RSS is the TCP/IP Packet of Web 2.0

Reading through Richard MacManus’ excellent recap of coverage of Microsoft’s launch event I followed the link to Nivi’s comment on CrunchNotes that "live" spelled backwards is "evil" therefore if Google is not “evil” that means that Google = Microsoft. (clever!)

This lead me to Nivi’s post about how new services out there which generate or transform dynamic RSS feeds are really acting as relays for information packets.  We can view these new services as command line interfaces for an internet operating system. So, (take a deep breath as we gloss over some technical details to make a leap of generalization) extending the analogy,

  • Search Engine APIs = command line interface to file systems
  • Tags & other categorization engines = transforming DLLs that filter and transform relevance
  • RSS = protocol level information packet
  • Internet = information bus

Where do blogs & wikis fit in this picture? Are they the user interface by which we browse this internet-scale OS or are they the scripting platform where we can pull together several API calls into a unique output which we publish as "plug-ins" to the standard utility that comes with the "plain old browser service" (POBS). Ok, time to get some coffee.


Belated Review of Web 2.0

I’m a bit slow out the gate with this post and I expect you all to take whatever I say with a big ol’ grain of salt because of my new position with Yahoo. Truth is, there’s lots going on both here at Yahoo and the industry at large. Let’s take a quick rundown over the events of the past week:

No wonder we’re all out of breath! I only attended the workshops and opening day sessions but feel like I was there because I picked up on the buzz at the afterparties and have read through lots of the posts about the conference.

Two points of discussion that I wanted to highlight because I didn’t see them mentioned anywhere else.

Esther Dyson contributed and interesting riff on the variable of time and how that might impact the relevance of what an advertiser might be targeting or a search engine presenting. If someone subscribes to a feed or buys a book today, they may not continue to have that interest in the  future. We all must keep in mind that behavior profiling via a clickstream may actually deceive. If someone is a starving student that likes to browse expensive car sites, does that really make them a qualified buyer to the BMW advertiser? If they did a lot of research for a new computer last month, post purchase, that may not be their interest and in fact, it may be more appropriate to target marketing messages for accessories instead of new systems.

The challenge is to build an ad network which can take feedback from it’s participants. The example I’ve been turning over in my mind is the banner ad that has a button which allows you to block future instances of ads in it’s category from every appearing again. If I’m presented with an ad for a Buick Lacrosse, I should have the option to "opt out" of those ads. This feedback should make it’s way back to the advertising engine and modify my profile appropriately. Not only is the beneficial to me, as a consumer who never wants to see and ad for a Buick again, it also is beneficial to Buick who will not have to waste their inventory on me.

The second point was best summed up in a one-liner attributed to Ross Mayfield, "Let’s stop measuring impressions and start measuring the impressed." Online advertising in the Web 1.0 world looked at banner impressions and then, with self-serve networks such as AdSense, cost-per-click. In the world of blogs, trackbacks, and rss subscriptions, it’s now possible to measure something like a cost-per-influence. It’s time for the publishers and advertisers to come together and experiment on this new unit of measure and try out new business models that are made possible by this innovation.

In my mind, advertising is useful and complimentary if it adds to the experience of what I’m reading. It can do this by being either educational, entertaining, or highly contextual (or best case, all three). The tools we have at our desposal are improving and modern day metrics allow us to also to measure not only the nameless "daily uniques" but also the quality of an audience demographic and impact of a writer like never before. I am hopeful that this will ultimately reward quality writing which will benefit us all.


Web 2.0 Acid Test

On the eve of the second annual Web 2.0 conference, Tim O’Reilly posts a longish analysis that tries to get to the bottom of this slippery label, "Web 2.0." Ever more important because more and more marketing departments are slapping this label onto their products because it’s hip and bleeding edge, O’Reilly’s piece is seminal because of his position of authority.

In recognition of this enhanced definition, I’ve gone in and renamed my 2 year old "Web as a Platform" category "Web 2.0"

You really should read through to the end but the list of qualities (you don’t need all) that make up a real Web 2.0 company are worth pulling up below:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Words to live by in this new age.

Current Events

Tim O’Reilly Web 2.0 Meme Map

For those who want it in pictures, Tim O’Reilly’s posted a map of all the memes that make up Web 2.0. Alex Barnett goes one step further and annotates it with links.

Current Events

RSS feeds for Salesforce

You gotta love it. Ex-Newsgator developer, Charlie Wood has attached RSS feeds to If you have a subscription, you can now subscribe to a feed of your Open Opportunities or Open Escalations. This has been out since July and is now in 2.0 – I’m only now caught wind of it.

On their TypePad-powered blog they are taking feedback from their customers and announcing new features so if you’re a user, this is a feed you’ll want to subscribe.

Charlie’s venture, Spanning Partners, has the tagline, “RSS-enabling the enterprise, one application at a time.” Cool, I can’t wait to see what’s next!


Round Up of Round Ups

It’s that time again. Both Kottke and MacManus post lengthy on the inevitable coming together of web services into a unified Web OS. The state of web 2.0.

GoogleOS? YahooOS? MozillaOS? WebOS? – Jason Kottke
Web as Platform Mash-Ups – Richard MacManus

Plain English Description of Web 2.0

I’ve been writing about this new world of mix-and-match web services for some time now so it’s great to see the concept begin to be written up by the popular press.

The next step is to boil down these API transactions to the lowest common denominator of the web, the hyperlink. The average person can then bring together their favorite services into weblog posts to add context to the results generated by each of these links. You heard it here first, the weblog is more than just a place to publish your views and point to interesting websites, it’s a lightweight development platform for us non-programmers to pull together the results of database views and add context around them.

