IT Conversations News: February 21, 2006

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

New Programs Last Week

Here are the programs we’ve published in the last week, ranked in increasing order of listener ratings.

  • Convergence Panel – First Tuesday (rated 2.3 by our listeners) This panel discussion regarding VoIP closed the thought leadership forum ‘The road to convergence’ from First Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland. The panel speakers were Kevin Findlay of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Peter Fischer of the Swiss telecommunications regulatory authority, Stefan Herrlich of Siemens, Paul Hitchman of PlayLouder and Mikko Kukkonen of Nokia. With moderator Bruno Giussani, they discussed VoIP regulation, different forms of convergence and scenarios for the future of communications, network and other technologies.
  • Nick Gall – TCP/IP and Shipping Containers (2.8) Arguing that conventional software technologies have led to centralized, difficult to maintain legacy systems, Nick Gall of the META Group points to the internet protocols as an example of a technology that has led to the extensible, scalable, decentralized applications that run on the web today.
  • Adele Martz – Improving GM’s Risk Profile (3.0) Adele Martz, Director of Business Continuity Planning and Crisis Support at General Motors, explains how risk management puts GM at a competitive advantage. She was a speaker at the Effective Disruption Management Seminar convened last September by Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  • Daniel Steinberg – Advanced Podcast Editing (3.0) In podcasting, the old radio adage that you need good gear and a good ear still holds true. In this talk from the Podcast Academy, Daniel Steinberg of O’Reilly Media’s Distributing the Future podcast discusses tips and tricks for editing digital audio. He focusses on the ear rather than the gear, and demonstrates specific techniques for getting results.
  • Geoff Palmer – uLocate (3.0) Entrepreneur Geoff Palmer knows that what counts is location, location, location, but he’s no property developer. Palmer introduces uLocate, which uses location- aware technologies to let you track your pet, check your teen’s driving speed, or even find the spot where you took that wonderful photograph — all from your cell phone.
  • Gail Neudorf – Disaster Relief Challenges (3.0) Gail Neudorf is the Emergency Coordinator for CARE Canada. During the Effective Disruption Management Seminar convened by the Stanford Graduate School of Business in September 2005, she explains some of the challenges and issues faced by humanitarian disaster relief operations.
  • Christopher Thomas Scott – Stem Cell Research (3.3) Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Christopher Thomas Scott, the Director of the Stanford Program in Stem Cell Research, who tells us how the major organized religions of the world each view embryonic stem cell research.
  • Steve Gibson – Internet Privacy (3.3) Recently, the news has reported that the US Department of Justice has requested user information from some major internet search engines and service providers. In this conversation, Larry Magid talks with internet security expert Steve Gibson about the ramifications of these requests. They talk about what is possible and, more importantly, what is likely to be learned about an individual’s surfing habits.
  • Lisa Dusseault – Calendar Sharing (3.4) Calendar sharing between different types of devices and desktops remains an unsolved problem. At ApacheCon, host Scott Mace talked to Lisa Dusseault, co- author of CalDAV, an open and interoperable protocol for calendar access and sharing. In this conversation, Dusseault explains the history of calendar standard efforts, the WebDAV standard underlying current efforts, and the open source Chandler client, Cosmo server and Scooby Web interface, which will support these standards.
  • Brewster Kahle – The Internet Archive (3.7) Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Brewster Kahle, the founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive. They’re not just archiving web pages — there’s now books, movies and 3,000 Grateful Dead concerts.
  • John Tayman – Author, "The Colony" (3.8) Moira also interviews John Tayman who tells us about Molokai and its famous leper colony. Hawaii may make you think of swaying palms and beautiful weather, but this one desolate spot on Molokai seems more like King Kong’s Skull Island.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is from 2004:

  • Malcolm Gladwell – Human Nature (4.2) IT Conversations audio from Pop!Tech 2004 (Human Nature): Author and New Yorker Magazine journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has been a tremendous bestseller for over three years and counting. In this presentation he explores why we can’t trust people’s opinions — because we don’t have the language to express our feelings. His examples include the story of New Coke and how Coke’s market research misled them, and the development of Herman-Miller’s Aeron chair, the best-selling chair in the history of office chairs, which succeeded in spite of research that suggested it would fail.

The Pay-to-Play Controversy

Dave Winer started an important conversation about the increasingly common practice by event producers who “sell” their keynote-presentation slots to paying sponsors. Marc Canter weighed in as well. This is a gnarly problem that even affects us here at The Conversations Network in two ways.

We like to think of ourselves as the NPR of podcasting. (Okay, so may be NPR is the NPR of podcasting, but you get the idea.) Contrary to how some event producers see us, we’re not a publishing service for hire. We’re a magazine, if you prefer, with our own editorial controls. We select the conferences to cover, they don’t select us. In our written contract with the event producers, we have the right to select which sessions we’ll publish based on editorial or audio-quality criteria. We frequently skip presentations that don’t meet our standards. We like to think we take the high road on this, including not publishing sessions that are nothing more than corporate pitches.

It’s a challenge, however. First, as Marc points out, some valuable conferences such as Supernova and ETech exist solely to introduce new technologies. Should we not publish them because of this? Where does one draw the line between presenting new technologies as opposed to vendor pitches? I’ve tried all sorts of guidelines such as not allowing CEOs or VPs or Marketing, but that doesn’t work when the company is a one-person startup. At the end of the day, it comes down to old-fashioned editorial judgment. Is the value of the content high enough to justify publishing it? As a proxy for the listener, would we rather hear the presentation or would we be offended by its commercial nature? The sponsors with the deep pockets and who sponsor these events are often those with the least newsworthy developments to report, but that’s not always the case. We rarely get complaints when we include a presentation from some tiny Web 2.0 startup. But if a large public company has a major announcement, we’re much more likely to take flak. One could say, of course, that the big guy has all sorts of ways to get the message out, whereas the little guy does not. But is vendor size alone (or at all) a reasonable criterion? Probably not. We can’t merely eliminate all vendors since most of the greatest minds work for someone. And don’t academic authors also have something to sell? Sure they do. It’s a tough call.

