Google base?

If you publish something on the net, you most likely want people to find it. Search engines, directories and links from other pages are very helpful here – but can things be made even better? Is it possible that your content can be found even easier?

Google started testing a new service, Google Base, and a few days ago rumours started spreading about what this will all be about. Competitor to Ebay? Classified ads? At the time of writing the site is unavailable, but some have managed to get in when it has been up, and it looks like it can be a database over, well, pretty much anything.

Those who should know, would be the folks at Google themselves, end they do have an entry about Google base over at the official Google blog.

Don’t know it it is much clarifying – so it will be interesting to see what it turns out to really be, when it’s ready for us. Considering their other services, it might be very fun to join in on. 😉


Steve Ballmer: Im going to kill Google

Bad habits are hard to change, and with MS accused of killing off competitors before, recent news at Jogn Battele’s site are interesting to read. Former Microsoft employee Mark Lucovsky started to work for Google in 2004, and in legal documents in the current lawsuit between Google and Microsoft over Google’s hiring of Kai-Fu Lee, Mark has the following statement from a meeting he had with Steve Ballmer to discuss his departure:

At some point in the conversation Mr. Ballmer said: “Just tell me it’s not Google.” I told him it was Google.

At that point, Mr. Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room hitting a table in his office. Mr. Ballmer then said: “Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I’m going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.”

Ballmer calls this a gross exaggeration of what took place

Read more about it in the news.


Microsoft patenting emoticons!

Eh? What? I have a hard time believing what I just read myself, but Microsoft has patented emoticons (or well, filed for patent, patent no. 20050156873). More specifically, they’ve patented the method of making a character sequence, such as a colon and a right paranthesis, being “converted” into a graphic, which is recreated at the receiving end. That is, : ) becomes 🙂

On the one hand, I can’t believe that this is something people can have the idea of patenting – but I guess this is what happens if you can patent programming methods/algorithms.

It’s a crazy world. Or a stupid one.


Lies, damned lies and statistics…

There are three kind of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.
— Benjamin Disraeli, British politician (1804 – 1881)

The thing about statistics and browser share has come up at Asa Dotzler’s blog, commented on at OperaWatch, and finally scowled at by Arve Bersvendsen at Virtuelvis.

So, what seems to be the problem? It starts with some problems figuring out how 60 million downloads of Opera 7 can translate into 1% browser share, while 50 million downloads of Firefox 1 translate into 8-10% browser share. That there were some versions of Opera starting with 7 does indeed explain quite a bit – people upgrade as new versions are available, even if it isn’t a full version number. However, not everyone download the browsers from sites which count the downloads: Some get it from CDs/DVDs on computer magazines, or download it from other download sites. Some download one copy but installs it on several computers. Trusting download stats is therefore fraught with insecurities when it comes to number of users.

Then there is the browser share of 1% – how accurate are the statistics? You may very well claim that the counters/services that provide the numbers for these stats are able to recognise Opera, even when masquerading as IE or Netscape/Mozilla, and you’d be right. Well – except when Opera 8 makes use of the two new, thoroughly camouflage modes. But the question of how accurate the services are remains, how good they are to recognise Opera every time – because Opera makes good use of the cache, and doesn’t show up as a new visit as often as other browsers. You can change the default settings for the cache in Opera, but if you don’t need to with your kind of browsing, why would you? Read more at Virtuelvis about the underreporting and overreporting of browsers in statistics.

What’s left for us is to remember that statistics can be read in different ways – we must be aware of what statistics tell us – and what they don’t tell us. Anything else would be a mistake.


Opera and GMail

Opera implemented user javascripts for the Opera 8 beta 3 release, something which was appreciated by many – and one use was for GMail. With GMail you could previously tell it to log in even if your browser wasn’t supported, and a ?nocheckbrowser-argument was added to the URL. Then it stopped that option, giving non-supported browser a basic, less useful implementation.

Opera was such a non-supported browser, despite handling the standard implementation just fine. The nocheckbrowser-argument still worked, but you had to enter it manually. It wasn’t perfect, as you still were thrown back into the simple interface sometimes. Enter the user-javascripts. Some javascripts to keep the argument in place were quickly made and published by other users, and I quickly started to use one of them, making GMail a nice experience once again.

I never gave it any thought after that, until I a few days ago used an earlier version of Opera without user javascript – and GMail worked flawlessly there, too. How come? Well – it turns out Google has yet again tweaked GMail to give us a better experience. The choice of using the simple interface is still there, but now as a link at the bottom of the pages. Wonderful 🙂 And with the storage space growing each day, who’s complaining? Not me.

