One question: Is John Dvorak on drugs?

I know PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak likes to be controversial, likes to think outside the box – heck, even outside the universe that contains the concept of “boxes” – but his latest column on Apple is a new low (or high, depending on your perspective). I think the editors at PCMag just run his stuff as a kind of gag now. I picture them giggling to themselves, like university students printing some wild-ass piece of gonzo writing in their student paper and hoping the administration doesn’t notice.

Dvorak’s latest brain-wave is that Apple is plotting behind the scenes to dump the Mac OS and run Windows. Makes sense, right? After all, says the columnist, they have moved away from Firewire and are supporting USB now (cue the ominous soundtrack – maybe something from The Exorcist), and the Apple Switch campaign is over and “nobody switched,” he says. That might come as a surprise to some of the hundreds of thousands of people who bought new Macs in the past few quarters, since sales have been rising at a much faster rate than they were before the iPod.

But the biggest weapon in Dvorak’s arsenal is, of course, the switch to using Intel chips. And what kind of chips do PCs that run Windows use? (nudge, nudge) Why Intel, of course (knowing wink). Could it get any more obvious? It certainly could for me. Why on earth would Apple want to run Windows? It wouldn’t make any kind of operating sense whatsoever, since Apple would be giving up the last thing that makes the company unique – apart from some cool hardware. Not only would it piss off the legions of Macolytes who worship Steve Jobs and everything he touches, but it probably wouldn’t win over that many Windows users either.

Not to mention, of course, that Steve Jobs would have to be lobotomized before he would allow something like that to happen, and the odds of that seem slim. Still, I suppose to be fair to Dvorak, the chances aren’t zero. So watch out – if you see Steve Jobs wandering around with a big scar across his forehead where they popped his head open and removed his cerebellum, then the PCMag columnist just might be onto something.

For more on John Dvorak’s growing reality problems, check out Download Squad and MacSlash Phil Sim, the Squashmeister, also has some thoughts – and as usual he takes a refreshingly different tack (although I still think he’s wrong). Not surprisingly, the Unofficial Apple Weblog also has an opinion on Dvorak, and they’ve gone for the “off his meds” angle too. And for the ultimate does of “John Dvorak is nuts,” you will have to go to the obvious URL: – where you will find a link to this comic strip version of the above incident.

Why is this even called Office Live?

I don’t want to get The Scobleizer all riled up again like he was after that whole Google hosted-email thing, but what the heck is wrong with Microsoft? The launch of Office Live looks to me like a bunch of cobbled together stuff the company had lying around, all of which has been “rebranded” under the name Office Live because it sounds really cool and Web 2.0-ish. So what, you say – lots of companies routinely do that kind of thing, Microsoft included. Which is true. But my point is, why cheapen a potentially hot brand idea like Office Live by pasting it on something that looks like a bag of warmed-over, also-ran features?

After all the attention that has been paid to Microsoft’s various “Live” announcements and betas and whatnot, such as the Ajaxy homepage thing at and the Ajaxy beta of the replacement for Hotmail, I’m not the only one who was under the impression that Office Live might actually have something to do with Office – the Microsoft workflow-software suite, that is – and in particular might offer some approximation of Office apps over the Web. Nothing could be further from the truth, apparently. There’s a domain service and some email and calendaring applications that seem aimed at small businesses, as well as some collaboration features, but nothing like or JotSpot Tracker or even WebEx’s WebOffice.

Why not call all that stuff something else, and save the term Office Live for something that actually offers those kinds of things? Who knows (even Scoble seems a little confused). Maybe the beast from Redmond is planning to buy and all their great services (like, a real-time Web chat collaboration thing they just launched) and roll them into Office Live. Or maybe it will fold Web-based versions of Word and Excel and so on in there at some point – or maybe this will join the growing stack of examples in the “boneheaded marketing decision” file.

No scoops, no NDAs, no exclusives — no walls

Ed Bott of ZDNet has a great column that outlines some of issues that media (both old and new), companies and PR agencies are wrestling with in the Web 2.0 world – using Microsoft and its somewhat elaborate and convoluted structure of EULAs, NDAs and various other restrictions on the Office 12 Beta as an example. Some journalists can write about it, and so can some bloggers – but other media can’t, and some bloggers can’t. Even The Scobleizer couldn’t figure it out immediately: at first he said Ed could blog some of the features, then after some checking he said he probably couldn’t.

Without giving a lot of details from the Microsoft side, Scoble gets into the implications of this new world in his own post, in which he describes how PR types are struggling with questions like “Are bloggers journalists?”

“Now every single one of us has the power to have “the exclusive.” It really is messing with PR team’s heads as they try to deal with this new world of 20,000,000 people who can make or break your PR plans. It was so much easier back when you only needed to deal with a few hundred or less.”

