Reboot 8.0 is here

Thomas just sent me the details of Reboot 8.0, happening in Copenhagen on June 1-2. You must go there, it’s an amazing source of inspiration.

It’s time for reboot8, which this year will take place in Copenhagen on June 1- 2 (Thursday and Friday). Same venue; better food; dinner, lounge and entertainment the first evening. More conversation; More Europeans doing interesting things; and still as informal and open an atmosphere as always…

As some of you might know Reboot is LIFT’s sister-conference so I hope to see you there!

Ruby on rails

Le JDN publie une interview (qui sera légèrement trop technique pour beaucoup de monde) des traducteurs du premier livre sur le fameux framework (?) dont tout le monde parle, l’occasion d’en apprendre un peu plus et de tordre le cou à quelques contre vérités. Extraits:

Quels arguments mettre en avant […] pour utiliser Ruby On Rails?
Tout d’abord le gain de productivité, les bonnes pratiques qui découlent des conventions adoptées par le framework, l’architecture MVC qui se trouve au coeur de Rails, l’intégration des tests unitaires et fonctionnels, et le fait que tout les composants travaillent ensemble de manière totalement intégrée, ce qui accentue la productivité du développeur Rails.

Il semblerait que ce soit le point fort de ROR, le fait que peu de développeurs puissent servir un grand nombre de visiteurs. 37signals (société de 6-7 personnes) et leurs 400’000 utilisateurs sont là pour le prouver.

l’un des points clés qui ralenti la pénétration de Rails est lié aux performances moyennes qui sont inacceptable dans un environnement de production. Confirmez-vous ? Connaissez vous de gros sites qui tournent sous Rails ?
C’est une légende. Rails tourne sur de très gros sites Web aux USA depuis plusieurs mois. Plusieurs articles sont parus récemment à propos de sites qui absorbent plusieurs millions de transactions par jour (voir http://poocs.net).

Un bon point. Et d’après les discussions que j’ai eues avec des utilisateurs avertis de ROR la scabilité est directement intégrée dans le framework (?).

Lire la suite de l’interview.

Information, knowledge and the world

In the april 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review (Vol. 84, Issue 4), there is a column by Lawrence Prusak that struck me: “The World Is Round”. The author is actually taking the counter position of Thomas Friedman who claims that ““Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance – or, soon, even language.” along with Bill Gates or Jakob Nielsen (who advocate for a similar idea).

Yes, we are interconnected on a truly astonishing scale. But Gates, Friedman, and many others make a fundamental error (…) Their mistake is that they’re confusing information with knowledge.
(…)
What’s the difference between information and knowledge? Information is a message, one-dimensional and bounded by its form: a document, an image, a speech, a genome, a recipe, a symphony score. You can
package it and instantly distribute it to anyone, anywhere. Google, of course, is currently the ultimate information machine, providing instantaneous access to virtually any piece of information you can imagine
(…)
Knowledge results from the assimilation and connecting of information through experience, most often through apprenticeship or mentoring.
(…)
Most of the people in the world remain out of the knowledge loop and off the information grid. One billion people on the Internet means there are five and a half billion people who aren’t on it. Bringing those people into the global conversation is essential to achieving true democratization of knowledge. But simply giving everyone access to e-mail and Google will never in itself flatten the earth. Until our governments, NGOs, schools, corporations, and other institutions embrace the idea that knowledge – not information – is the key to prosperity, most of the world’s people will remain a world apart.

The return of the stupid ad

It seems we have a major shift brewing in the online advertising world: as click fraud and smarter users (deleting cookies, getting more resistant to ads) make the current pay per click model less and less relevant, advertisers are going back to “display banners”.

Business Week: Wiser about the web

Online advertising breaks roughly into two camps. The fastest-growing side has been search-engine advertising, led by Google and Yahoo. […]

But advertising executives predict that the display banners and videos that appear on Web pages will outpace search this year.

If this happens it will be a fundamental shift, with mainstream portals getting the nod over search engines in the advertising business. The consequences?

ads are going to move to the mainstream sites. The long tail will have a hard time competing with the big sites. From Joanne Bradford, MSN’s chief media revenue officer: “the niche sites are going to have a harder time competing, [the demand outside the elite] will start cooling off in 18 to 24 months.”
there will be changes at the top of the food chain. If this is true you might want to put your money or NYT.com, mySpace or Yahoo rather than on Google. Big guys will still be big guys, just maybe not in the same order than today.
new metrics will emerge to quantify the quality of ads. Instead of measuring success through the number of clicks, indicators will be time spent with the ad, movements of the mouse to know which parts of the banner appear to interest visitors, etc… Contrary to what I thought there is a lot of collectible data with these ads. “We have so much data that agencies are hiring teams of analytic people, PhDs in statistics, to make sense of it all,” says Greg Rogers, director of strategy and insights at a New York media agency.
new advertising tactics will appear. The article cites an interesting way of optimizing a campaign by doing “advertising arbitrage”, “making money on the spread between premium relevant placements and cheap sites”.

