Anyone for a chorus of Kumbaya?

I’d like to echo my friend and fellow blog-conference organizer Mark Evans’s post earlier today about conferences and un-conferences and camps and whatnot. It seems some noses got out of joint over the whole MashupCamp versus BarCamp thing, after Ryan King dissed MashupCamp by saying it had jumped the shark, and that it was a bad imitation of BarCamp (which he helped organize).

He seemed to be mostly reacting to a fluff piece about MashupCamp at CNet, but Doc Searls took it as an attack on David Berlind and rallied to the defence of his friend. Then Tara Hunt got into it over at Horsepigcow and took a few shots at Doc, who then apologized in a comment to her post, and updated his own to correct some of his remarks, like the gentleman he is.

Luckily, things seem to have blown over, with Doc smoothing the waters and Tara accepting that, and Chris Messina (Mr. Tara Hunt) who writes a blog over at and was also an organizer of BarCamp, saying in a comment on Nick Carr’s blog at

I really hope that these Camp Wars or whatever dissipate faster than they got started. Seriously, there’s no need to fight… there’s enough space in the world for more than one kind of camp. We’ve got our ideas, they’ve got theirs and that’s what makes this whole great experiment tick.

Hear, hear. As someone who is currently planning a conference, I’d like to say that there’s a pretty big spectrum out there, from the un-conference, barcamp, democamp model all the way to the big, expensive conference with speakers and panels and sponsorships and free lunches and Wi-Fi everywhere. We’d like to find a place somewhere in that spectrum where people can get together and have some fun and maybe learn something new, and hopefully we can do that.


Adam Green pointed me to Rick Segal’s post on the topic, which brings some much-needed perspective. Great idea about the bag of chocolate coins too 🙂

Sweet – Digg gets diggable comments

Lots of people are down on, as I’ve pointed out before. I’m not going to mention them by name (cough, Umair, cough) but they have their reasons – which seem to revolve around Digg being a kind of trailer-park version of social bookmarking, filled with “pimply teenagers.”

Whatever. I for one love to sit and watch the stuff scroll by on Digg/Spy. The only thing that really bugs me about Digg is that Kevin Rose and his partner Jay Adelson look like they are both about 15 years old.

But enough about that. Digg has just added a great new feature – not to the regular part of the site, where you “digg” stories to vote them higher or lower, but to the comments. In effect, you can now “digg” comments too, to vote them higher or push them down lower. And when you’re reading, you can choose whether you want to see all the comments, or only the ones that have been “dugg” a certain number of times.

This approach is not new, as many people over at Slashdot will likely point out. The tech discussion site has had similar features from inception, which allow registered users to moderate or “mod” comments based on whether they are useful or not. And as Eric Berlin has pointed out in the comments on this post, has a similar feature. This type of self-policing comment function is something that we’ve been considering at, where we were one of the first Canadian news sites to allow reader comments. And in my opinion this kind of thing makes even more useful. Sorry, Umair.

RIM gets reprieve – now free to fight

This is a column I wrote for The Globe and Mail

Did you hear that giant whoosh, like the sound of air escaping from an enormous balloon? That was the sound of several million BlackBerry users heaving a sigh of relief yesterday, after Research In Motion Ltd. announced that it had finally settled its four-year legal battle with U.S.-based NTP Inc., the company that sued RIM for patent infringement. And there might have been a few sighs of relief in there from co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, too, who knows — after all, the current settlement is substantially less expensive than the $1-billion to $1.5-billion (U.S.) that some analysts were projecting the Canadian company might have to cough up.

Plenty of RIM investors were relieved, that much is clear. The stock jumped by more than 18 per cent in after-hours trading, erasing about six months worth of selling in an instant and boosting the company’s market value by $2.4-billion. Some professional investors were also glad to see the millstone removed from around RIM’s neck. “I’m glad it’s over,” said Matt Kelmon, a U.S. money manager with 250,000 shares of RIM who said he had been expecting a settlement of as much as $1-billion. “It was definitely an overhang on the stock . . . it was a good call to get it out of the way.”

