Hosed on Amazon

My most-recent book had nearly all 5-star reviews until two weeks when some Bozo rated it 1-star. How do I know he’s a Bozo and not a legitimate reviewer? Because there are many factual errors in his comments: the references to page numbers, for example.

I’ve spoken to other authors of books about web services, and they believe this is the work of one author of a competing book, and that he’s pusposely sabotaging the ratings of the other books.

Is there any solution to this problem? Is it a common one on Amazon? Should we treat Amazon reviews like those sporting events in which the system throws out the highes and lowest ratings, then averages those that are left? (Should Amazon do so themselves?)

IT Conversations News: September 12, 2005

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

News and Housekeeping

  • The Benefits of Registration. If you haven’t already done so, please become a registered member of IT Conversations. Doing so will give you access to personalized features of our web site such as Personal Program Queues, SmartBrowse, and more. Just look for "Register" in the yellow menu bar on any IT Conversations web page.
  • iTunes Users. Don’t forget that if you’re subscribing to our feeds using iTunes, you may be missing many of our programs! By default, iTunes only checks for new shows once each day and then downloads only one show. We’re publishing 2-3 great programs every day, so unless you go into the Settings section on the Podcast page (see the button in iTunes’ lower-right corner), you’ll be missing as much as half our programs.

New Programs This Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Julie Hanna Farris – Scalix (rated 2.8 by IT Conversations listeners) 20 years ago at Bell South, Julie designed a distributed-computing mail system for 100,000 employees. After helping Lotus with its messaging strategy around cc:mail and Lotus Notes, as well as several startups, she founded Scalix Corp., a leading provider of Linux-based email. Learn about the new Scalix Community Edition, a free, unlimited-use version of its Scalix Enterprise Edition, and about interoperability issues between Scalix and Microsoft Exchange, and why Farris doesn’t lose sleep worrying about Microsoft.
  • Jon Bostrom – Mobile Computing on the Edge (3.0) Jon Bostrom tells us how Nokia is moving mobile computing to the edge of the network. How are the different development platforms based on C++, Java and Python changing the mobile user experience? What are the different possibilities which multi-channel phones have opened up? It’s another great session from ETech 2005.
  • Policy Panel Workshop at Supernova 2005 (3.1) Who owns the Internet? No one, of course. But without some knowledge of the arrangements under which packets are moved from one network to another, the foundations of the global infrastructure remain hidden and consumers have no way of knowing the commercial factors that frame the accessibility of bandwidth. This is one of many policy questions discussed in the Policy Workshop Panel from Supernova 2005.
  • Devin Akin – Wireless Security (3.1) What’s new in wireless security? How mature are wireless intrusion detection systems? What are the three most important factors to consider for companies trying to secure their wireless infrastructure? In this interview with Sondra Schneider, Devin Akin answers these questions and tells us how to secure wireless networks.
  • Peter van der Linden – Linux (3.3) Peter van der Linden is an author and software consultant who specializes in Linux and open source. He discusses his new book "Peter van der Linden’s Guide to Linux", written about how to use and set up a Linux based desktop or laptop computer. He also talks about the history of the Linux operating system and its future obstacles and growth opportunities as a competitive desktop and laptop operating system.
  • Play by Today’s Rules or Change the Game? (3.4) In this discussion from BlogHer, women bloggers question whether they need to compete with male bloggers on the men’s terms, or if their goals and needs are fundamentally different. Charlene Li and Halley Suitt spark a debate about how women bloggers define and achieve success.
  • Craig Newmark – Craig’s List and Hurricane Katrina (3.4) It may have his first name in its title, but the service founded by Craig Newmark is more the result of its community of posters and readers than it is of those who run it. Now in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that community has found ways to utilize this amazing resource to help the victims. Craig’s List is now one of the best ways for people in the Gulf Coast region to find places to stay and ways to get there. The site is also helping displaced and relocated people locate one another.
  • Michael Frumin (3.5) From the Where 2.0 conference, Michael Frumin of Eyebeam talks about Fundrace.org, which mapped the amount of contributions made by people to the candidates in the presidential race. He describes how he got the idea and the media frenzy that followed when all this public data was represented in a geospatial way on Fundrace.org.
  • Daniel Imhoff (3.5) On Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn spoke with Daniel Imhoff, the Executive Director of Watershed Media and the author of "Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World." You’ll think twice the next time you pick up a blister pack of pills.
  • David Sretavan (4.0) On Biotech Nation, Moira spoke with Dr. David Sretavan, Professor, Opthamology and Physiology and Program in Neuroscience at UCSF who returns to tell us about the knife that cuts nerve endings one-fiftieth the width of a human hair.
  • Doug Kaye — That’s Me! (4.4) Here’s a twist! This week, Moira interviewed me. We talked about the history of IT Conversations and this new phenomenon of Podcasting.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

