Merry Christmas to all, and thanks for reading!
Opinions expressed in this blog are those of James Robertson.
Well, the storm missed us by that much (imagine two fingers really close to each other :) )
NYC, Philly, and other points north? Looks like they get a big one.
I've been using Chrome for quite awhile, but today I got massively irritated with a page I was trying to read - and the built in "Reader" feature (yes, there are extensions for Chrome that do a somewhat similar job. No, they don't work nearly as well) was the only thing that made that possible. Why? Well, see how this page renders for you. For me, the Dubai add covers half the middle paragraph, and I can't see any way to dismiss the blasted thing. "Reader" at least centered it, letting me the see the page.
The real question is, how long will it be before Safari infuriates me over something, and I go crawling back to Chrome, or Firefox?
Update: A commenter pointed out that the Chrome 9 beta worked, and sure enough, it does. I'll stick with Safari until it irritates me though - which is certain to happen soon enough :)
Callie Oettinger has a nice take on the flaws that are inherent in the traditional PR/Marketing model: it's all designed to sell to the wrong audience. She's writing about books here, but the same thing applies in software:
Traditional media outlets have never covered even a dime in the dollar of books published each year. Everyone wants in, but there’s not enough room. And even though specific genres have never received equal coverage from traditional media outlets—military, science-fiction, and romance come to mind—many of the publishers and authors of these books continue traditional pitching, hoping something will stick. Why? Because that’s what’s always been done.
Very true. Consider software now - do "decision makers" actually evaluate the tools that developers or end users use? Of course not. Heck, most of them don't even look at such stuff - they have staff for that. Sure, at high levels, with truly expensive software, the golfing relationship between the (insert vendor here) and the CEO matters. For everything else? What matters is whether your product's value proposition reaches the right audience: the users.
Go back to books again. Pre-internet, all you had were book reviews from prestigious outlets (like the NY Times), and the advice of local booksellers, who had some notion as to what was coming out, and what might appeal to you given your tastes. Now? Now there's Amazon recommendations, book lists on blogs (I've picked up a ton of stuff based on posts from Glenn Reynolds, for instance) - and so on. The problem with the traditional outlets is that they are at least one step removed from the real audience.
Which takes me back to software - the "decision makers" are also removed from the actual use, and their only point of evaluation is price - it's the only thing they have. If you sell on that basis, and can undercut everyone else, then sure - bypass the users, and get into the race to the bottom. If that's not where you sell, then you really, really want to be active where the actual users live - because it's the only way you have to stand out from the crowd.
Technorati Tags: marketing
Apparently, the launch of the iPhone back in 2007 caught RIM (and Microsoft) utterly by surprise:
The iPhone "couldn't do what [Apple was] demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life," Shacknews poster Kentor heard from his former colleagues of the time. "Imagine their surprise [at RIM] when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it." Friends who were Microsoft employees at the time were also said to have had a similar reaction.
It's amazing to me that Apple managed to launch with so many of their competitors stunned.
Ever wondered why you have to start with a pre-built image, rather than building up exactly what you want/need? Well, so did Yoshiki Ohshima - he's been working on that problem:
We've been playing with John's MicroSqueak and it occured to me that having a bytecode compiler that is implemented outside of Squeak opens some possibilities, such as generate a growable image file from all text files, or make deep changes to the system without shooting yourself.
Ironically, the harder part of this may be in getting the Smalltalk community to agree on a standard "outside the image" text format...
A few weeks ago, I gave a light speed (2.5 days) Smalltalk training class to some new users of the project I'm working on; I knew then that they were going to have to come back for some real, in depth stuff if they intended to work on the internals of the thing, as they say they mean to.
So - I'm about to start gearing up for a two week training delivery. Not sure where - it could be in Texas (probably will be), or it could be at the new site, which is in Virginia (much closer to where I live). The materials are coming to me today, so I can start getting a handle on those - we'll see what happens from there.
