IT Conversations News: August 28, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

News and Housekeeping

  • Gone Fishing? Not quite, but I did miss publishing an Update last week, as I spent the weekend at FOO Camp (Friends of O’Reilly) in Sebastopol, California. IT was a great opportunity to meet with some very smart people. Our plans for the new non-profit IT Conversations were discussed and very well received. I’m back, but that means we’ve got twice the usual number of things to talk about.
  • Tips! One problem with missing a week is that I’m not in your ear, reminding you about contributing to our tip jar. As the end of August approaches, I notice that the tip jar isn’t as full as usual, even though the members of Team ITC are working harder than ever. So if you like IT Conversations, put your money where your ears are and contribute. Remember that 100% of your donation will go to those members of Team ITC who produce all of our programs in their spare time.
  • Conferences. You may have noticed that we’re hot and heavy into the middle of the conference season, and for the next few months we’ll be publishing 10-12 programs every week in order to keep up. And speaking of conferences here are two terrific ones that you may want to attend face-to-face to get that elbow-rubbing experience:
    • European OSCON 17-20 October in Amsterdam, with a terrific lineup of speakers. You can save €400 if you register by 29 August (tomorrow)!
    • Accelerating Change 2005 will be September 16-18 at Stanford University, and as in 2004, this looks like one of the top events of the year.
  • Stringers Needed! And speaking of Accelerating Change 2005, we need some help recording the conference. We’ll have all the equipment, but if you have some skill with audio, mixers, etc., we can get you a free registration in exchange for your help capturing this event for later publication on IT Conversations.
  • iTunes Tips. Remember, if you’re using iTunes to subscribe to our RSS feeds, you may be missing many of our programs. By default, iTunes only grabs one show per day, which means that you’ll miss nearly half of our 10-12 programs each week. The solutions are to change the options so that you download all programs, not only the most recent.
  • Web-Site Update. I’ve spent a little time this past week on the long-neglected website.
    • Downloads. One change you might have noticed immediately is that you can now download audio files directly from the show detail pages. Previously, you had to click through to a separate download page. It’s now much easier.
    • M4B Files. The reason I could do this is that I’ve finally completed the de-commissioning of the M4B/AAC files. In other words, everything is now MP3 only. I received a few complaints from people who miss their bookmarks on iPods, but when I explained how much overhead it has been to produce M4Bs, they understood.
    • Lists. And you know those lists on the left-hand side of our pages? The ones labeled Highest Rated and Most Listened To? You may have thought those were maintained though some fancy software, but no — I have to maintain them by hand. And like everything else, they had been ignored for too long. I finally brought them up-to-date, so check there. You may find some great programs you hadn’t heard before.