James Robertson has some thoughts along those lines too, in which he says that this is a sign of the evolution that’s going on in the world of PR, as it tries to come to grips with Media 2.o:

What we’re seeing is the old PR staff doing business as usual, and getting snared by the ground as it’s shifting underneath them. I’m not sure where this is going to end up… A new model is trying to be born, and I don’t think anyone knows what it’s going to look like yet.

James has hit the nail on the head. It’s not just that blogs are a massive maelstrom of commentary that is difficult to wrap your head or arms around as a journalist, PR person or company – the incredible power even a single blog can have to alter the way your company or product is perceived is also difficult to come to grips with. Some companies are trying to hire people to pretend to be satisfied customers, as Nvidia has been accused of doing; some are trying to hire bloggers outright; some are counting on relationships and “customer evangelists” like The Scobleizer himself – or reaching out to people like Thomas Hawk.

One thing is obvious: whether it’s scoops or “exclusives” or EULAs or NDAs or private get-togethers with the CEO over drinks at the club (off the record of course), the old ways are rapidly becoming irrelevant. What will replace them remains to be seen (Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research says scoops will continue, but who gets them will change, and Steve Rubel seems to agree). I just gave a presentation today to a group of PR staff here in Toronto about blogs, and there was a tremendous amount of interest – but also a lot of questions. And the most interesting part is that no one really has the answers.

GoogleBorg assimilates MeasureMap

Well, this should make things interesting in the old traffic-tracking game. MeasureMap, which has been in what some have called “permanent beta” for awhile now, has been absorbed acquired by Google. I haven’t used MeasureMap, since apparently I wasn’t deserving enough to get invited into the beta, but I’m curious why the search company would want to acquire the service when it just acquired Urchin and relaunched it as a free service called Google Analytics.

I managed to get into that one before a tidal wave of users swamped it, and I find it extremely useful – although I admit I kind of like much simpler tools such as MyBlogLog too. Google Analytics is filled with stuff that is aimed at marketers who want to “optimize” their “conversion rate,” whatever that means. But it’s a lot of fun to see that people have hit my blog from Ecuador or Vanuatu and places like that. Why? Who knows. Entry and exit points are also interesting to note, and search keywords too (although I want to point out that the latter has nothing to do with me mentioning naked co-ed snooker in every post).

As Paul Kedrosky observes, this could make a lot of other companies going after the same space – such as Webtrends or Mint or BlogBeat – more than a little nervous. Some of those who have tried MeasureMap, including Kareem and Pete Cashmore, say it’s pretty good and “beautifully designed.” (although subject to outages, likely from server overload issues). Good luck to the rest – it’s hard to compete with the GoogleBorg.


Mike Arrington makes a good point – it’s interesting that MeasureMap is being bought before it is even out of beta. Dennis at TechDirt calls it “hiring by acquisition.” And Mark Boulton has a nice comparison of MeasureMap, Google Analytics and Mint here (hat tip to Mark Evans).

CoComment, MyComments, Co.mments

I’ve been meaning to write something about, the new comment-tracking tool that got launched with much fanfare (or blog-fare) recently. I got an invite and have been trying out the service since a day or so after it went live, and I have to say that I’m impressed. It is easy to configure and it makes nice use of Ajax on the site, such as expanding or collapsing the comment threads that you’ve taken part in on various websites. It was relatively easy to configure, and it wasn’t that hard to install the comment box in the sidebar of my WordPress setup (although just as I wrote this it stopped working – server issues?)

To use CoComments, you click on a bookmarklet before submitting a comment on a blog – or if you use Firefox, you can use one of the Greasemonkey scripts that are floating around, which removes the need to click a button every time. You can then track the comment thread on a single page, and load your recent comments into a comment box like the one I have (you can exclude comments on certain blogs from being displayed if you wish). Although CoComment doesn’t support all blog platforms, more and more are being added. The company also has plans to provide code so that people can add support to their blogs themselves if they run a modified version of one of the main platforms, or one that isn’t supported.

To tie the CoComments idea into another thread that’s going around about Web 2.0 and the “so what” factor, which I wrote about in relation to the recent launch of 3bubbles, I have to wonder if there is a longer-term business model for CoComments. Within days of the launch, word appeared of another similar service called MyComments, which appears to be the work of a single person, and now there is a third, called, which gives you an RSS feed of any comment threads you want to be alerted about.