And that brings us to the second and (for us) more difficult problem. As we expand The Conversations Network to include additional channels, we’re dependent upon many of these same corporate sponsors to pay the bills. We’re facing the same challenges that our event-producer partners face. What should we do when company XYZ sponsors both an event and The Conversations Network channel that publishes that event? If we don’t publish the XYZ CEO’s keynote, XYZ will be pissed, but that’s a risk we have to take, and we need to make it abundantly clear to XYZ that sponsorship is not a quid pro quo that we’ll necessarily include the CEO’s session. We might take some intermediate position. One option I’ve used only once is to publish all of the sessions from an event, but only to highlight (on the home page, for example) those that meet our editorial criteria. In other cases, we’ve opted to not publish the sessions at all.

The key for The Conversations Network is that as a non-profit we exist for the listeners and the public. We have no sharholders. It’s one rare case in which being a non-profit makes some of the decisions simpler. We still need the sponsorships and underwriters, but it’s somewhat easier to draw that line in the sand. Now the question is how successful we’ll be at not crossing our own line. It’s a question I imagine we’ll ask ourselves frequently and on an on-going basis.

IT Conversations News: February 7, 2006

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

News and Housekeeping

  • A Matching Grant: VoiceIndigo has made a challenge grant to support The Conversations Network and will match donations of any size up to $500. What a great time to join The Conversations Network. The value of your donation/membership will be doubled! [Promo: VoiceIndigo brings together podcasters, mobile advertisers, and mobile phone listeners. Check ’em out.]
  • Don’t Forget the Forums: Did you know that we host online discussions for EVERY program on IT Conversations and The Conversations Network? I wouldn’t say the Forums are off to a speedy start, but you can do us a huge favor by stopping by and adding your comments about a few shows you’ve enjoyed. These community things take time, love and attention.

New Programs Last Week

Here are the programs we’ve published in the last week, ranked in increasing order of listener ratings.

  • Christopher Thomas Scott – Stem Cell Research (rated 3.5 by listeners) Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Christopher Thomas Scott, director of the Stanford Progam in Stem Cells and Society. He weighs in on the South Korean stem-cell research scandal.
  • David Heinemeier Hansson – Ruby on Rails (3.7) Ruby on Rails seems to be the newest and hippest thing in the world of web applications developers. But what is it and what makes it so great? Developer David Heinemeier Hansson describes Ruby on Rails as "a bunch of stuff that makes web developers happy," and describes the three keys to what makes it fun and more productive than other tools.
  • Randy Martin – Speed and Agility versus Cost (3.8) Randy Martin is the Director of Global Emergency Operations at Mercy Corps USA and has been in the business of humanitarian disaster relief for 25 years. At the Effective Disruption Management Seminar convened by Stanford Graduate School of Business last September Randy shares some of the lessons he has learned on the front lines and investigates potential collaborations to enhance disaster relief operations.
  • Janna Anderson – Imagining the Internet (4.0) How will the future of the internet be and how will it change our lives? Many technologists have expressed their thoughts on this topics since the birth of the internet. Janna Anderson speaks about Imagining The Internet – a project which documents the predictions various people have made about the internet.
  • Josh Knauer – InfoCommons (4.3) Using public data online is often a challenge, and made all the more frustrating when the data you need is either inaccessible or verifiably incorrect. How hard would it be, for example, to change incorrect directions to your house as displayed on Google, or to combine your address with public data from City Hall? Maya Design’s Josh Knauer explains how the Information Commons sets about answering these questions.
  • Ed Amoroso – Tracking the Attackers (4.3) Businesses should book software not as an asset, but as a liability. That’s just one of Ed Amoroso’s provocative ideas. Like medicine, software engineering should require "years of tortured residency." Homeland Security should work with hackers to fight terrorism. We should discard our firewalls and let broadband carriers filter attacks in the cloud. In this interview with Sondra Schneider, the AT&T CSO also describes AT&T’s 24×7 TV network for security professionals.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is from 2004:

  • Robert Scoble – Overload (3.2) A day is coming when Robert will have 10,000 feeds instead of the 915 he’s currently reading. (He guesses the average blog reader follows 50 to 100 feeds, based on anecdotal evidence of talking with other bloggers). In fact, the number of bloggers he reads is much higher than 915 thanks to group blogs and services like Feedster, Pubsub, and Technorati. Robert Scoble leads the Overload session at Bloggercon III.

Apple in the Fray?

According to Jon Udell, Apple has begun offering universities a free platform to publish spoken-word events such as lectures. I’ve already received two email messages asking me, in essence, “Does this mean Apple is competing with The Conversations Network?” The answer is No, and here’s why:

  • Apple accepts completed programs, whereas The Conversations Network starts with raw audio and provides extensive post-production and editorial services.
  • According to Jon, files hosted by Apple can only be downloaded by iTunes software. (According to others, the OS X version of iTunes can at least be used with non-iPod devices.)

Everything published by The Conversations Network can be downloaded and subscribed to using any podcatching software without any DRM (Digitial-Rights Management) restrictions. Our programs may be found and downloaded via iTunes as well as any other directory or using any other podcatching software.