A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Google UI elegance goes awol in Belguim 

For five days only.
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Friday, September 22, 2006


The social networks are getting mad traffic. Should redstripe make a social network site for high end people that clients will value??

Perhaps we could get a column on this comparison table and report. If the people on it want to date, they can. If they want to trade mp3's and amihotornot's then they can, it could be a business exchange, but that's no fun, they'll probably just show off business bling (watches and cufflinks).

We could build a world of warcraft stock exchange that could be used in the game, taking a cut all the time to build our own armory so that our sponsored virtual players can read out country reports in virtual towns. Perhaps taking outside world news into these arenas is a way forward. Is that bridging the digital divide? Should the EIU write reports on Ironforge

Whatever redstripe does, in it's mission statement I hope it contains the words "the world's"

Google's is:
"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Just found another post that really get's into the meat of Newspaper2.0. It's by Steve Rubel over at MicroPersuasion :

"For newspapers to survive, they need to turn themselves into an online and offline platform for local readers. I don't mean a platform for contributing to the reporting process. They're doing that already (and nicely). What I am saying is that local newspapers need to use their brands and their big web sites to help local readers profit emotionally and monetarily by: selling goods peer-to-peer, expressing themselves, developing new kinds of technologies, connecting through online and offline local social networking and more. Think Google or Yahoo, not USA Today.

In short, they need to become destinations where almost all value is created by the "readers," not by the publisher or journalists. This means tearing pages right out of the Wikipedia/Second Life playbook. In both of these communities, the greatest value is created by the crowd, not the online destination itself. The community is merely the operating system that enables value creation. Newspapers need to do the same - both online and off."

Now we're not talking about surviving, so we don't, technically, have to make any crazy plays. Our model is not bust, like many publishers.

Or does being successful give us the freedom to make really crazy plays?

I think anything that project redstripe should do must take advantage of the incredible audience The Economist Group has.

All over the web the sites that are amazing, inspiring and succeeding depend on their users. For that reason, I think access to Econ Group content is amazing, but freedom to enable our readers will really make the project blow up.

I'll make a few points about social networks and Economist users.

i) Economist readers are opinion formers. 60% of them have engaged in opinion forming in the past twelve months. Why not give them a new platform?

ii) The 1% rule - that 1% of a site's users become contributers ( http://tinyurl.com/rl8ov) would mean Economist.com would have an extra 19 000 content creaters/month.

iii) There is no social networking site for the post-facebook, post-myspace crowd. As commented on by Robert Scoble. Where would you want to create your professional online persona, as we all will?

iv) A big threat to display advertising is search advertising, however, MySpace now gets $900 million from Google for search advertising from its site.

Hmmmmm, it makes you think.

All the best,

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RSS means "I'm Ready for Some Stories" 

If Oprah or Trisha told us all what RSS was would we use it?

"I'm Ready for Some Stories"
I quite like Seth Godin's take on that name. Really Stupid Syndication he calls it in a great post on names - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/06/being_brave_wit.html.

Tom Shelley
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Friday, September 15, 2006

Economist.com is a real web business 

...because it's on the front page on http://del.icio.us/

Isn't it strange what makes you proud. 15M page views, anyone can do that. Who can get on the front page of del.icio.us. E.com can..Yay
Delicious is also very interesting if you check out how people that tag E.com describe the site.

My favourite is "If The Economist was a political party, I'd vote for it. Second to "It kicks Time's and Newsweek's ass".

Tom Shelley
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Solaris 8 bites the dust 

Solaris 8 will EOL (Last Ship Date also) on February 16, 2007. Last Order Date will be November 17, 2006. This was originally announced internally on August 15, 2006.

And Sun provide this nice guarantee:

Through the Solaris Application Guarantee program Sun will guarantee, at no cost, that existing applications will RUN without modification on the Solaris 10 Operating System. For customers looking for assistance in accelerating the move to Solaris 10, the Solaris 10 Global Migration Program makes moving from earlier Solaris releases, or from non-Solaris operating systems, even easier. In conjunction with Sun global migration services partners, the program delivers services for a successful migration on time and on budget. Details can be found at: http://sun.com/solaris/move
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Google desktop 

The new X1 laptops come with Google desktop preinstalled. They also direct the user to a Dell welcome splash the first time Internet Explorer is run. Two points:
1) Google desktop constantly indexes everything so we remove it while building the laptop.
2) Is it legal to have unsolicited splash screens on any device Dell sell? And, what is the point anyway, since once you have already bought a Dell they will bombard you with "literature" anyway?