New Programs This Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Mark Carges – InfoWorld SOA Forum (rated 3.0 by IT Conversations listeners) Are your organization’s data and processes locked into isolated silos? Do you need to bridge the gaps between enterprise software application and home-grown solutions? Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is one part of the toolkit that can help enterprises overcome these difficulties, and yet in a study done by InfoWorld and BEA, only 28% of respondents have a current SOA project, while more than 50% have no current SOA plans. BEA Systems CTO Mark Carges discusses the results of this study and the needs for an SOA infrastructure.
  • Gary Cornell – Apress (3.2) Gary Cornell decided to ditch academia and become a technical book publisher in 1998, just in time to face a huge downturn in tech book publishing as the dot com bubble burst. Today, Cornell’s Apress is proof of life after the bubble in a competitive market, producing bestsellers from authors such as Joel Spolsky and Dan Appleman. Scott Mace spoke with Gary, the CEO/publisher/co-founder of Apress, about topics ranging from outsourcing to Wikipedia.
  • Kris Lichter – The Genographic Project (3.3) Humans are found everywhere on Earth. Yet how did we get here and why do we look the way we do? IBM and National Geographic are mounting the Genographic Project, an ambitious attempt to answer these fundamental questions. Kris Lichter talks about the how a worldwide, decentralized group of scientists collaborates on the largest DNA sample database ever assembled to understand the story of the human race.
  • Robert "The Scobleizer" Scoble (3.4) Robert Scoble is a Microsoft technical evangelist, but is most know as the world famous "Scobleizer" blogger. He discusses his early days of blogging and how his blogging at Microsoft was often risky. He also explains how blogging is proving to be a valuable corporate communications tool. Robert discusses other important issues such as Windows Vista, podcasting, weblog search, opml and attention.xml.
  • Dr. Hilary Koprowski (3.4) On Biotech Nation, Moira spoke with Dr. Hilary Koprowski, a Professor of Immunology at Thomas Jefferson University. You may not know his name, but half a century ago, he created the live polio vaccine.
  • Daniel Charles (3.5) Moira also spoke with former NPR tech reporter Daniel Charles about a German scientist, who changed the course of World War I. That would be Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize for technology which launched both modern agriculture and chemical warfare. Charles is the author of "Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare."
  • Justin Chapweske – The Swarming Web (3.5) How do you distribute large files, quickly and securely, to a large network audience without requiring expensive hardware or content based networks? Justin Chapweske, CTO and founder of Onion Networks, presents swarming as a combination of extended HTTP, commodity bandwidth, cheap hardware and software intelligence that addresses modern large file and data integrity problems without requiring expensive infrastructural services or commercial content networks.
  • Dr. Darwin Prockop (3.6) On another Biotech Nation, Moira spoke with Dr. Darwin Prockop, the Director of Tulane’s Gene Therapy Center who tells us why he’s been working with adult stem cells for over a decade, and the mystery of how they work.
  • How to Get Naked – BlogHer 2005 (3.6) Some bloggers bare all on their weblogs. What are the costs and benefits of getting naked before the whole world and how do bloggers balance their responsibilities to their readers and their families? A panel of women bloggers discuss these issues in this Q & A session.
  • Dennis Bakke (3.6) Moira Gunn also spoke with Dennis Bakke, the co-Founder and former CEO of energy producer AES. With 40,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue, he believes everyone can still have fun at work. Dennis is also the author of "Joy at Work — A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job."
  • Jerry Weissman (3.7) And Moira interviewed author and media and presentation coach, Jerry Weissman, about answering tough questions. In these high-tech days, when everything is permanently on the record, this former producer for Mike Wallace tells us what does and doesn’t work.
  • Vint Cerf – Father of the Internet (3.8) "I wish I could’ve predicted more," says the father of the Internet, Vint Cerf. He didn’t think about the worries parents would face ten or fifteen years later of their children seeing pornography, or becoming prey to Internet predators. He didn’t think of the thousands of companies who would try to make money by sending unwanted e-mails, or the hackers who would illegally share movies, music and software. Larry Magid speaks to Vint Cerf about these issues and new developments in the Internet Protocol, IPv6.
  • Mark Cotta Vaz (3.9) Moira Gunn spoke with Mark Cotta Vaz, the author of "Living Dangerously — The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong. He relates the daring exploits of Cooper, the World War I flying ace, who went on the create "King Kong," the 1933 movie which was so far ahead of its time.
  • Chris Anderson – Economics of the Long Tail (4.0) The Long Tail is a phrase coined by Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, for the statistical distribution of sales observed by online businesses. In this talk he explores the economics of the long tail and shares his insight on the effects it might have on future business models. He discusses how distribution networks like Amazon, iTunes and Netflix have shown that the right side of the curve which forms millions of niches can be as big a market as the chart toppers.
  • John Markoff at the SDForum (4.1) John Markoff discusses his new book, "What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer." This is a terrific two-part evening. Part 1 is John’s solo presentation. Part 2 is a follow-up panel discussion with Bill Duvall, Lee Felsenstein, Dennis Allison and Larry Tessler.
  • John Seely Brown at Supernova 2005 (4.2) JSB is known for his work on business ecosystems. In this short but focused talk from Supernova 2005 he covers the emotive topic of off-shoring and highlights the advantages that can be gained from understanding that it is never only a simple question of wage arbitration. The examples of innovative business practices he discusses leads to a picture of a global change in business discourse and a re-evaluation of the current definition of ‘the firm.’

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a great experiment from last year:

  • Lawrence Lessig – Free Culture, Chapter 1 (3.9) AKMA asked, "Anyone feel like recording a chapter of Lawrence Lessig’s new book?" Joi Ito then said, "What a great idea!" And in less than 24 hours, this idea mushroomed into a significant collaboration by a team of bloggers and others to record and publish all of Larry’s book. Here is our contribution, Chapter One: Creators, recorded by IT Conversations host Doug Kaye.

