consumers, but at various points left me thinking about what was not said… Here are some speculations about Google's strategic intent with GMail:

  • I doubt that they will decide to start charging for the 1Gig of storage. That would be too close to being 'Evil'

  • What if the longer term plan is to create a for-pay commercial offering. Going to global corporations like General Electric or Shell and offering to take over their email infrastructure? They could offer value added services for security, auditing, document retention, and many others. It would be worth a lot of dough to those companies.

  • Why the focus on 'communications' in the interview ? It seems to imply a distinct focus beyond simple email. Google might be positioning itself to get into other media. How about getting into IM or VOIP? How about aquiring Skype?

  • For the first time Google is building some lock-in. By being the store for all their users email they make it much more difficult for people to take their business elsewhere. Without that there is no loyalty and the next hot search engine could lure us away.

Of course the truth may be more prosaic - It might be that this is a simple advertising revenue play - which might have **astronomical]( cities/) potential.

Free Coffee and Bad Marketing

First the punchline : go to this link, fill out a short questionaire, and receive a $15 Starbucks gift card in the mail, no questions asked. But hurry, because I wouldn't be surprised if that offer evaporates quickly.

Here is one of those cool "internet effects. " There's a site called DealNews where you can immediate reports of interesting offers, coupons, deals, etc. They are posted there by I don't know who - people without a life. They also have an RSS Feed for you BlogBridge users. That's how I found out about the offer.

Anyway, some Oracle Reseller thought that offering a $15 prize to all comers would be a good way to get some market research done. What is wrong with that thought? I wonder what the quality of their information will be.

People are rational actors and will do exactly what is in their best interests, as long as you define "best interests" really broadly. So you need to be very thoughtful about the visible and not so visible incentives you put out there because you will influence the outcome directly, and may have to issue a lot of Starbucks gift cards!

Boston Globe on PodCasting

The Boston Globe writes an insightful article about Podcsating (note: the link will turn stale tomorrow, but I will try and update it if I can find the article elsewhere on the web.)

"If Internet-based weblogs turned everyone into a potential newspaper columnist, and digital cameras let them become photojournalists, podcasting is promising to let everyone with a microphone and a computer become a radio commentator."

Coding as Writing

If you read this blog at all, you know that I've been working on a piece of software (BlogBridge) which at this point I am pretty excited about, even though I don't know where it will go or end up.

I was recently interviewed about my work by Scott Kirsner (of the Boston Globe) who writes the @Large Column. I don't know whether or when he will write an article, but the questions he asked made me think a bit about what I was doing, and particularlyy the way I have chosen to go about it.

I have purposely decided not to try and raise capital to fund this project, but rather pursue a small-scale, cottage industry, do-it-yourself approach. As a practicall matter, I am pretty sure that the project in its current form wouldn't be venture backable anyway. But still I can rephrase the point by saying that I have purposely decided not to limit myself to projects which are venture backable.


I sometimes liken my personal approach or motivations towards the BlogBridge project, to why one might decide to try and write a book. One might have a burning desire to tell this story, and is willing to forsake a conventional job to do it.

While I don't know if I will be able to find a publisher or if the book will sell, and I can be fairly sure, statistically, that it's not going to make anyone rich. It's a labor of love, as it were.

Beyond the psychic and creative payoff of doing this work, there are indirect benefits. I am getting experience in important new areas for me, such as blogging, but also working with talented developers in other countries, learning about open source development, and of course hard-core java engineering.) Each of these in one way or antoerh might lead to other business opportunities or somehow help my consulting business.

This is in stark contrast of course to raising $5M, hiring 20 people and racing to a profitable growth business and a liquidity event.

Who knows whether BlogBridge will actually make any money: that's not the only or first reason I am doing this work. Different motivations, different likely outcomes, and each approach applicable to some projects and not others.

In this case, for me and for this project, this is the path that I've chosen.

Lightbulb about Podcasting (“Some stuff I just figured out”)

I attended a Podcasting meeting at Berkman a couple of days ago (see "The Berkman Choir" for some silliness) and came back, as often happens, with a new insight. Here it is, and if it seems obvious to you, that would be my failing. (And if you have no idea what I am talking about, well, just move on!) You will see some themes that I've mentioned before, but elaborated in some new ways.

The technology for blogging and Podcasting isn't that complicated or new. It's really stuff that's been around put together in new ways, but really, to an engineer, you'd get a " is that all there is to it?."

But focusing on that misses something important - the accessibility or simplicity to the user (both creator and consumer.) This key characteristic has been crucial to the success of blogging and the eventual success of Podcasting and video blogging, in this sense.

By making 'publishing' (in the most general sense of the word) available to anyone, this technology is exactly what has lowered the barriers and allowed all kinds of people with something to say actually be able to say it and publish it.

Let me elaborate. Publishing in the most general sense includes publishing of written content (newspapers, journals, magazines and books become blogs), but also audio content (radio shows become podcasts) and video content (tv programming become video blogs.)

The technology is key in that development, on three fronts:

  1. ease of use (allowing a anyone to write and article or produce a radio show)

  2. distribution (allowing this stuff to be consumed by anyone, instantly, around the globe)

  3. And ease of discovery (allowing someone who is interested to locate this content.)

With that ease, the theory goes, and the practice shows , an amazing multiitude of people suddenly decide that they have something to say to the other multitude of people who decide they want to follow what is being said. Synergy!