In many ways, the deal is a win-win for the Waterloo, Ont., company. Not only does RIM only have to pay $612.5-million, less than half the amount of cash it has on hand (it has been building a reserve to pay any final judgment), but it gets a definitive deal instead of a vague agreement to work out a deal, which is what it wound up with last time. And best of all, it puts an end to the uncertainty and doubt hanging over the company like a cloud the past few years.

The impact of that cloud on the company’s business has been all too tangible: RIM also chopped its estimate of subscriber additions by more than 13 per cent yesterday, in part because of the uncertainty over the case, as it has done in previous quarters. And the firm said operating profit in the latest quarter will fall well below expectations, too — as much as 17 per cent below what analysts were projecting, even before taking into account the cost of the legal settlement.

So what happens now? The simple answer is that RIM gets back to business, back to signing up new subscribers and new telecom partners, without having to soothe their fears about the outcome of the NTP litigation. There is also the chance that being free of that cloud of uncertainty might make Research In Motion a more appealing takeover target for someone like Microsoft — until now, the unsettled nature of the case made RIM a very unattractive acquisition. That said, with a market value of more than $13-billion and a trailing price-to-earnings multiple of about 40 times, the company is still far from cheap.

If nothing else, putting an end to the NTP case allows RIM to focus all its energies on remaining the market leader in the handheld e-mail market — and it needs all the energy it can get, as competition grows. Microsoft has released a new upgrade for its e-mail server software with BlackBerry-like functionality, Palm is offering similar services for its new Treo handheld devices — of which it sold almost as many in the most recent quarter as RIM sold BlackBerrys — and Finland’s Nokia is rolling out BlackBerry-style “push” e-mail features to its phones in the next year or so.

In other words, RIM still has a substantial fight on its hands, one that has been going on in the background while it waged its legal war with NTP. Now, at least, it can get both hands into the game instead of fighting with one of them tied behind its back.

Encouraging words from Reuters

My old media buddy Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 is pretty down on the recent remarks by Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, who spoke at an Online Publishers Association conference and had his speech blogged by Jeff Jarvis of Scott says media aren’t anywhere even close to Media 2.0 and that Glocer has “fooled 2.0 advocates like Jeff Jarvis into thinking he’s drunk the Koolaid” when he really hasn’t.

The Reuters CEO certainly wouldn’t be the first media executive to talk the talk without walking the walk, but at least from my reading of what Jeff wrote, and what Jeremy Wagstaff of the Wall Street Journal wrote over at his Loose Wire blog, I think Scott is being overly harsh in his assessment. Yes, the media have a long way to go – and yes, it’s easy for someone like Glocer to talk all fancy about “seeding the clouds” and “providing the tools,” in a brave attempt to prove that old media is still relevant. And yet, isn’t Scott the one who keeps telling us that old media is still relevant?

I think Glocer has a pretty smart view of what’s going on. He knows that consumers are seeking out information in different places and in different ways. As Jeff quotes him saying:

They’re consuming, they’re creating, they’re sharing, and they’re publishing themselves. So the consumer wants to not only run the printing press, the consumer wants to set the Linotype.

So Glocer wants media to be “seeders of clouds,” which Scott scoffs at (Scott scoffs – I like that). Media are already seeders of clouds, he says, because their stuff winds up on and and triggers blog posts. True – but plenty of blog posts wind up seeding old media stories too, believe me, and more so every day. He also says that media doesn’t need to provide the tools, because the tools already exist elsewhere.

More than anything, Scott seems to be irritated that old media haven’t moved faster – and I share his frustration (if that’s what it is). But at least Glocer seems to be going in the right direction, and that has to be worth something, doesn’t it? Richard MacManus over at Read/Write Web seems to have a take similar to mine, and does a good job of rebutting some of Scott’s points.

