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

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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:

* Flock

* edgeio

* Sphere

* Measure Map (not a start-up, but Adaptive
Path’s new product – which is kick-ass)

* Zazzle

* Zimbra

* zvents (companies whose names start with Z is
obviously all the rage)

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.

Reading Lists

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 craiglisttold
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!