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

  • William Gibson on Tech Nation (3.3) This week’s O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a popular interview with William Gibson by Dr. Moira Gunn from last year. Listeners know him best through his novels, including his first, Neuromancer, where Gibson coined the word "cyberspace."

Bruce Sharpe Says It All

In one post, Bruce Sharpe, Team ITC audio engineer extraordinaire, manages to explain what IT Conversations is all about, why he likes working on our shows, and why podcasting is working for him:

I used to be a big fan of the CBC. Now I walk past their big grey building with my MP3 player, the size of a pack of gum, plugged in and listening not to the radio but to a collection of really interesting podcasts hand-picked by me to suit my tastes and interests. I haven’t tuned in to the CBC for … months?

It works for Charssun, too.

Podside Chat, Wednesday

I’m honored to host of the first meeting of Search SIG, Wednesday September 14th at Yahoo’s Headquarters (701 First Avenue, Building C, Room 5 in Sunnyvale, CA) at 7pm. My guests will be:

  • Bradley Horowitz, Media Search at Yahoo!
  • Evan Williams, Odeo
  • Eric Rice, Audioblog.com
  • David Marks, Loomia

See you there!


Katrina, One Week Later

Like everyone, I’ve been reeling from the horrors of the disaster in the southeastern U.S. I go back and forth between feeling for the thousands of Americans who continue to suffer and die, and outrage at the lack and lethargy of the federal response. And like everyone I know, I wonder, “What can I do?” My wife and I have made one substantial (by our standards) donation already, and I’m sure we’ll contribute more.

We all do what we can, and partially in reaction to other ideas floating around, I thought that I and others could put together something online — something done in audio. One idea was a podathon: a live audio stream with call-in and feeds from other podcasters. I’ve got the facilities here in Studio 2, so I queried a few friends and associates to get some feedback.

But after 48 hours of consideration, I’ve decided it’s not such a good idea after all. Yes, it might make me feel better for doing something in this situation, but would it really help those in need? I think not. If anything, it might divert attention from activities that are more likely to benefit them. For example, Webcasters.org has a page of links to the audio streams of Gulf Coast broadcasters, many of whom are offering direct informational services to those in the area. I’d like to encourage everyone to support the broadcasters and emergency-response organizations that can really make a difference.

Update: Kevin Devin has posted a Call to Volunteers on his blog:

According to SANS – Internet Storm Center, the Red Cross has put out a call for volunteers for SysAdmins, Network Engineers, and InfoSec Specialists.

IT Conversations News: September 4, 2005

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

News and Housekeeping

Not much new to report this week. We’re in the midst of a heavy-duty conference season, so we’re ramping up to 12-14 shows per week for the rest of the year. Yeah, I hear you. It’s too much for us, too. The volunteers of Team ITC have been doing an awesome job, but we’re stretched pretty thin. We can’t take on any new volunteers at the moment, unfortunately, because our content-management systems are a bit of a mess and our mentors can’t take on any more newbies for now.

However, I do want to tell you a bit about what’s coming up. There are some terrific conferences this fall, and you may want to try and attend one or more of them in the flesh so that you can experience the great networking that each of these provides.

  • Accelerating Change 2005. One of our most popular conferences from last year will be held in less than two weeks. Accelerating Change 2005 will be at Stanford University, September 16-18, and we’ve arranged for a $75 discount if you register with the code "AC2005-ITC" .
  • EuroOSCON. O’Reilly Media’s EuroOSCON is 17-20 October in Amsterdam, and through our contacts there, we’ve arranged for a 25% discount. Use the code "euos05itc."
  • Pop!Tech 2005. And our most popular of all events from last year, Pop!Tech, will be held again this year in Camden, Maine, October 16-19. Talk about rubbing elbows with some of the most influential people on the planet — this is the place to be.