TWiT v. Feedburner

Interesting discussion of Feedburner and confidentiality on Leo Laporte’s blog. Make sure you read the comments in addition to Leo’s post. In short, Leo’s pulling his feeds off because Feedburner went public with some of Leo’s stats. But Eric Lunt, Feedburner’s CTO, wrote that Leo had selected an option that makes the data public. My guess is that Leo didn’t realize what he was approving — fine print and all that — but that he already wished he’d never used Feedburner anyway.

IT Conversations primary feed — the “Everything” feed — is redirected to Feedburner. So far, so good, but I haven’t yet moved over the other 40+ feeds we have.

About.com’s Useful Site of the Day

Wendy Boswell wrote:

What this is is an incredible array of speakers from all facets of the technology universe, from blogging to hacking to anything else you can think of. Lots of movers and shakers here and you can listen to them all; whether you wish to download the files to your iPod or save them as MP3’s to your hard drive, or you can just click “Play” and they magically start playing. At least they did on my computer. I just listened to Wil Wheaton from Gnomedex, who I also keep track of through his blog, Wil Wheaton Dot Net. For me, the reason I love IT Conversations is because it’s refreshing to actually hear the voices that I so often read.

Mark Ramsey Replies

Mark Ramsey has posted a response to my comments last month. Good debate here. Mark writes:

Mr. Kaye, what you don’t understand is that everything is driven by hits and stars. Everything. You are free to reach any niche audience you want, but the definition of a “revolution” is something that sweeps away the status quo. Making niches happy doesn’t qualify.

Mark’s idea of a revolution is apparently one in which mass can only be built by the combination of a small number of large players. But the same mass can be built by combining a large number of small players. There will be 50,000 podcasters by the end of 2006, and together — not individually — they will be significant. In Monday’s New York Times, “Ted Schadler of Forrester Research predicted that 12.3 million households — about 30 million people — would use podcasts by 2010.” The Diffusion group predicted nearly double that number. According to an article in the July 25 issue of Business Week by Jon Fine, only 31 million households in the US tuned into broadcast TV networks during primetime during the 2003-04 season. You don’t need to use the word “revolution,” but that’s a significant market for so-called niche content.

I’m not denying that there’s a market, however small, for every podcast, however insignificant. Of course there is. But ask your local movie theater how much they care to show a movie only a few people see, ask the local bookseller how much they want to stock a book only a few folks buy.

That’s precisely why network television viewing and ad revenues have declined 19% in the past ten years, while Netflix has grown by offering the obscure and otherwise hard-to-find movies that are filling those flat-panel home-television screens. A primary example in Chris Anderson’s original article in Wired about the long tail pointed out that Amazon generates a significant percentage of its income precisely from selling books that only a few people want to buy. Mark is correct, that a physical bookstore can’t afford to stock those books in the same way that a “broad” caster can’t afford to create and distribute programs that appeal to small numbers of people. But without broadcasting’s overhead, podcasters can create and distribute that content, and in the same was as Amazon meets the needs of millions of customers in this way, so will podcasters. Perhaps most importantly, listeners (like readers) are more passionate about what Mark calls niche content than they are about mass-media generic content, and their money will ultimately follow their passions.

I have nothing against broadcast radio. It’s terrific for news, weather, sports, call-in (anything that’s realtime) and it’s also an ideal distribution mechanism for any content that serves a geographic community (i.e., within the range of a transmitter). Here in San Francisco, for example, KQED-FM produces some excellent local programming such as Forum with Michael Krasny. I listened to it on the way home from the dentist this morning, in fact. It’s a perfect fit for realtime radio because half the show is based on call-ins.

I don’t hate radio, broadcasters or broadcasting. I don’t think radio is “evil.” I just know that podcasting has the potential of delivering the unique content that many listeners value more than they value content produced for the masses, and the money will ultimately follow that value.

The Top Podcast?

Feedster just released their Top 500 “most interesting and important blogs” and IT Conversations is rated #26 — higher than any other podcast. Cool!