Nick Carr, of course, manages to turn it into something that is about smart people versus stupid people. But he has since softened his tone somewhat, after reading more from Tom Glocer. In fact, Nick’s most recent post on the topic sounds almost reasonable 🙂

An exercise in Journalism 2.0

As anyone who has read my little “about me” description knows, I work for The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper based in Toronto, where I write about technology and business, primarily for We had a story come up a couple of weeks ago that has turned into an interesting exercise in what I will call (for lack of a better term) Journalism 2.0. It all started when Peter Nowak, who used to work for the Globe and is now the technology editor at the New Zealand Herald, wrote a story for us based on an interview he did with Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer.

“The other Steve,” as he is sometimes called, said some interesting things about the company. In particular, he said some things about the iPod, and about the switch to Intel processors. So far, so good. After the story was published, however, Mr. Wozniak posted some comments on a Macintosh discussion list in which he denied saying those things, and accused Peter of manipulating the interview and taking his remarks out of context (did he get a call from the other Steve? Who knows). Peter was naturally upset.

Since Pete had recorded the interview, he transcribed the questions and answers from the relevant sections of the interview and sent them to us at, and he also digitized the interview and turned it into an Mp3 file. We attached his explanatory note (with a link to Mr. Wozniak’s comments) to the top of the original story, and also included links to both the Mp3 file and the transcript. Pete did the same at the New Zealand Herald. The idea was to allow readers to look at the interview and listen to it themselves, and then come to their own conclusions about who was right.

And they did exactly that. Someone posted Pete’s piece at the Herald on, and in less than an hour it had more than 700 diggs and about 100 comments – many of which were supportive of Pete. Not all of them, of course. But even the debate itself makes for interesting reading.

Digital downloads and the DoJ

Ever wondered why digital music – the legal kind, that is – costs so much? After all, at 99 cents a song, you wind up paying the same amount for all the songs on a compact disc as if you had bought the CD in a regular store. You might have blamed iTunes for that, since it was the first to make a big splash in the market, and is now the undisputed leader. But Apple CEO Steve Jobs has actually been doing his best to keep prices low, since the the major record labels (there used to be five but now there are only four) want to crank them up. That position seems to have set off some alarm bells in anti-trust circles, since it smacks of collusion.

Crusading New York attorney and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer started looking into the practice late last year, and now the U.S. Department of Justice has said it is investigating too. “The Antitrust Division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry,” Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said, without providing any further details. Several of the major labels have already reportedly received subpoenas.

This isn’t the first time the major record labels have been investigated for collusion or price-fixing. The Federal Trade Commission looked into similar allegations involving old-fashioned CD sales, and the case was eventually settled with a financial payment from the record companies. According to the complaint, the labels kept prices high by preventing Wal-Mart and other retailers from lowering prices, and by doing so they overcharged music buyers by almost $500-million (U.S.). As part of the settlement, the labels paid $67-million in cash and gave $76-million worth of CDs to the states that filed suit for use in schools and libraries.

Yahoo’s portal gets all Ajaxy with it

I guess I haven’t been going to my Yahoo portal page at My Yahoo recently, because when I did just now I noticed that it has gotten all Ajaxy. Until recently, Yahoo had kind of been holding up the old Web 1.0 banner singlehandedly with its My Yahoo portal. In his recent roundup of Ajax portals such as (my current favourite) and Google’s IG, ZDNet columnist and blogger Richard MacManus noted that Yahoo was “still mostly an old-style portal.”

But it seems the Yahooligans have been busy. Whereas you used to have go through a time-consuming process to alter the layout of your page and where various boxes go, My Yahoo pages now allow you to drag the various elements around however you want, just like those other Ajax sites, which is a whole lot easier. Yahoo also seems to have implemented an Ajax-type “mouseover” feature when you hover over a headline in the news wire modules, which gives you the first paragraph of each story.

