This week: Geeks being creative, Yahoo! RSS research, Reading Lists, Making money with Mash-Ups, Techie Post of the Week - Dave Winer on Nerd TV
Geeks being creative
I'm now back in my home of New Zealand, after spending two fantastic weeks in Silicon Valley. As I look back on my time there, and look forward to going back, I'm reminded of this post from Susan Mernit. She pointed out there's a lot of start-up activity going on right now in the Valley, but what I liked best was the non-cynical way she put it:
"The Valley is humming with activity and with what some say is acquisition fever, but is often the happy sounds of geeks being creative."
Now that's something a lot of us can identify with: geeks being creative. With that in mind, here are some of the start-ups I have my eye on:
There are loads more I could mention - but give me a break, I have jetlag ;-) TechCrunch has profiles of all of the above.
Yahoo! RSS Research
During the Web 2.0 Conference Yahoo! released a research report on the takeup of RSS. The resulting white paper was entitled RSS - Crossing into the Mainstream, which is a good indication of both the findings of the research and what Yahoo! is attempting to achieve in their use of RSS. The main points in the research were:
* Only 12% of the Internet population has heard the term RSS
* Only 4% of the population knowingly uses RSS
* 27% of the internet population uses RSS but doesn’t know that it's called RSS.
The conclusion is that we need to evangelise the benefits of RSS rather than the technology itself. Or as Yahoo!'s head of RSS Scott Gatz wrote: "Focus your message on what your service does for consumers, not how it does it." Scott has a follow-up post that wraps up all of the reactions to the research.
OPML is an XML format for outlines, developed by Dave Winer (you may remember him from such developments as RSS and weblogs.com). OPML is beginning to be used more as a compliment to RSS - for example as a way to import and export peoples RSS subscriptions from one RSS Reader to another. Recently a new use for OPML has been discussed which may make it more mainstream - Reading Lists.
Dave Winer and Niall Kennedy of Technorati met to discuss the idea of Reading Lists. Dave has a more detailed explanation, but what it boils down to is this: a Reading List will enable you to subscribe to a group of RSS feeds in your RSS Aggregator of choice. Whenever the group is updated, the Reading List automatically updates too.
As Mike Arrington pointed out, this will be perfect for our Web 2.0 Workgroup - which is a group of premium Web 2.0 blogs. We're in the ongoing process of adding new members to the Workgroup, so wouldn't it be great to have a Reading List OPML feed that users could subscribe to. It has two main benefits for users: 1) they only need to subscribe to one 'feed' - the OPML file; 2) the Reading List automatically updates whenever the group is modified. For publishers, it makes it easy to promote groups of like-minded websites and it's very convenient to manage.
Making money with Mash-Ups
This week I wrote up my notes from the Mash-Ups panel at the Web 2.0 Conference. I concluded that although the technologies underlying mash-ups are still being sorted out - for example many mash-ups still use old school scraping to collect data - the business models are full steam ahead. A couple of days ago we saw a graphic illustration of this, when craiglist told classifieds 'meta' search engine Oodle to stop scraping its content. That generated a lot of healthy debate, but as yet there's no sign of a compromise between craigslist and Oodle.
Dare Obasanjo has an interesting post about the case, in which he suggests businesses that provide data and services need to "decide where it makes business sense to open up their website or service as a web platform". Essentially this boils down to companies deciding how open they want their data to be. It's one of the hardest issues to grapple with in Web 2.0. A valiant attempt to do so was this post by William Blaze a month and a half ago, in which he rightly asked: "just how open are these [Web 2.0] technologies really?"
Techie Post of the Week
This is the first time I've made a video my techie post of the week. Robert Cringley interviewed the father of RSS, Dave Winer. There's a text transcript too and here's a highlight from that, in which Dave explains why he developed his outliner program:
"And so it's a very long story from there to the point where they're actually - I had a commercial Outliner. But that is where I - that was the moment at which I flipped, and I said, "Okay, I'm not making a tool for programmers as much as I'm making a tool for people, for literate people - for people with ideas, for people with information that they want to organize." And it turned out to be a very good tool for doing exactly that."
The video is well worth your time watching, especially if you want to know one of the back stories to Web 2.0.
That's a wrap for another week!