And here are two requests for help we’ve received:

  • Nature Conservancy Wants Help. If you’re an expert in podcasting in the Washington, DC, area, the Nature Conservancy would like to hear from you. They sponsor lunchtime sessions on a variety of topics, and they’d like to have a podcaster come and tell them what this thing is all about. Interested? Just drop me a note at doug@itconversations.com.
  • Stringer Wanted. We need someont to record a great session at UC Berkeley on the evening of Tuesday, September 20, when Hank Barry, Pamela Samuelson and Denise Howell will will discussing the MGM v. Grokster case. Again, if you can help record this, let me know by email.

New Programs This Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Werner Vogels on Memory Lane (rated 2.8 by IT Conversations listeners) Now ten years old, and with 975,000 independent vendors, Amazon.com is one of the classic long-tail online companies. Its new CTO, Werner Vogels, talks openly with Halley Suitt about the company, its policies for making data available to others (while protecting customers’ privacy), and the state of search engines. Werner says that search is still in its infancy, but it’s like dancing bears: the novelty alone makes it look pretty good. He explains how they’ve used their customers’reviews to build a large-scale network of shared intelligence.
  • J.C. Herz – Military ETech (2.8) What does the military see in emerging technologies? The military wants to remix technologies to allow the soldiers on the edges to communicate with those in the center. J.C. Herz looks at two specific technologies that the military is attempting to remix into a viable reapplication of code for their benefit. It’s not always easily accomplished. Four misunderstood lines of code destroyed a missile during launch to the tune of $1 billion.
  • Andrew Zolli on Globeshakers (3.1) It’s another great series from IT Conversations: Globeshakers with Tim Zak. Here’s our first show. What are the major demographic forces driving the economies, the industries, the families and the ecologies of the 21st century? What emerging technologies hold promise in light of these grand challenges? Andrew Zolli, chief curator of Pop!Tech and prominent futurist, points to some key trends lurking over the horizon.
  • Distributed Business at Supernova 2005 (3.3) What is a distributed business – is it having employees from all corners of the globe, clients or consumers in many markets or suppliers from various areas? According to this panel from the 2005 Supernova conference, distributed business is all this and more. Learn how any business, large or small can take advantage of new technologies and philosophies to become more successful.
  • Nat Torkington and Tim O’Reilly – Open Source Trends (3.5) We kick off our coverage of OSCON with Nat and Tim bringing us up-to-date on the cool things happening in tech world: the commoditization of software, software as a service, and products that threaten to change the way the web works and influence the everyday lives of ordinary people.
  • David Rumsey – The Past and Future of Mapping (3.6) What do historical maps show and what do they hide? How were the cartographers over the centuries biased? How can these old maps be used, superimposed and blended with current maps to show the changes in topography over the centuries? How can old maps be "remixed" with current information to reveal interesting information about cities? David Rumsey talks about the evolution of maps over the centuries and how they can be used to reveal interesting information.
  • David Sretavan (3.8) On Biotech Nation, Moira spoke with Dr. David Sretavan, Professor of Opthamology and Physiology and Program in Neuroscience at UCSF. He told us how we might actually fuse severed nerve endings back together — nerve endings one-fiftieth the width of a human hair.
  • Robert Shelton (3.8) Moira also spoke with Robert Shelton, Managing Director for Innovation at Navigant Consulting and the co-author of "Making Innovation Work." While anyone can readily spot a breakthrough product and know that innovation has occurred, what can be puzzling is how it happens.
  • Leslie Berlin (3.8) Finally, Moira interviewed Leslie Berlin, Silicon Valley Archivist at Stanford University and author of "The Man Behind the Microchip" about the life of Robert Noyce, the man who co-invented the integrated circuit, the essential technology behind every little chip in your life today.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

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

  • RFID at SofTECH (3.5) RFID — Radio Frequency Identification — is transforming the way companies track inventory, artwork and even law briefs, but some fear it could be used for more "Orwellian" pursuits. A panel of leading technology developers and pioneer end-user corporations explores this promising and yet maligned emerging technology that both empowers consumers and raises privacy issues.