Shall we Gather at the (funding) river

It’s always nice to see startups — particularly those in the social-media, Web 2.0-type landscape — get some funding, so I don’t want to dump on, which has not only received $6-million in financing from Lotus founder Jim Manzi and VC group Allen & Co., but is also the subject of a laudatory article in the Boston Globe.

Still, I have to wonder what has that’s worth $6-million (or maybe I have an unrealistic view of how much $6-million is nowadays). I’ve checked the site out several times, and apart from a garish and cluttered design that I find hard on the eyes, I don’t see much to make it stand out from the crowd — and it is a crowd (Andrew Watson also seems skeptical, as does Ben Barren and Kent Newsome). Not only are there old standbys like (owned by the New York Times group, which also owns the Boston Globe), which also happens to be garish and cluttered, but there are dozens of startups from and to more elaborate ventures.

For example, there are sites like and a news- and blog-oriented site called — both of which I am beta-testing as a contributor. When it comes to design and layout, Newsvine wins hands down, and I find the way articles are contributed and voted on, plus the live chatting, to be very interesting features. Whether either one will last I don’t know. There are also local news ventures such as — which seems a bit like a vacant lot waiting for a party, in many ways — and others too numerous to mention, such as

Will any of these startups find success, or will they all? It’s a bit of a crapshoot at the moment. Fun to watch, but nerve-wracking to work in, I imagine. Steve Rubel says there is a Web 2.0 crash coming.


Mike Arrington of TechChrunch notes that — which has been through a bit of a remake after some bad early reviews — is also pursuing this model. And Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. (not surprisingly) prefers a different approach. My friend Paul Kedrosky says Gather is “AOL-lite-lite for the blogosphere” and that it just might succeed because some people want that. I think Kareem has a good point about Gather too in his recent post.

The Canadian copyfight debate continues

As a patriotic Canadian, (somewhat) dedicated blogger and technology writer, and devoted digital-music fan, I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the furore that has erupted in the Great White North over the behaviour of a certain Liberal politician in the runup to our federal election. My friend Rob Hyndman has a great post on his blog which sums up the whole mess in one easy-to-read and link-rich entry.

The bottom line — as chronicled by blogger, columnist and law professor Michael Geist — is that Sarmite Bulte, parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for copyright laws in Canada, is attending a fundraiser January 19 that has been organized by all the major lobbying organizations that are trying to toughen up Canadian copyright legislation: namely, the record industry, the movie industry and the publishing industry.

The fact that this, well… smells bad seems to have escaped Ms. Bulte. She has refused to acknowledge that such behaviour at least gives the impression that she is being unduly influenced by the industry she is helping to regulate. She continues to claim that she has the best interests of musicians and music fans at heart, although comments from noted blogger and musician Matthew Good and an independent record-store owner indicate otherwise.

We’re not a cultural or political backwater up here — it just looks that way sometimes.


John has pointed out that the fundraiser isn’t until January 19th (I had originally said it had been held already), and noted that one of the reasons the fundraiser is being held so close to the election is that Ms. Bulte has used up her campaign financing contributions for 2005 (something I haven’t confirmed yet).

The hunger for an Apple-Windows dual boot

I must admit that the first thing I thought of when the big Apple-Intel announcement came out was: “Great — now maybe I can have an Intel machine that will dual boot Windows and OS X!” Obviously I’m not alone, since one of the big debates after Macworld has been whether you will be able to run Windows on those new Mac-Intel machines.

Hopes were raised when an Apple spokesman said that Apple wouldn’t do anything to stop someone from loading Windows, but then Betanews said it wouldn’t work because Apple’s machines use the new EFI standard, which replaces the BIOS (the thing that runs before Windows), and Windows doesn’t support EFI. But now it looks like they might, since Intel says it ships a widget that lets older systems run with EFI, so if Apple uses that it would work.

Why the interest in dual-booting Windows and OS X? From my point of view it’s simple. There are things I like doing with Macs — mostly involving images and music — and there are things I like doing with Windows, mostly involving games and things my work forces me to do with Internet Explorer. I’d love to be able to do both. Admittedly, dual-booting is cumbersome (as mentioned here), but I already do it with Linux and it’s not a big deal.

Ideally, there would be an emulator you could run that would allow Windows apps to run on Mac or vice versa. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


A reader mentioned Virtual PC, which I have used but found incredibly slow, even on a fast laptop. It also won’t work on the new Macs, although Microsoft and Apple have said they are committed to making it work.