Of course, with Opera working flawlessly with GMail once again, I’ve turned off that particular userscript.


Opera included in Adobe Creative Suite 2

In an interview in March, HÃ¥konWium Lie, CTO of Opera said there would be some big news in April. And here it is: Today they announced that Opera will be integrated in the Adobe Creative Suite 2, which include products like Photoshop CS2 and GoLive CS2.

This is great news. With this integration, not only will web designers automatically be encouraged to develop for and test in a standards compliant browser – with Operas technology it will also be possible to see how their designs will appear on small screens, such as PDAs and mobile phones.


Can RSS feeds replace email?

With all the spam being sent by email, users are trying many things to avoid getting it. This includes spam filters, blacklisting and whitelisting, and more. Those who are concerned about this, are serious marketeers who have problems with their newsletters not arriving at their customers – even if they have subscribed to the newsletters; there are so many hindrances in the way.

With this in mind, some are wondering if RSS/Atom is an alternative way for distribution. However, there are a few questions many ask themselves:

  1. How many users know what RSS is?
  2. How useful is it? That is, can it really replace email?
  3. How easy is it to make?
  4. What about spam?
  5. And not to forget: What is RSS, really?

I don’t know how many use RSS – I do remember that the percentage isn’t high – but I know that the number isn’t declining. So the question people should ask themselves is: If RSS is the future, wether it replaces email or not, is it wise to ignore it? If IE follows suit to Opera and Firefox and includes an RSS reader in the browser when it’s rewamped (as I’ve heard speculations about,) there will be many who try it out to see what it is.

How useful RSS is and if it can replace email – it depends. First of all, let’s look a bit at what RSS is, without any technical stuff to complicate and confuse.

On your website, you make an xml-file which contains the information you want to publish. This is the file that RSS readers access when they check if there’s new information. There’s no standard for how often it should be checked – it can be once a week, once a day, once an hour… That’s basically it.

How useful RSS is then, basically depends on the content. This can, of course, take many forms, from a full article, an excerpt of the article with a link to the full article on the web site, or just plainly a link. Most RSS readers will show the content of the XML-file, quite like email, but there are those who just show the title so that you have to visit the site to read.

As a user, how does reading RSS feeds differ from reading email? With the RSS readers I have tried: Very little. Just as I can get all kinds of newsletters via email; full text, an exerpt, or a link saying it’s now online – I can get the same as RSS feeds. The interface is very similar or identical to the familiar email interface, and personally I think it’s just as easy to use, too. Using Opera for both browsing and RSS, it takes often only a single click to subscribe to a feed, but it wasn’t really more complicated when I used a separate reader – it just took an extra click for me. Unsubscribing from a feed only takes a couple of clicks, too.

What about spam? After all, spammers seems to be pretty ingenious in thwarting everything to get their spam out, right? Not so here. You’re in full control over the RSS feed, which is that XML-file on your site. Anyone interested in your feed will read that file directly – a spammer can’t get in there, short of hacking into your site. The only way someone can get spam in their RSS reader, is if they subscribe to a spam feed – in which case it only takes a couple of clicks to unsubscribe again, remember? The user has complete control over which feeds to receive.

True, if you use a blog where people can comment on your posts, and where it’s possible to subscribe to feeds made from those comments, spammers can get through. But that is a different feed than your normal newsletter feed. Though, it is of course possible to turn off comments in blogging software and use it to make newsletters.

So, how easy is it to make RSS feeds? I make one by hand for the updates to my site – not difficult, but not a method to recomment for often updated feeds, as it is a bit labour. Also, software to help you makes it all much easier, and removes chances of making silly mistakes. 😉

Which software exists to help you? Not having had the need to know myself, I haven’t really tried to find out, but one commercial program I know of is FeedForAll. I know however that there are many more programs, including free ones – and I wouldn’t mind learning which ones those are.


Spammers will win?

I have one thing in common with the majority of you: I hate spam! I use various mail addresses for specific uses to help sort the mail in various folders, and filters to throw spam in the spam folder automatically. A few false negatives happens from time to time, but they’re easy to pick out from said spam folder and trash the rest.

However there are of course those who don’t ignore the spam, and that’s the reason we can’t get rid of the problem. Not only do people fall for the temptation to reply to spam that ends up in their in-box – some are also replying to the spam that’s filtered to the spam folder! With such a behaviour, where’s the incentive to stop spamming?

I favour more and more laws that makes it illegal to send spam, period! After all, it’s not impossible to reach potentional customers without sorting to spamming.