Daylight Savings Time -- Let the Grilling Begin!
As a California native (ignoring for a moment those 13 years in
New York City) I used to be immune to the change of seasons. But
increasingly I find my mood shifting sometime around the equinoxes.
Daylight savings time is a reminder to come out of hibernation for
those of us with decks, grills, allergies that begin in February,
heatwaves in March, and daffodils that have long since died while
those in New York have barely poked through the snow.
And it's time for another IT Strategy Letter.
Like the February before, my March was filled with producing new
content for IT Conversations
and enhancing the site's functionality. Some of you already subscribe
to the announcements
of new IT Conversations -- if you don't, you really should :-) --
so I won't merely duplicate the announcements here. Instead I'll
use this forum to bring you my personal perspective on the past
If I had to recommend just one program from the past month, it
would be a toss-up between my interview with Dan Geer and the recordings
by me and others of Lawrence Lessig's latest book, Free Culture.
Dan and Larry are both big-idea people who put a great deal of thought
into what they say and choose their words carefully. Well worth
listening to or reading.
Already well known for his leaderhsip of the Kerberos and X WIndows
projects at MIT, Dan gained new attention last year when he co-authored
a terrific paper, Cyber Insecurity,
suggesting the security risks posed by the monoculture caused
by Microsoft's dominance of the software industry. Drawing from
his experience as a bio-statistician, Dan made the case that vendor
diversity, just as in the genetic diversity of species, is necessary
to ensure the quality and security of our computer systems.
More recently Dan has been speaking on the topic of another white
paper entitled The
Shrinking Perimeter -- Making the Case for Data Level Risk Management
in which he suggests that "as we try protecting assets at the
file-object level, access control will prove to be unscalable."
The solution, Dan says, is the introduction of accountability --
tracking objects, not people. It's a fascinating topic, sure to
give you plenty to think about.
Larry published his latest book, Free
Culture, both in traditional hardcopy and as a free download (PDF) under a Creative Commons
license. Barely a week ago, AKMA wondered if anyone
wanted to record a chapter. 48 hours later, most of the book was
available as MP3 downloads. I recorded
One: Creators, which Glenn
Reynolds described in Slate/MSNBC "...as good as anything
I had ever heard on Books-on-tape." It was one of those lost
weekends for AKMA, me and others, but most important is the content
of Larry's book. Buy it, download it or listen to it. Scott Matthews
has compiled a convenient
archive. (I also interviewed AKMA and Larry
briefly last Monday.)
At the end of February I began an experiment, weekly Check-Ins
containing short interviews with popular bloggers, journalists and
others. I've produced six such shows to date including conversations
Doc Searls, Linux Journal
Ed Cone. Baseline Magazine
David Weinberger, his new Harvard fellowship
Chris Pirillo, Lockergnome & RSS
Elizabeth Spiers, New York Magazine
Phil Windley, Ask Phil
Rich Miller, SCO v. Linux
Robert Scoble, Microsoft
Dann Sheridan, DARPA Grand Challenge
Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News
Steve Gillmor, eWeek
Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft-Watch.com
Bram Cohen, BitTorrent
Andrew Grumet, RSS & TiVo
Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture
AKMA, Recording Larry's book
Simon Carless, LegelTorrents.com
Those are in addition to the usual IT Conversations in-depth interviews.
No wonder I felt tired in March!
After the short Check-In with Chris Pirillo, I cornered him for
an in-depth interview.
Those of you who have listened to at least a few IT Conversations
know that I try to get to know the people behind the technology.
That's no problem with Chris, who doesn't hesitate to tell you what's
on his mind. We talked about his background and the genesis of Lockergnome.com
and Gnomedex, essentially
a geekfest with an open bar that runs fours days and costs only
But I wasn't prepared for the polarized response to this interview.
Chris has thousands of fans, which accounts for the high number
of listens and reads and the high ratings we received for this interview.