What advertisers really want is premium targeting at the price of cut-rate sites. That’s the premise behind behavioral advertising […] Agencies […] track the online sessions of Web surfers. By tagging them with a cookie when they visit one of the agency’s thousands of affiliate sites, the system can follow a single surfer, say, from Yahoo to popular auto site […] to an obscure hobby site on winter gardening. While the agency’s computers don’t know the surfer’s identity, they can deduce from the stop at Autobytel that they’re dealing with a potential car buyer. But that site is pricey […] so the behavioral system hits the viewer with a car ad when he’s on the much cheaper gardening site.”

Bottom line is that one of the most fundamental assumption of the contextual advertising industry might not be as true as it seems: maybe the best ads are not those related to the content a user is currently reading.

TACODA’s researchers recruited 30 human guinea pigs [and] hooked them to an eye-scanning camera and recorded every darting movement as the subjects were shown 50 identical Web pages. The result: The ads placed on pages unrelated to the advertisements’ message actually attracted 17% more looks.

Surprise, stupid ads are the better ads again!

Législation des blogs d’entreprise

Le JDN publie un article très intéressant sur la répartition des responsabilités lors de la publication d’un blog d’entreprise. La loi fait une différence importante selon que l’on modère ou pas le contenu contribué par les internautes, et apparemment il est pour une fois plus sûr de ne pas trop contrôler les choses.

Blog d’entreprise : un média juridiquement très sensible

La faculté pour tout internaute de contribuer à l’élaboration du contenu du blog, par le biais de commentaires postés en ligne, peut entraîner la mise en jeu de la responsabilité de l’entreprise […].

Si les commentaires des internautes font l’objet avant leur mise en ligne d’une modération par le directeur de la publication, celui-ci assumera la responsabilité du contenu de ces commentaires […].

En revanche, si les commentaires postés par les internautes sont diffusés en temps réel […] le directeur de la publication est dégagé de toute responsabilité.

Technology maturity index

The cost of launching a web business has never been that low. Web technologies are in general more mature, as a framework like Ruby on rails shows. It is free, and not only facilitates and speeds up development, it also scales while remaining flexible over time!

I was really amazed last week when I met Tony Conrad, CEO of sphere (note: if you ever bump into him be sure to ask for the French border story). His company is launching a blog search engine with only four people on the payroll (and less than 200’000$). WordPress? Five guys. 37 signals? Six or seven guys and 400’000 clients. I am sure this was absolutely impossible five years ago, technologies really got closer to both users and developers needs.

It would be interesting to calculate some kind of technology maturity index for companies, by dividing the total number of clients served per the headcount. This would be going up over time, staffers getting more effective as technology continues to get better.

Mature technologies are probably one of the two main reasons why we have an Internet rush these days (the other is that advertising equals decent cash). More income, less expenses, less time to market. The burst won’t have to be that painful this time around 😉

France 2.0

When was the last time France saved civilization? I can’t remember either, but it’s happening again!

Wired: France Is Saving Civilization

But French legislators aren’t just looking at Apple. They’re looking ahead to a time when most entertainment is online, a shift with profound consequences for consumers and culture in general. French lawmakers want to protect the consumer from one or two companies holding the keys to all of its culture, just as Microsoft holds the keys to today’s desktop computers.

Friendster

Anybody who says that Friendster lost it hasn’t been to Asia. Go to the Philippines. Internet cafés might as well be called Friendster cafés. The Asians are MAD about that system, I wish I had pictures to prove my point but I swear it’s quite amazing. 99% of the screens are on Friendster.

The world is so big that I’m sure many social networks websites can co-exist. American teenagers switching to some other system is not a good sign, but it’s not a death sentence. These guys are doing good (27 millions users, 9 millions active), just not under the spotlight.

Microsoft, apple, and security

Microsoft is again splitting IE and windows (after tying both things to get around antitrust laws, as in “don’t ask us to take internet explorer down because it would mean removing tons of features from our operating system”)…

Back in the mid-1990s, security experts warned Microsoft that integrating a Web browser deeply into Windows was a mistake. A decade and countless security vulnerabilities later, Microsoft is tacitly conceding the critics had it right. The new version of Internet Explorer to be released as part of the Vista version of Windows this fall […] loses much of the privileged relationship with Windows that the Microsoft browser has long enjoyed

Link

but still gives a few security advices to competitors, more specifically to Apple:

As crazy as it sounds, a member of Microsoft’s security team has blasted Apple for failing to coordinate its security efforts and to issue proper security advice.

Link

Microsoft is really full of surprises, I guess the only definite lesson here is that it’s so big you can’t classify it anymore. It’s a bit of both, evil and good at the same time.