Mike Arrington takes on Plaxo — twice

I know I’m coming a little late to this one, but a post on Rick Segal’s blog The Post Money Value pointed me towards a fascinating back-and-forth between Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, Charles O’Donnell of Union Square Ventures (a venture capital outfit headed by Fred Wilson) and Stacy, who works for Plaxo.

Plaxo is the “update your address book for me” company that just about everyone with an email address has probably received an irritating message from by now. Charles, a researcher at Union Square, apparently sent out Plaxo notifications to friends and acquaintances, and blogged about how he tried to make them funny so that people would do it. One of the first comments on his post was from Mike Arrington, who said he didn’t know Charles and wondered why the hell he had sent him a message about Plaxo — a company it turns out Mike has had a run-in with before, which led to a long and tortuous discussion.

Mike then blogged about his experience with Charles, at which point Charles and Stacy the Plaxo spokesperson start going at it in the comments section of CrunchNotes — with Stacy suddenly accusing Charles of breaking the terms of service for Plaxo by sending a message to someone he doesn’t really know.

By the end, I wound up agreeing with another commenter on Mike’s post, who says: “whoosh — that’s the sound of everything that anyone has said about Plaxo on the myriad threads I’ve just caught myself up on – the sound of all of it flying straight past Stacy. Stacy and, moreover, Plaxo, is like that senior citizen in the middle lane of the highway going 40 or the teenager that waltzes right past you to the front of the line at the coffee shop – they’ll never understand what it is they’re doing that’s so damn annoying because they. just. can’t.”

Google for BlackBerry — no talking

Got a BlackBerry and eager to use Google Talk for voice-over-Internet calls? Keep dreaming, friend. Russell Shaw, who blogs for ZDNet on IP telephony — and also happens to have a blog devoted to the BlackBerry handheld from Canada’s own Research In Motion — clarified something I was wondering about as far as the recent announcement that Google Talk would soon be available for the CrackBerry.

If you read the press release, you’ll notice that there’s lots of mentions of Google Talk, but no real mention of… well, actually talking. Russell explains why in his recent post: Because RIM depends on carriers such as Verizon and Sprint/Nextel to subsidize and market its handhelds, and the carriers would hit the roof if they found out that RIM was providing a way for BlackBerry users to get around the calling plans of the company’s partners. Russell posted something to his BlackBerry blog too.

Makes sense for RIM. Too bad for BlackBerry users — although it’s nice to see the handheld maker branching out.

News flash: Yahoo acquires proto-startup

As Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo puts it, “if you ever wonder whether you company is getting a reputation, just wait for the blogosphere to make fun of you.” And so it has — Greg Yardley has a great faux news release about Yahoo acquiring an unnamed Web 2.0 company “three days before it was to be founded.”

He quotes Chris P. Bacon, Director of Hype Production, as saying: “Yahoo! is committed to generating mass quantities of free public relations by acquiring more pre-revenue, pre-business plan companies than any other global Internet company.” And Hugh Jorgan, newly-appointed Vice President of Pre-Business Development, says: “We’ve been acquiring companies earlier and earlier – before VC funding, before revenue, and in some cases before the completion of their products.”

It wouldn’t be as funny it if didn’t have a grain of truth to it.

Is McNealy right about the iPod? Maybe

Obviously, anyone with an eye for history has to take Scott McNealy’s comments about the future of the iPod (i.e., there isn’t one) with a large grain of salt. After all, Scott has been pushing the whole “network is the computer” vision since I was in junior high — or maybe it just feels that way — and we all still use desktop PCs rather than the “thin client” computers that Sun would like us to use.

In a sense, Scott’s requiem for the iPod is just another cog in that particular wheel. The iPod will die, he says, because we will all have devices — phones, PDAs or whatever — that stream the music we want from a server somewhere. Is Scott just jealous of the success being enjoyed by Apple, the company Sun almost merged with three times (according to co-founder Bill Joy), while Sun’s stock continues to bump along the river bottom?

Perhaps. But could he be right? It’s possible. When Sun was pushing its initial vision, broadband speeds weren’t anywhere near as advanced as they are now — and EV-DO and other wireless advancements are starting to bring that to cellphones and PDAs. I’ve streamed my own Mp3 files to a cellphone, an iPaq and a desktop using Orb as well as other services such as Streampad, and you know what? It worked pretty well, all things considered.