Click to see:
San Francisco Gas Prices
– read about Gas Prices in the San Francisco Chronicle

Each of these links are dynamic which means that the results today will be different from a month from now. The example above is basic but as you add more variables to your search these links carry with them an intelligence that can be shared and improved upon in a way that is quite powerful. No longer are you just pointing to static webpages, with these dynamic links you are pointing to dynamic views of data that are your unique view of something.

I’ve been collecting scenarios that help illustrate the power of this new world.

  1. Create a simple form that accepts input of your flight number >
  2. Submit and look up arrival city and time >
  3. Submit results and look up Chinese restaurants rated 3 star and above within 10 miles of airport >
  4. Display results

Do you have any similar scenarios?

Current Events

Charlie Wood, RSS as the Information Bus

I wonder how many out there have, upon reading Steve Jobs’ recent commencement address, have reconfigured their life to pursue their dreams. First Richard MacManus cited Jobs’ speech as inspiration. Now, Charlie Wood, VP of Enterprise Solutions of Newsgator, has left his job to start a new venture. Spanning Partners will offer RSS integration services that will expand the use of RSS beyond the mere delivery of posts from blogs to something much broader. At the PC level, you have a data bus which shuttles bits from the hard disk, to RAM, to processor, to video card and back again. In much the same way, RSS could become the virtual delivery bus for information interconnecting all the new APIs which are exposing themselves to the intranet and internet.

This is much the same vision that Microsoft is pushing as part of it’s RSS is Everywhere vision outlined in my previous post. When you start extending the standard to allow for structured content to be exchanged, not just between humans and their readers but between applications and devices, it opens up all sorts of opportunities.

This reminds me of an earlier jam session I had with an engineer at Reuter’s research labs a couple years agon on how structured news feeds from Factiva could automate transactions. In the example we dreamed up, we thought of using Factiva to drive the generation of sales leads for a consulting company. Using filters on the rich meta data that comes with Factiva news stories, an example could be,

  1. Create a filter to select all stories of all new mergers in my key industry with a dateline of San Francisco,
  2. The subset of stories would then be fed via RSS to an API which would read these stories, strip out the company ticker symbols and use them to pull contact information from another database such as Hoovers or InfoUSA for the VP of Sales name and email address at each company,
  3. Use and API to the CRM to check if the prospect was already a client, if not, then populate the VP of Sales contact information into an email template which would address each VP of Sales with a letter of introduction introducing your company’s sales integration services.

All three steps could be done in advance automatically, the salesperson only needs to review the content of the email before sending it off and making a note to follow up.

One quote sticks in my mind from the Channel 9 video mentioned in my earlier post. Precious programmer resources were being wasted as each person had to write their own connector to information. Once you standardize that, the developers can move up the stack and focus on the more interesting task of what you can do with that information.

When market data feeds were moving from analog to digital transmissions, there was a time when everyone was too busy writing feed handlers to really focus on anything more than parsing data. Once the feed handlers were written and commoditized, there was an explosion of creativity that gave birth to sophisticated applications that could throw market data around to drive risk analysis and automated trading applications. I would argue that this enabled the entire field of complex derivative and arbitrage trading that revolutionized the finanancial markets (for better or worse) in the mid-90’s.

Flash-forward to 2005 and we see the same enabler with RSS. Standardize the interface and delivery of information (calendars, inventory, pricing, traffic, reviews, top ten lists, etc.) and then you unleash a flurry of new services that mix and mash the intersection of these pieces of information to create new insight and opportunity.

Pull a list of the top ten albums according to Billboard and cross index with a list of all acts playing at the Warfield in San Francisco in the next two months. If there’s a match, pull together links to reviews from my favorite rock critic and paste them into a page that you call the, “Automatic Concert Reminder” and you’ve got a new service. Add your own unique editorial to each concert and you’ve got a service that adds value and will hopefully attract a readership. Sell tickets via an affiliate link and you’ve got a business.

Father of Web 2.0 planning on move to SF. Bringing wife and kids too.

Richard MacManus, widely hailed as the Father of Web 2.0 is pulling up stakes in New Zealand and coming to San Francisco. First to attend the conference named after him (wink to John Battelle), then to look for work that will allow him to live here year ’round and participate firsthand in all this wonderful Web as a platform discussion that, to a large extent, seems to be bubbling up on a regular basis in the San Francisco area. Just goes to show you that despite the promise of the internet to enable tribes to gather regardless of space & time, nothing beats the quality and throughput of a face-to-face interaction.

Richard is tired at looking at things from a distance and is jumping in with both feet (just as I did, almost a year ago). His inspiration was Steve Job’s recent commencement speech at Stanford.

Technorati Amplifies the Conversation at Salon

Technorati has integrated itself into with a new feature which lists the most blogged stories of the site. In addition, they list links at the bottom of each story so that you can follow the conversation out of Salon and trace the thread into other blogs that have linked to the Salon piece. Richard Ault has a nice write up illustrating the integration with screenshots and Niall Kennedy describes this as the first of what Technorati hopes to be many such integrations.

Salon is the first of what we at Technorati hope will be many integration deals with media partners. I want to continue to get the quality content produced by bloggers marketed to as big of as big of an audience as possible. Journalists are often asked how their job security has changed with the popularity of weblogs. I think both serve a purpose and complement each other, and the Salon partnership takes a big step in that direction with a pioneering Internet content company.