The speed with which these competing services appeared is definitely worth noting. Are they cool, yes. Useful? Definitely. And I like the idea that comments are becoming part of the larger conversation on the web, as I’ve mentioned several times in the past. But is this a business? Maybe not. Still, it is cool 🙂 Elsewhere on the web, Amy Gahran has some thoughts as well (bottom line: not there yet), and so do Neville Hobson and Kevin Lim. Kareem notes that it’s important to remember that users are lazy, and Pascal looks at both MyComments and CoComments.

Please, Firefox – don’t drop the ball

Richard MacManus of Read/Write Web, who also blogs for ZDNet, put into words something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile now, which is that Firefox might be losing its lead in the browser game. Obviously, I’m not talking about a market-share lead, since Internet Exploder Explorer still has about 90 per cent of the browser market. I mean the cool, cutting-edge kind of lead that has helped make Firefox the browser of choice for geeks and opinion leaders in the geek-o-sphere.

Don’t get me wrong, Firefox is still cool. And even though Internet Explorer 7 has a built-in RSS reader and tabs, two of the things that many people love about the ‘fox, it still isn’t as cool. But it’s getting there. For one thing, it’s fast. And for another thing, it doesn’t suffer from what I (and others such as Nik Cubrilovic of Omnidrive) think is one of the big weaknesses of Firefox – one that has been around since at least 1.2 or earlier – and that is the gigantic memory leak that sucks up RAM every time you open a tab, until pretty soon your browser either crashes or your entire system slows down like your processor just got swapped for a 486.

Before anyone suggests that I try the various fixes that are out there, I have. I’ve tried the one where you open the “about:config” page and edit the minimize function, and I’ve tried editing the memory usage settings. And I know that extensions can cause problems with leaks as well – but then extensions are also one of the main things that makes Firefox so special, since you can add all kinds of functionality. But I feel a whole lot less special about it when my system crashes and I have to restart it.

One of the things that makes what Richard writes so compelling is that we’ve seen this movie before. Netscape was also a kick-ass browser with all kinds of features, but it lost its way and became a bug-riddled pile of bloatware. And yes, I know that a certain software company used anti-competitive tactics to help defeat it – but Netscape also made it easier for Microsoft to win by shooting itself in the foot (and many other more crucial body parts) and I would hate to see Firefox do the same.

Update: I tried disabling the tab-caching feature in Firefox, based on this recent post by Firefox developer Ben Goodger, and it seems to have done the trick. After a day of opening up tabs – I think I have 23 open at the moment, which is about average – my system would normally be so sluggish I would have to quit and restart Firefox, which by this point would have chewed up as much as 350 megabytes of RAM. And now? Total RAM usage is about 90 megabytes and the system (an older Windows 2000 Dell desktop I have at work) is running fine.

3bubbles is cool — but so what?

I hate to be a curmudgeon, but I just don’t see the point of something like, which Mike Arrington at TechCrunch profiled recently. I mean, my first response as a geek was hey, this is cool. Click on a link and see a little window pop up where you can chat in real time? That’s cool. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to agree with Pete Cashmore of Mashable, who says he’s skeptical, and Zoli Erdos, who is similarly unimpressed.

I could see a limited number of situations where real-time chat would come in handy, including when you’re looking for tech support on a website, which is one of the only places I’ve seen it before now. But on a regular blog? I don’t see it. Plus, as fellow Canadian Larry Borsato notes, chat kind of detracts from the commenting thing, which can be saved and viewed later by others. Would 3bubbles allow that? I don’t know. Maybe you could save the chats and then display them at some later point, like a conversation frozen in amber. I still prefer comments for a lot of reasons, as anyone who has read some of my previous posts will know.

Kent also wonders how many blogs would be able to sustain a chat conversation using 3bubbles, and answers “none.” And he notes that people sometimes “confuse a blue ribbon science project with a business.” An excellent point. I’m sure the gang at 3bubbles are just as nice as Stowe says they are, but if they came to me looking for financing, I would send them on their way. Not every cool idea is a viable business.

I could be wrong (it has been known to happen). Charlie O’Donnell of Union Square Ventures, who posted a comment here with a link to his own thoughts on the subject, thinks it could be the start of something big, but I remain skeptical. My friend Mark Evans thinks more than one cool Web 2.0 business suffers from the same problem: lots of cool, not much business.

Hey Doc — how about allowing comments?

I know I’ve been kind of a one-shtick pony on the whole blogs and comment meme, but when I spot an opportunity to flog a dead horse I just can’t pass it up. In this case, it’s the recent post by Doc Searls in which he laments the fact that he is a “gatekeeper” in the new media universe. Why would he think that? Because Seth Finkelstein, a Web 2.0 sociologist of sorts, told him so.

