30 Mar

Amazon maintenance plagues sellers


"Some Amazon.com sellers are hopping mad after an 11-day stretch of planned maintenance to the site’s storefronts has snarled their ability to update their listings and removed some of the listings entirely."

Amazon.com affiliate statistics are sometimes late by several days, while CJ features near real-time reporting for hundreds of merchants. Here it’s even worse since zShops sellers pay to show their wares at Amazon. These incidents reek of a lack of proper respect to partners. At SciFan, we added links to competitors such as Alibris, Powells and Half.com, mainly to offer more choice to our visitors, but also to shake Amazon’s complacent attitude.

28 Mar

Productivity is the endgame

Jon Udell comments on instantly shared outliners:

"It’s not about XML, or HTTP, or outlining. It’s about people evolving to the point where they publish what they’re doing, and subscribe to what other people are doing, in just the right proportions, so that there’s maximum awareness of shared purpose but minimal demand on the scarce resource of attention."

They seem to be a cool team productivity tool, but I’m afraid many people are just too lazy and mentally unstructured to adopt them. There’s still a strong need to cure the problems brought by e-mail though.
04/02/02 update: Jon Udell: Instant Outlining, Instant Gratification.

26 Mar

Radio vs Sharepoint

Adam Vandenberg:

"Both sets of tools fall into the same broad category of softare, knowledge management systems. You have people in your organization, on teams, and they need to share stuff and communicate. Both system have a content management (CMS) part. Radio is more about communicating via ad hoc, spur of the moment notes. You can just pop in and log something. SharePoint is more about publishing Office documents. Everything Microsoft does has to be Big and Scalable. Can it handle 10,000, 100,000, or 1 million users? How many servers have to be clustered for that to happen? Backups? Replications? And so forth. It seems pretty top down."

Ballmer once commented during a big company sales meeting (summer of ’97 of ’98, I can’t remember) that it was fun to realize Lotus Notes often won accounts through bottom-up departmental sales, while Exchange was increasingly stronger in big top-to-bottom sales. It felt a little weird because Microsoft came from the desktop, while Notes was pushed by IBM, the big brass enterprise vendor among all.
The Microsoft of 2002 is probably very comfortable at playing the enterprise game now, with lots of desktops converted to Exchange/Outlook, and SQL 2000 coming on top of some pure performance benchmarks (less than 5 years ago, SQL Server 6.5 could only fight on lower-end price/performance). The big clusters running Windows 2000 Advanced Server beat the crap out of their older, smaller brothers by a factor of 1,000. The usual caveat about benchmarks, statistics and lies taken into account, it’s still a huge step forward in just a few years.
This also leaves room for more agile (some pun intended) competitors to creep from the bottom, and that’s a good thing.
Disclosure (I won’t make it everytime I post about Microsoft and its competition, but it’s good to remind readers once in a while): I worked at Microsoft France from ’96 to ’99 and I’m still a shareholder.
03/27/02 update: follow-up from a Microsoftie and SharePoint user.

26 Mar

Practical application of machine-learning techniques

Google Jobs:

"In the future, we’d like to improve our search quality by applying machine-learning, artificial intelligence and information retrieval techniques to problems such as:

  • Extraction of structured information from the web
  • Information synthesis (by pulling partial information from multiple documents to fulfill an information need)
  • Learning of semantic concepts and using this to improve search
  • Automatic development of vertical search services
  • Answering of natural language queries
  • Automatic machine-translation between language pairs


This underlines where Google wants to improve and grow moving forward. Looking at these bullet points, I’m wondering when someone (possibly Google itself, since they forbid automated querying) will plug a text-to-speech service on top of their engine.

22 Mar

AltaVista surveys users about News

I bet this survey is related to the recent introduction of a similar service by Google. There’s nothing like competition to keep companies on their toes. Altavista apparently ponders the introduction of filtering/sorting options by date and geography (two of several suggestions I sent to Google earlier this week). Google added a "sort by relevance/sort by date" option to the beta, only to remove it a few hours later. I guess they’re trying different things right now, but this option makes sense (it’s in their Usenet service already).
Update: the sorting choice by date/relevance is back.

22 Mar

Fault-Tolerant File Storage

Tech Review:

"Because [Microsoft Research’s] Farsite stores copies of a user’s files on multiple machines, that also makes it more network fault tolerant than a centralized server system. If there is a network fault that blocks access to one machine where the user’s files are stored, the odds are that another machine with the same files remains accessible. The files also remain accessible if some users turn off their machines at night."

20 Mar

Blog Editing Toolbar

The Adminimizer Toolbar uses IE6’s XML support:

"You see your blog in the browser. You want to add to or edit it so… You go to some other app or site to do your blogging. Does this make sense? No. You should be able to edit and save right there, in your browser, on your blog page, WYSIWYG style. No fuss, no muss, no fooling around."

18 Mar

Introducing Microcontent News

A New Magazine about Weblogs, Webzines, and Personal Publishing:

"Microcontent News hopes to pioneer a new model of weblog coverage. Our articles will be written by people immersed in the field, not busy journalists on a deadline. And we’ll have none of these restrictions on word count. Articles will be as long or as short as they need to be. We’re not writing for the masses – we’re targeting people who actively participate in the Personal Publishing revolution."

It seems topical blogs (from wireless Internet and satellite radio to online search and usability to trading to our own theendoffree.com) are becoming increasingly popular, which has always made sense to me.