Maybe the iPod will turn out to be like the answering machine after all — or maybe it will sprout a microphone and a stylus and become a cellphone/PDA. After all, Apple has apparently filed for trademarks on the phrase “Mobile Me.”

Discovering Webjay and Zoeradio

It’s funny how things come together sometimes. I’ve been following the chat lately about Yahoo’s purchase of Webjay, which is kind the of music playlists, but I wasn’t paying that much attention because I’d never heard of until that point (hey, I can’t know about everything — I have a day job). And then I came across a mention of this great podcast/radio show thing by Zoe, a 15-year-old girl from Santa Monica.

Maybe it was the name that caught my eye — my youngest daughter’s name happens to be Zoe. Anyway, I went and checked it out, and it led to me to Webjay, which is where Zoe’s shows are archived so you can stream and/or download them. I listened to a couple and thought they were great — a fantastic mix of stuff by bands like Fallout Boy, Weezer and The Strokes, as well as people I’d never heard of like Brendan Benson and One Block Radius. A really great selection.

According to a note from Zoe’s father, his daughter made him some mix tapes, and they found their way to a friend who had a pirate radio show, and then SPIN magazine heard about it (although the link to the story he mentions doesn’t go anywhere) and then it kind of took off. Great story — and Webjay turns out to be a great service. Another smart buy by Yahoo, making it a trifecta with and


I did a little digging, and it’s probably not a surprise that Zoe’s into music — it appears her dad is Ian Rogers, who used to work with the Beastie Boys (where he was one of the first to post the band’s Mp3 files online in 1998), then wound up at Nullsoft (creators of Winamp before AOL bought it) and then at a company called Mediacode, which was bought by Yahoo and became the guts of Yahoo’s Music Engine.

Yes, Apple rules — but… ho hum

I don’t want to add to my reputation as a wet blanket, and I would like to state for the record that I like Apple a lot — really. Their products are great, and I know that they dominate the digital music business and are raking in piles of cash, not to mention having really cool laptops and some great software. But I must admit that Steve Jobs’ big keynote speech at Macworld seemed a little, well… lacklustre.

I know that’s probably because I’m not a daily Apple user, and it’s also because I probably got a little too excited by reports from and others that the company was going to announce a Mini-style DVR or an entertainment hub, or even a giant HDTV with a computer in it, and they didn’t. When you get all warmed up for faster-than-light drive, anything else seems like a letdown. Even the Tao of Mac wasn’t that impressed.

At the same time though, Apple didn’t really announce anything that knocked my socks off, and Russell Beattie seems to feel the same (although he’s a known turncoat who renounced Apple and went back to Microsoft). Yes, the new MacBook sounds pretty good — but not radically, insanely great. And the new iWeb software sounds good too, and so does the oPod remote, and the other stuff. But there was nothing really stand-up-and-shout-out-loud great. I guess selling a gazillion iPods and almost a billion songs is good enough.

Is DRM all or nothing? (updated)

Doc Searls has gotten pretty lathered up over a post made by Lloyd Shepherd, deputy director of digital publishing for the Guardian in the UK (a great paper with a great website). Why? Because Lloyd made the mistake of writing about digital rights management, or DRM, without saying that it is a great evil that must be sent back to Hell where it belongs.

In fact, he says that it seems obvious that we will wind up having some kind of DRM, and therefore we should start talking about what kind to have and what makes one kind better than another, an argument also made by Chris Anderson of Wired and the Long Tail. This is anathema to Doc, however, who calls Lloyd’s post “the most depressing thing I’ve read in some time.”

Do we have to have some kind of DRM? I would argue that Lloyd is probably right — the big media companies aren’t going to let their music and books and movies and cartoons and TV shows and whatever else simply float out onto the Internet scot-free, no matter how much we might like them to. So should we let Google develop a DRM scheme that works and is as non-restrictive as possible, or should we let Sony do it with their rootkits?

David Smith says we haven’t had the debate over whether we need DRM or not, but that implies there’s a debate to be had. I’m not sure there is. Debate over which kind, yes. Debate over whether to have DRM or not, I don’t think so. In this, I would agree not only with Lloyd but with Shelley of Burningbird, whose post makes a lot of sense — and has some interesting comments attached as well.