This is starting to be "Back to the Future" for me - consulting and training, just like the 90's :)
Technorati Tags: training
In a long article about the success of Spotify in Europe, we find out why it's not available in the US - it's due to the lack of sense the labels have:
None of the major labels would talk to Wired about Spotify, but several have made their opinions known. “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry,” said Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. during a February conference call to discuss his company’s quarterly earnings, “and as far as Warner Music is concerned, it will not be licensed. So, this sort of ‘get all the music you want for free and then maybe we can—with a few bells and whistles—move you to a premium price’ strategy is not the kind of approach to business that we will be supporting in the future.”
What Bronfman doesn't realize is that he's living in the world now. People are sharing music over torrents and skype, never mind the "sneaker net" pastime of burning a CD. He can either get on board with a legitimate business and have a stake in that future, or he can fade off into the distance. At the moment, he's chosen to fade off.
The big problem is one you see a lot in software businesses being confronted with free, open source competitors - the first reactions are to clamp down harder and complain about the unfairness of it all. Here's the thing though: evolving business models aren't about fairness, they're about the way things are. Get on the bus, stay off the bus - either way, it's heading out. With the net's existence, it's going to remain easy to pass music (and other software, for that matter) around. You simply have to account for that fact in your business model.
After yesterday's post on who software is sold to (the people who use it, not the people who sign the checks) - I ran across this post from James Governor via the comments:
Salesforce avoids IT to sell to the business, while Heroku avoids IT to sell to developers
Exacty right. If you try to sell to the management team, all you have to offer is price - and in that arena, it had better be a low price. If, on the other hand, you get the developers (or end users) sold, there's virtually no limit to the upselling possibilities, because there, you're selling on emotion.
Technorati Tags: sales
I was a pretty big fan of the show "Primeval", so I'm pretty happy that it's returning on January 1st - and the producers have released 5 webisodes to bridge the gap from the end of the last run to the present.
Here's something I hadn't thought of with the rise of ebooks - the loss of page numbers. I'm quoting John Holbo, who ponders the issue:
I’m thinking about quoting our John in something I’m writing (yes, on Zizek). But I can’t footnote a Kindle edition. No pages. What will the world come to? Bibliography has gotten a bit old and odd in the head in the age of the internet, but the existence of pages themselves is kind of a watershed.
The Kindle app (and presumably the Kindle as well) show you a "percentage reached" instead of a page number. I understand that - given the various form factors involved (multiple Kindle sizes, iPads, smart phones....), what does a page number even mean? It should be simple to graft the physical form page number into the metadata, but as we go forward, there may well be books for which no physical form exists. What then? Perhaps we'll have to footnote based on the word count of the reference? Some sort of standard will have to arise, I guess.
Technorati Tags: footnotes
Eliot Miranda has released new Cog VMs - I'm quoting an email to the Squeak list below:
I've released a new version of Cog that has a substantially improved code generator along the lines of Peter Deutsch's HPS (VisualWorks) and various of Ian Piumarta's VMs. These all use a simple tecnique to identify constant references in bytecode and to support a register-based calling convention. While this does produce faster code it tends to accelerate low-level code much more than high-level code
Richard Fernandez notes that more authors are starting to move away from formal publishing, and doing it themselves - they get to keep a lot more of the money that way. The problem for new authors trying to do the same thing? Visibility:
Maybe Joe Konrath can go direct to his audience. But he’s got a reputation. Authors without an established readership base face a chicken and egg problem. Nobody buys their books because nobody knows about them, and nobody knows about them because nobody has yet bought their books. New print on demand services like Createspace and Amazon’s Kindle have only solved the self-publisher’s logistics and distribution problem, but they have not solved the self-publisher’s more fundamental problem, which is marketing.
That's certainly a problem, but I wonder how much of one going forward. The Amazon recommendation engine has turned over a lot of books for me, many of them self published ones from fairly unknown authors. I've found the quality of those books varies about as much as it does for "professional" authors.
The thing I don't really know is how those authors make the leap from utter obscurity to that recommendation list. Clearly some people are making that jump, but I have no idea how many, or how hard it is.