But it also generated more negative comments in email than any other
interview I've produced to date. Some listeners were offended by
the bare-chested magazine
cover parody image I reproduced in the announcement email. Others
have just always found Chris annoying, even in his stints on radio
and television. Based on the ratings I'd say he has more admirers
than critics, but I was caught off-guard by the controversy that
seems to follow him.
We Have Sports!
Last month also saw IT Conversations' first live coverage of a sporting
event. (I never thought I'd be writing that!) With help from Dann
Sheridan and Soren Ragsdale, both armed with cell phones, we streamed
twelve hours of live coverage of the DARPA
Grand Challenge 2004 in southern California.
Okay, so none of the unmanned vehicles completed even 5% of the
142-mile course. It was still cool. As it turned out, we were the
only independent continuous live coverage of the event, and once
the word got out among the participants and fans more than 250 listeners
learned about us over the course of the day through word-of-mouth
and a few blogs. Some sent email from as far away as Germany and
Latvia. Live events are always fun, and this was no exception.
Ten years ago I was on the Board of Directors of a group called
Softech here in Marin County,
California. Last week IT Conversations began on-demand coverage
of selected Softech events with this presentation by Ann Winblad of
Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Softech is typical of the dozens
of regional organizations such as SDForum
that host monthly events with excellent speakers. I'm trying to
contact these groups (worldwide) and offer to process and host the
audio of their best sessions. If you know of such a group, please
let me know. At the very least, watch for more great Softech content.
Just yesterday I posted an interview I did in early March with Philip
Greenspun, author of Philip
and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, an inspiration to many programmers
writing server-side code on Unix/Linux platforms. This is another
great one I hope you'll read or listen to. Philip describes the
evolution of his attitudes towards software engineering as manifested
in Philip and Alex's Guide and his latest book, Software
Engineering for Internet Applications, for a course at MIT where
"the goal of the course is that the student finishes knowing
how to build Amazon.com by him or herself." (That must be one
heck of a semester!)
Oh, and by the way, Philip also built photo.net,
which receives 10 million hits/day from 400,000 unique visitors
each month, and co-founded and ran ArsDigita, a now-defunct website
development shop using many of the tools Philip and his associates
developed previously. You won't want to miss the story of how the
venture capitalists to whom Philip relinquished control of this
$20 million profitable company ran it into the ground. There are
lessons there for any budding (or experienced) entrepreneur.
The IT Conversations
I've had great feedback on the up-front and behind-the-scenes improvements
to IT Conversations. Most notably, I redesigned the site visually
and through the extensive use of CSS. I also enhanced the usability
by improving the organization and shortening many of the clickthrough
paths. Throughout the month I've made many small changes (as recently
as Friday night) in response to visitor feedback. Please keep those
suggestions coming; even with thousands of listeners and readers,
every little comment carries a lot of weight.
Until sometime in February, the site included a discussion
forum link for every edition of IT Conversations. I was underwhelmed
with the activity, so I turned off the forum links and added trackbacks
to the per-show detail pages. Trackbacks, familiar to many bloggers,
are like comments except that what you write resides on your website
not ours. An excerpt and a link from your comment gets posted to
our site so that visitors get a taste of what you have to say and
a way to read the full version on your site. In less than a week,
IT Conversations had far more trackbacks than the site ever had
entries on the forums.
I even broke down and bought G4 iBook to see how Macintosh experienced
the site. Immediately I found and fixed one problem. (Why didn't
you folks complain earlier? I can't believe you suffered so long
without someone finally speaking up.) As an aside, I have to admit
that OS X v10.3 Panther is quite cool. The iBook has already earned
a place as my preferred notebook, replacing my aging but much lighter
Sony Vaio Picturebook.
At the very beginning of March the IT Conversations studio
went pure digital with the addition of a Telos Two ISDN digital
hybrid as the interface to the phone lines. There isn't a talk-radio
station anywhere in the world that now has a better system than
ours, and many of you have commented upon the improved audio from
most callers. The path for telephone-caller audio is entirely digital
from the telco to the final mix. The only analog audio originates
from the studio microphone.
And finally, thanks for all your words
of praise for IT Conversations. Keep them (and the complaints)