Doc says he doesn’t want to be a mean old gatekeeper, since he got pushed around a lot when he was younger, and so he says that he’s happy to help subvert whatever “A-lister” hierarchy has grown up in the blogosphere:

It pains me to think I’m being cruel without knowing it to a blogger who’s trying just as hard as I am — or maybe harder — to make sense of things. So, if that’s what I did with that post, my apologies to Tristan, Scott, Seth and anybody else who took offense. I’ll just add that, if ya’ll want to subvert some hierarchies, including the one you see me in now, I’d like to help.

Here’s a suggestion, Doc: How about allowing comments on your blog? Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, and yes there are going to be a lot that piss you off or get in your face. That’s part of opening yourself up — and I would submit that not having them is one of the signs that you think of yourself as an A-list gatekeeper who is above the sturm und drang of the hoi polloi (to mangle metaphors in two different languages). Even Dave Winer has decided to open his blogging up to comments, although in typical Winer-esque fashion he’s only doing it in a limited way and is grumbling about it the whole time.

Adam Green of Darwinian Web has a nice thought too, Doc: Let at least one new blogger through the gate every day. I would second that — but I also think having public comments (rather than the forums you have to sign up for that you currently have) would send a message of inclusiveness as well. Obviously, you don’t have to do this. As I tried to point out before, I’m not saying everyone has to have comments — but I do think it makes a difference. Maybe you’re like Russell Beattie and you don’t care. But given your recent post, I have a hunch that you do.

P.S. Shelley over at Burningbird has some thoughts too, about how the A-listers could do a bit more to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. As she puts it:

I have no respect for the linking/attention games played and those who play them, and neither should you. When you see this bullshit, call it bullshit. This will do more to ‘tear down the gates’ then begging an A lister, even a nice one like Doc, for a link.

Thou dost protest too much, Robert

The Scobleizer is more than a tad upset that everyone is so excited by Google’s hosted Gmail project (he calls some of the posts “rewritten press releases”) and complains that no one is giving Microsoft any love, despite the fact that its Live domain project has been around for awhile now, and apparently has about 20 universities up and running already.

As I mentioned in a comment on Robert’s post (which you can see in the sidebar, in my CoComents box), that’s a fair point, but to drag the whole conflict of interest bogeyman into it just because a few bloggers run Google ads is way over the top – and it demeans his argument. Like Nick Carr, I find the whole thing a little bizarre. For the record, I’ve made a total of about $0.07 from my Google ads. It’s fine to complain about what you think is unfair treatment, but to impugn the motives of a host of people like Paul Kedrosky is offside (Paul’s hilarious response is here).

The bigger question, of course, is why Google’s move got so much “press” and Microsoft’s didn’t. The simple answer is that Google is cool and Microsoft is not. When it comes to email and hosted applications, Google is the upstart competitor and Microsoft is the dominant player – who wants to root for the dominant player? No one. People like to cheer for the underdog (although I admit that calling a company with a market cap of $110-billion an underdog seems a little odd).

I also find it interesting that at Dare Obasanjo’s blog, right underneath his post complaining about how little attention Microsoft gets for things, is a post about how confused the company’s marketing is when it comes to MSN and Could that be part of the problem? Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect thinks the lack of marketing support might have something to do with Microsoft’s desire to avoid cannibalizing Outlook. And old-media defender Scott Karp thinks bloggers need some kind of “Chinese wall.”

Google wants to host your company’s email

A couple of days ago, Garrett Rogers of ZDNet posted an item about something interesting he found while poking around in the Javascript source code for Google’s Gmail: the word “domain.” Putting two and two together, he theorized that Gmail would soon be offering a hosted email solution for anyone with a domain of their own – such as a corporation, for example, or a university. In other words, Google would be your email administrator, but the email would look like it came from your domain.

Nice work, Garrett – because that’s exactly what Google has done. First there was a note on the Google blog about the company providing a hosted email service for San Jose City College – which was spotted by eagle-eyed Nick Carr of Rough Type, who posted a comment called “Google attacks Outlook.” In case you thought he was exaggerating just a tad, Google then put up its hosted service beta, which was spotted by the equally eagle-eyed Paul Kedrosky.

Not to be inflammatory, but I think this is huge. Yes, some companies will be concerned about letting an outside provider host their mail, just as there are people who don’t use Gmail because they don’t trust the company, or don’t want even robotic eyes looking through their messages – or because they are worried about the government forcing Google to deliver email to the authorities.

Despite all that, I think there will be plenty of companies – particularly small ones – as well as universities and other users who will be more than happy to get out from under the thumb of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, although as my friend Rob Hyndman notes, the MSFT package still has a lot of things that Gmail doesn’t when it comes to being a PIM. Phil Sim of Squash, meanwhile, thinks that hosted Gmail is just one more tool to lock you in, and Zack Handley says that many companies would probably find that Gmail is more than enough.

See my update here.