What are people's views on Google products preinstalled, and splash screens on browsers, from the manufacturers of PC's...?
1) You can pause the indexing.
2) No different to what they did with IE defaulting to the MSN search engine for incorrectly spelt urls or using other Microsoft tools such as Media Player. It's pretty easy to swap associations around (since anti-trust rulings were made). And the stupid MS dog is absolutely useless.

I saw that Google had signed a deal with Acer to provide search too. The Dell deal is rumoured to be worth up to $1bn to Dell and applies to all machines, I think. Made official earlier this year.
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the web 2.0 war hots up. 

ajax has competition. thank god.

The most interesting of these is Laszlo. This Open Source goodie allows you to deploy either in Flash or AJAX (and Adobe reckon that at 98% Flash has greater penetration than AJAX-capable machines).
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Microsoft DRM flaw halts Sky by Broadband 

Sky's movie download service has been withdrawn until a patch is released for a hack that bypasses the Microsoft DRM system that is used to protect downloaded movies.

Sky by Broadband uses a commercial p2p distribution system called Kontiki that is not that disimilar to BitTorrent and DRM is used to prevent downloaded movie files being viewed on PCs other than the one that is permissioned to download the file in the first place.
I have Sky By Broadband, I got an email a few days ago from them talking about the service pull. The funny thing is that the service is still using bandwidth. Essentially, they don't mind people watching curling and other non big time sport and news elements with it.
If you're interested in movie downloads then Mark Cuban over at www.blogmaverick.com has always got some interesting points of view.

He basically says that the whole thing's a no go because people don't have the broadband capacity. Compare downloading one movie overnight to getting three DVDs in the post and there's no contest.

That's without mentioning HDTV.

Tom Shelley
Sky reckon a 90 minute movie should take three hours to download. They are planning to roll out the facility to "order" a download so that it will be just like a DVD in the post but without the need to return the DVD or be limited to three of them.
I've used it more for some of the sport clips, and they come down in less than 30 minutes for around 10 to 20 minutes footage. I have an 8Mb connection but rather stupidly the wireless lan that connects the PVR computer plugged into the TV only runs at 802.11g. Which means I basically go back down to a Mb. I've been thinking about completely rearranging my living room to get the bandwidth up. But that's a bit too far to go for the lady of the house who is uninterested in internet enabled TV, even though she was laughing quite loudly at the Ricky Gervais Microsoft training video embedded in IE on AV2 last week.
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Friday, September 08, 2006

Anyone heard of Zimbra? 

Zimbra offers a pretty cool set of tools called their Collaboration Suite. Lot's of drag and drop, calendar sharing, document collaboration, easy email interface. And it integrates in cool ways with Salesforce. Ahhhhh, it's a panacea!

Here's their blurb:
Zimbra is open source server and client software for messaging and collaboration - email, group calendaring (emphasis mine), contacts, and web document management and authoring. The Zimbra server is available for Linux, Mac OS X, appliances, and virtualization platforms. The Zimbra Web 2.0 Ajax client runs on Firefox, Safari, and IE, and features easy integration / mash-ups of web portals, business applications, and VoIP using web services.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this. Is this type of thing secure? Is it something we could use here at the Economist?
I read a review of Zimbra about a year or so back. I think they demoed it at some big tech conference and it got lots of praise back then.

It's meant to be really neat and I think that Gmail pinched a lot of its features.

Tom Shelley
Go to Techcrunch (link on the right) and search for Zimbra. It's newer than Gmail (so they may have "pinched" some of Gmail's features, Tom) and is an Open Source project rather than a hosted application such as Gmail or Writely.
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HTML pretty tree things 

I like this html crawler that builds pretty trees of sites you like Check Economist.com

Or pick your own site
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