An interesting move by the New York Times: it has effectively added a blog-aggregation news feature to its technology pages, as described by Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web. In the middle of the site there’s a column of the top tech headlines from around the blogosphere — in other words, a very Techmeme-like feature — and you can click below each one to see other posts about the same story.
When you click, you go to BlogRunner.com, which is a blog aggregator/headline engine that the New York Times acquired last year. I wasn’t initially that impressed with it when I first saw it (before the Times bought it), but I’ve been back several times since and I think it does a pretty good job. As Erick Schonfeld notes at TechCrunch, the Times is also building content aggregated by BlogRunner into other parts of its site, including at the bottom of news stories (the same way I use Sphere on my posts).
One small design point that I like about BlogRunner, and wish that Gabe would duplicate at Techmeme: there’s an expand/collapse button for the discussion links on each topic heading (Techmeme lets you expand or collapse them all, but then your preference is set until the next time). The Times has also done some syndication deals with PaidContent and IDG, among others.
I think this is a very smart move by the Times, and by tech editor Saul Hansell (who also writes for the Bits blog). Newspapers by definition have always been aggregators and curators of information — both their own and that culled from news wires and other sources. Aggregating Web content from many different sources seems to me like a natural extension of that.
This is Darren Barefoot’s version of Robert Scoble’s social-media “starfish.” Of course, starfish don’t have 12 arms, but you get the picture (although Darren found one with eleven — check his comment below for the link to a photo). (click for larger version).
And no, by the title on this post I don’t mean that Facebook is good and Google is bad (please see my previous post), or that Facebook is well-designed and Google is bloated and buggy. Instead, I’m thinking about a line in Erick Schonfeld’s post at TechCrunch about the whole Google Social-Facebook thing (incidentally, an interesting idea to have Erick write a post disagreeing with the one that Mike Arrington wrote). In his post, Erick says that the best approach for Facebook may be to join the Google movement, or:
“it risks becoming the Apple of the social networking world (the old Apple of the 1980s, which always offered a nicer, more controlled experience than Windows, but ceded application momentum.”
Obviously, no such comparison is going to be 100-per-cent accurate, but I think there is something to Erick’s analogy. Apple in the 1980s was a much better experience in almost every way but one — namely, it had a small market share and because it was a proprietary platform it required developers to do more work. By developing for Windows they could have their software run on 100 times as many computers and reach that many more people, for the same effort.
It’s true that Apple has been successful in all kinds of ways, with its iPods and Macbooks and so on. But I would argue it has done so despite being a closed system (i.e., proprietary hardware and software joined together) rather than because of it. In a similar way, Facebook has become successful by controlling all aspects of the service — in other words, both the online equivalent of hardware (design) and software (features).
By contrast, Google doesn’t really have a horse in this particular race — unless you include Orkut, which I don’t — in the same sense that Microsoft didn’t make hardware. So Google can concentrate on the software that underpins the social-networking phenomenon, making it easy for other companies’ apps to work together. Of course, as Dare Obasanjo points out, there are negatives to being Microsoft as well.
Mike Arrington at TechCrunch has confirmed a rumour first advanced by Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider: that MySpace, the 800-pound gorilla of the social-networking sphere, is joining the Google Social platform effort — and so is SixApart, the blogging network that includes Moveable Type and LiveJournal. Bebo, which is not that prominent in North America but is huge in Europe, is also joining Google Social.
Apparently Google moved up the timing of its conference call about its social platform, likely in part because of the rumours, and TechCrunch has some notes from that call — in which Eric Schmidt reveals that Google has been working with MySpace for about a year now, and this deal will supersede the project that MySpace had already announced to create its own Facebook-style platform for developers.
I’m going to write about this some more later, but I think this is potentially huge (although Saul Hansell of the New York Times disagrees). In effect, we have Google and everyone else that matters in the social-networking space on one side, and Facebook and its more or less proprietary, walled-garden approach on the other. Game on.
Mike Arrington says at the bottom of this post that a source at Google says Facebook has been talking to the company about Google Social, contrary to a statement by Facebook’s publicist.
It’s a shame when stereotypes about religious differences lead to misunderstandings and resentment, isn’t it? No, I’m not talking about the Middle East, I’m talking about Apple and Microsoft. The conventional wisdom about the two is that Microsoft is the embodiment of evil — with products that are poorly designed, break often and are otherwise a giant pain in the ass — while Apple can do no wrong, with products that are virtually flawless in every way.
The growing number of reports about problems with Leopard, the new Mac OS, show that there is a lot more to it than that. I just heard from a friend — a relatively recent convert to Apple PCs — who said that the upgrade didn’t just present him with a blue screen (something that until now had been associated exclusively with Windows machines), but actually wiped out most of his data and a substantial number of applications as well. I don’t know whether his problems were a result of using the third-party Application Enhancer software or not, as some have reported.
What I do know is that for my friend, losing that kind of data is no laughing matter — it is a serious, serious issue. Much of that data is crucial to his business, and while he does regular backups (as we all should), he doesn’t do them every minute of every day. Having a blue screen, or a buggy install, or having to jump through hoops is one thing. Losing data permanently through no fault of your own is a completely other thing.
I’m not some Microsoft fanboy who is gloating that Apple is having problems too (including reports of a Trojan in the wild and other reports of problems with wireless connections after installing Leopard). I’m just saying that Apple is not infallible. Upgrading operating systems is no trivial task, and things go wrong — even with Apples.
My friend Rob has put up a lengthy description of what happened — and is taking predictable fire from Apple fans in his comment section.
As several people are reporting this morning, the search engine Hakia has added a new feature called “Meet Others,” in which you can see whether other people using the tool are searching for the same things you are. I confess that, like Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web, I am wondering what the point of this feature is exactly. Do social networking features make any sense as part of a search tool?
I can see that if you were searching for companionship, for example, you might want to know that others were searching terms like “lonely” or “desperate for a relationship” or whatever your search might be. But how many searches would actually benefit from having a social component? Would you want to know that others were looking for the definition of “amanuensis” or the location of a good hardware store? I’m not convinced that really makes any sense.