29 Jan

Random Music Recommendations

It’s been a while since I last posted pointers to music that got my attention, so here we go:

I can’t recall much else making a striking impression those last couple of months, though admittedly I haven’t finished listening through the whole list of Best of 2004. I’ve tasted lots of good stuff mind you, such as Steve Coleman, Lou Donaldson or Lonnie Liston Smith in the jazz/funk realm, but I could use recommendations, especially in electronic music where nothing seems new or inspiring lately. Meanwhile let’s see what 2004 brought to country music, a neglected part of my collection. But I have to admit it’s going to become harder to discover things radically different from anything I’ve heard.

28 Jan

Google’s AdWords API

So the rumors were based on fact.

"Some possibilities might include:

  • Generating automatic keyword, ad text, URL, and custom reports
  • Integrating AdWords data with databases, such as inventory systems
  • Developing additional tools and applications to help you manage accounts"

Code samples are provided in Java, C#, XML, PHP and Perl, with more emphasis on the last one. There’s a discussion group for developers and a blog, though they’re obviously not very busy places yet. They use an interesting quota system to throttle API calls based on ad spending.

25 Jan

Spam, Spam, Spam Everywhere and Not a Chunk to Eat

It’s not enough that spammers have made my referrer stats completely unusable, Google Desktop also helps them land the top spot in search results too by indexing spam in Outlook (flagged as such by filters mind you). Google Desktop is now gone from my PC. Nice trick to close the uninstall process on a feedback collection form though.
I’ve already commented on this company’s tendency to spread itself far too broadly and thinly, and this is just another example. Spam in all its forms is Google’s primary challenge (it’s to Google what security issues are to Microsoft, only this is less blatantly obvious), and looking at how they allocate resources and diversify into a new beta every quarter I’m not sure they see it clearly, or care. I’m finding Google web search results less and less useful… Well, I’m sure there will be a Refocus Hero to save Google a few years from now when it has drifted enough to bank itself into a no-growth/high costs zone.

23 Jan

What Breed of Developers to Build RIAs?

David Temkin:

"Another difference between ISVs and Web sites is in the type of developer they employ and the assumptions those developers bring to the table. Rarely do developers at Web companies have experience creating interactive client applications; nearly all of the developers at Web companies are server developers, and the people working on the user interface are closer to page designers than developers in terms of skills. It can be difficult to push a front-end Web team (used to building pages, not applications) to work as software engineers on interactive client software; but that is what is required when building real-world RIAs. Software developers at ISVs tend to have the perspective required to understand this; over time, we expect Web developers to arrive at the same place, but for different reasons and from a different starting point.
"

You need the right combination of skills if you’re thinking of delivering an application both as a (HTML) web app and as a RIA (say, by combining Flex with a Java backend/framework). Those worlds will indeed merge eventually.

23 Jan

State of the Software Development Management Tool Market

As recently as 18 months ago it seemed there wasn’t much to handle software product development except either bug databases, generic wikis and intranet platforms, or maybe expensive and (for my purposes) cumbersome enterprise software, which is not what I’m interested about.
Now that I’m looking again at this though (we need something to keep our growing team in synch at Soflow), there are at least three new applications meant to address the need for the right mix of structure and flexibility:

Atlassian provides both issue tracking and collaboration but I’m looking for a single tool that seamlessly supports the whole product management and development process, from business case to user requirements to functional specs to tracking development progress, tests and debugging. Borland has CaliberRM but it needs its own server (the fact it comes both with a web and a desktop client is attractive though) and is not exactly cheap. But if I look in that direction there are plenty of requirement management tools.
Here are my notes so far:

Read More

20 Jan

Shaping a Standout Shopping Aid

BusinessWeek about PriceGrabber:

"PriceGrabber.com boasts 16 million unique users, 10.5 million products in its database, and 6,500 merchant clients […]
We started what is called SKU association. We basically bundled or associated all these products — they’re identical with each other together. And then we would say: O.K., here are the product results that we have.
Other examples are bottom-line price: The inclusion of tax and shipping. This is something that we’ve had almost since inception, about five-and-a-half years ago, and, of course, that’s something others have introduced more recently.
We also have what we call product tours. It gives you 3-D pictures of the products and more detail. Another differentiator is we will tell shoppers if a product is "refurbished.""

12 Jan

What Amazon’s Most Wished For Items Could Tell Us

I’m not sure how new this is (at least 8-days old), but I just spotted a list of most wished for items at Amazon – in the top right corner, where the Gold Box used to be – that is, "items that were recently added most often to Wish Lists". This will probably become more social as time goes by, for instance by letting you restrict it to your network of contacts and contacts of contacts (think Friendster meets Amazon Circles). Marketers will want to track how product desire spreads among people.
It would be interesting to compare what people fantasize about and what is actually purchased. It might be the case that some products are good at creating desire but for some reason don’t turn into sales success, for instance because of inadequate pricing or a bad reliability reputation. How long it takes to translate a wave of interest into desire then (purchasing) action would also be revealing.

01 Jan

Social Software: Finding Beauty in Walled Gardens

Dare Obasanjo:

"The social problems are straightforward, there is little incentive for competing social software applications to make it easy for people to migrate away from their service. There is no business incentive for Friendster to make it easy to export your social network to Orkut or for eBay to make it easy to export your sales history and reputation to Yahoo! Auctions.
[…] The value of a user’s social network and social information is the currency of a lot of online services. This is one of the reasons efforts like Microsoft’s Hailstorm was shunned by vendors. The biggest value users get out of services like eBay and Amazon is that they remember information about the user such as how many successful sales they’ve made or their favorite kinds of music. Users return to such services because of the value of the social network around the service (Amazon reviews, eBay sales feedback, etc) and accumulated information about the user that they hold. Hailstorm aimed to place a middleman between the user and the vendors with Microsoft as the broker. Even though this might have turned out to be better for users, it was definitely bad for the various online vendors and they rejected the idea. […]
The fact of the matter is that we still don’t know how to value social currency in any sort of objective way. […] The fact is that there is no objective value for reputation, it is all context and situation specific. Even for similar applications, differences in how certain data is treated can make interoperability difficult."

Dare then explains that if it’s not going to happen at the industry-wide level, at least there’s some level of integration done within MSN to re-use a master contact list across several applications.