This doesn’t seem to work with all the wires – for me, it worked on the Associated Press technology feed, and the Reuters technology wire, but not on the wire or the Reuters market report wire. Still, it’s a great feature to have if you’re quickly surfing the headlines. Nice work from Yahoo – which also has an open API (application programming interface) I believe, which means we could theoretically see modules developed by others plugged into My Yahoo. The “old guard” isn’t dead yet, it seems.

Well, we’ve got the barn…

Just a quick note to update anyone who was interested in my previous post about a Web 2.0 conference in Toronto that Mark Evans, Rob Hyndman, Mike McDerment, Stuart MacDonald and I are organizing.

We have a venue nailed down – the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto – and we have our dates, so you can book your calendars (how long until we can do that in our Google calendar?).

Just put a check mark next to May 8th and 9th and write in the description field “Attending a kick-ass Web 2.0 conference in Toronto with some of the top bloggers in North America as keynote speakers, and a host of interactive panel discussions and workshops on the key issues surrounding blogs and Web 2.0.” (Okay, that probably won’t fit unless you write really small).

We expect to have a website up within the next couple of weeks so everyone can register and get more info. Any thoughts? Drop me or one of the other organizers a line.

This Skype call brought to you by Intel

Earlier this month, Skype announced that it had signed a deal with Intel Corp. which gives users of the company’s new dual-core chips added features when they make VOIP calls with Skype. Specifically, it allows them to engage in conference calls with as many as 10 people, compared with only five for the non-Intel version, and promises additional features such as video calling in the future.

This deal struck some observers as a little odd at the time, since Skype software works with virtually any kind of PC hardware, and voice-over-Internet services aren’t the type of thing that uses huge amounts of computing power. As it turns out, one of the observers who found the partnership more than a little odd was Advanced Micro Devices, Intel’s main competitor. AMD just happens to be suing Intel for anti-trust violations resulting from its dominant market share, and it has now asked Skype for documents relating to its deal with Intel.

Skype has denied that it arranged to limit its features on any non-Intel platform. According to the company, the 10-way calling feature requires a lot of processor strength, which only the Intel dual-core can provide. Not surprisingly, AMD disagrees. And some tech industry observers say the argument that a voice-over-Internet service requires extra horsepower stretches the limits of believability — what most VOIP services rely on is bandwidth or Internet connection speed. Others wonder whether Skype, which was bought by eBay in a controversial deal worth up to $4-billion, is getting nervous about growth and looking for some help in that department.


There is apparently a “patch” that will allow 10-way conference calls on any processor.

Revenge of the M-listers? Sign me up

My blogging friend Adam Green of Darwinian Web and I share a mutual fascination with the way in which the “A-list” of blogosphere opinion setters operates, and in particular how the “meme-trackers” such as help to perpetuate the A-list. Adam has written an insightful post about this, and about how much of the clustering that occurs on memeorandum (for the record, I like the redesign too, Gabe) occurs as a result of what he calls “Scobling,” in which A-listers like The Scobelizer single out and link to other A-listers, or M-listers link to A-listers like Scoble to get some “link juice.”

Interestingly enough, of course, Adam linked to Scoble’s post about the redesign of, and that link in turn helped get him onto memeorandum as a sub-link to Scoble’s post. In a convoluted sort of way, Adam’s own discussion of this kind of thing is itself an example of what is being discussed (does that make your head hurt? It does mine). Adam and I have also talked before via email about how is effectively a “black box,” in the sense that the precise way in which it ranks some posts higher than others, or shuffles threads around and ranks different posts within those threads, is understood only by Gabe himself. He has let the odd hint out, but very little detail.

Adam has even boldly suggested the idea of an “advisory board” that could help develop the memetracker idea, although I think he’s backed off a bit on that, perhaps in part because of the controversy surrounding our old friend Dave Winer and the RSS Advisory Board, which Dave has unilaterally decided to disband, all the while claiming that he isn’t the “Lord God of RSS” and just wants to help. So what can we M-listers do to fight the power of the A-list and the memetrackers? Link to each other. And get on board Kent Newsome’s “second opinion” wagon train.