Sometimes the reactions I get to my postings seem more focused on yelling than informing. I’m happy to say that this isn’t the case this time. All the comments posted in the last week are interesting, thoughful, and challenging. It was pointed out that mozilla is adding blogreading support to Firefox. Yes I know and I’m delighted. Firefox continues to impress and delight me.
One concern expressed by several readers including Danny Ayers, Blaine Cook,Rimantas’ murmers, Alek Blog, and so on. A second point made is that one can have a rich client that dynamically reads content and then users can customize to their hearts content. Both points are valid. A third point, which I think is specious and I’m going to quickly dismiss, is that it is easier to run the service yourself. I think this is geek talk. For everyone who wants to run his or her own blog server, there are in my opinion 100 people like my mother or wife or daughter or brother in law or father who would never even consider it.
Someone called “Joe” sent in mail which said “I’ve done a lot of web development, DHTML, JSP, ASP. I think most developers would agree a lot of the time you spend trying to work around limitations of the platform rather than working on customer features”. Sure. Heck, in my prior life I designed and built DHTML and started ASP’s while I was at Microsoft. So guilty as charged. But programming in windows or Java is different? Come on.
More interestingly Joe, whoever you are, I think the best way to comment is the way that Blaine Cook did by posting on his blog. Dave Sifry of Technorati argues that the best comments are response posts (like this) because then you are putting your own reputation on the line in a sort of web wide extended conversation. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Blaine’s comment is one of the most penetrating and brings up the term “open data”. Notice, the value is coming from the community and the reputation and the content, not the tool used to author the post which is largely irrelevant.
Blaine, I think the issue of “open data” is a great one. We are going to need to see an “open data” model for people to want to put their data anywhere. Services will need to provide value to justify themselves, not data lock in. The value may be in the form of additional information, community discussion, ratings, search, data management, publishing features, relieving you of the tedium/cost of operations or monetization, but they will need to deliver value in a way where, if the value isn’t there, you can walk.
On the point of richer user interfaces I’m asked if it isn’t better to have rich clients (like Java or Macromedia) on top of open data rather than web based user interface. My short answer is that it depends. If I need offline access, at least today, then sure. If I need rich ways to manipulate media (photos, sound, video, voip) then sure. And I said so in the prior post I think. But in general, no. Because these apps don’t evolve as quickly. Even iTunes which is lauded as a sucess in the comments hasn’t evolved much for me and still, for example, has no community features. Even peer to peer ones. I can’t chat with my son and say listen to what I’m listening to. But as long as they evolve rapidly, great.
But I will still argue that in general, the value comes from the information, the community, the collaboration. The radio hit a certain point and then was good enough. It was a commodity. The content played over the radio, on the other hand, has continued to be of huge value. Sure new radios come out all the time with new bells and whistles. Compared to a new talk station (pleasing or infuriating or a great new song) how much do we really care? Sure iPod currently has made a business by tying itself to a service, but at some point, it will be like the radio, I predict and have gotten good enough.