Update: Dave Slusher is right, however. Lists like this, iTunes, Podcast Alley, etc., suggest that what’s important is volume: that the goal is the largest possible audience. This is the fat-head (as opposed to the long-tail) position. It’s all about hits and stars, and follows the lead of broadcasting and the traditional music biz. But the best blogs and podcasts aren’t those that appeal to the largest and most generic audiences, but rather those that deliver the greatest value to an audience, regardless of the size of that audience. One might have a blog or podcast about organ transplants, for example. Wouldn’t make the Top Anything list, but for the intended readers/listeners, it would be #1. Old media can’t do that. New media can and should. Change lives in as profound a way as possible.

IT Conversations News: August 14, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs This Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • The Software 2005 Pundit Panel (rated 2.8 by IT Conversations listeners) How is the IT Budget of companies going to be spent? What’s hot and what’s not right now among IT companies? Are there too many IT vendors? How many of them will survive for the next five years? How is opensource software affecting IT vendors? The pundit panel with experts from some of the top market research organisations answer these questions and take a look at where the IT industry is heading in the next few years.
  • "Only Connect" from Supernova 2005 (2.9) As broadband and wireless access become more widely available, the fabric of the telecommunications industry is unraveling. How do the emergence of wireless and broadband access and voice over IP (VoIP) solutions affect the telecom marketplace, and how will these new technologies fit into the overall suite of choices available to users?
  • Michael Weiss – Morpheus and P2P (2.9) "It looks a lot larger on the outside than it is on the inside," describes Michael Weiss, CEO of StreamCast, parent company of Morpheus. He’s talking about the US Supreme Court. Morpheus is just looking to make money through engaging in the new medium called "File Sharing/P2P". So why has he locked horns with the entertainment industry? Larry Magid speaks to him about file-sharing, piracy, and the distribution mechanisms of P2P.
  • The Folksomony Panel – ETech 2005 (3.4) The notion of folksonomy suggests that users can develop patterns of organization and classification that function without the need for rigid guidelines or top-down taxonomies. The founders of three outstanding folksonomy- based services come together to discuss the idea in this session from ETech 2005.
  • Brian Dear – EVDB.com (3.5) First came the blogosphere, then the podosphere, and now, the eventsphere is here! Brian Dear is building it at EVDB, the Events and Venues Database. The founder and CEO of EVDB, Brian sat down during Always On 2005: The Innovation Summit at Stanford, to speak with Scott Mace. Learn how to publish events on the EVDB service, how to subscribe to EVDB searches, and more about "simple event sharing."
  • Lisa See (3.6) On Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn interviews Lisa See, a journalist, culturalist. They discuss a language, known only to women in a remote Chinese province and kept secret for 1,000 years, and explore how she went in search of this language, and how it and the ancient practice of binding women’s feet figure into her latest novel: "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan."
  • Noshir Contractor – Co-Evolution of Knowledge Networks (3.7) Recent technological advances have created an environment where we can connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere almost effortlessly. But how do we decide with whom we want to connect? From MeshForum 2005, Dr. Contractor explains that the answers can be found by studying the underlying socio-technological motivations for the creation, maintenance, destruction, and reconstitution of knowledge and social networks.
  • Joel Spolsky – Software Writing (3.7) What’s the difference between an okay programmer and a great one? Would you believe it’s their writing skills? According to often-controversial Joel Spolsky, most technical writing is abysmal and there is a clear correlation between well-written documentation and successful programs. Joel talks with Phil Windley about examples of great writing and how anyone can learn to write better.
  • Alan Zelicoff and Michael Bellomo (3.8) On a special long-format BioTech Nation segment, Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Dr. Alan Zelicoff and Michael Bellomo, co-authors of "Microbe — Are We Ready fo the Next Plague?" about a new public-health data base designed can fight outbreaks such as SARS, as well as defend against bioterrorism.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

  • Stewart Copeland – The Think-Different Drummer (3.9) Since his early days with the rock band Police, drummer Stewart Copeland has been heavily involved with technology. Today he’s a Mac-based composer for film, TV, and opera, having scored more than 60 soundtracks including Wall Street, Talk Radio, and Dead Like Me. In this live fireside chat with David Battino, co- author of The Art of Digital Music, Copeland reveals his innovative recording techniques, lays out his dreams for the ideal music software, and even recalls his skin-piercing sampler shootout with Sting. [From the Mac OS X Conference 2004]