Get off the A-list treadmill and just write

I didn’t get a chance at the time, because I was on the A-list treadmill (that’s a joke), but I wanted to take note of a post that Rex Hammock made on his blog the other day (thanks to my buddy Kent for reminding me by mentioning it). It was my favourite type of blog post – a post about blogging. Rex was responding to the spate of articles about how blogs are dead, about how blogs will never amount to anything, about how blogs are shite, and so on. And he had some very smart advice.

Among other things, Rex said that:

“If you believe the size of your audience is the measure of success, don’t blog. If you think how many people link to your site is the measure of success, don’t blog. Blog because you want to have a voice in a conversation.”

That is it in a nutshell. Full stop. As others have pointed out – including my favourite sparring partner, old-media defender Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 – blogging is not a business. It is a form of communication, which can be useful for business. But it is not a business, as Jason Kottke has discovered.

Among Rex’s other smart tips were these:

“Don’t let any Technorati.com feature – and I’m not referring to a specific feature as I can’t keep up with them – define your authority or popularity or pecking order.” And also: “If you run a business, blog – because one day, I promise, you will be glad you have a place to respond when the conversation is about you.”

Thanks, Rex. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

RIM clock keeps on ticking

By now, everyone involved in the legal battle between Research In Motion and NTP – from the lowliest BlackBerry user to RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, and even Judge Spencer himself – probably wishes the whole affair would just go away. But while many observers, including many in the mainstream media, had convinced themselves that the case would finally come to a head today, it is far from being over. Not only has Judge Spencer reserved his decision for some future date, but RIM has said that it intends to proceed with its software “workaround,” which the company has said avoids the patent infringement issues that are at the centre of the lawsuit. And NTP, meanwhile, says it is still open to a settlement, but RIM won’t negotiate.

In other words, not much has changed.

What happens now is still a giant question mark, and there are as many opinions on the future outcome as there are patent lawyers (and that’s a lot). There are a few indicators that send a fairly strong signal, however — and the signal they send is that an injunction from Judge Spencer is almost a certainty. Whether it will be a complete injunction, which prevents BlackBerrys from being sold or operated in the U.S., or a partial injunction that merely stops the company from selling new ones, remains to be seen. But most patent-law experts say injunctions in such cases are commonplace, and that Judge Spencer has already indicated he isn’t sympathetic to the government’s arguments against such a decision, especially since NTP said it would allow a workaround for government users.

As for the decisions by the U.S. Patent Office, which has rejected almost all of NTP’s patents as invalid – meaning they should never have been issued – it’s important to remember that Justice Spencer has to base his decision on what the reality is right now, and the reality is that those patents are still in full force until NTP has exhausted its appeals to both the Patent Office Appeal Board and the U.S. Court of Appeal. Some patent lawyers also point out that the pressure that has been exerted on the patent office by the U.S. government will provide ammunition for those appeals. And it’s also important to keep in mind that the U.S. Court of Appeal has already heard many of the arguments about the validity of the patents, and has found in favour of NTP. As Judge Spencer put it:

“The hallmark of sanity is to remain firmly tethered to reality. One unfortunate reality for RIM that they want to forget is that there was a trial, a jury was selected, evidence was received and when all was said and done, they found RIM had infringed the patents and the infringement was willful.”

While the delay will give RIM more time to hammer out a deal – something the judge may be counting on – it’s unclear whether Mr. Balsillie wants to settle or not. While comments he made Thursday seemed to indicate that he was more open to the idea, statements he made after the Friday hearing suggested the opposite. And so the RIM saga continues.

Hey Google — where’s my calendar?

Not content with controlling a majority of the market for online search and search-related advertising, Google has been rolling out add-ons to its online hegemony over the past year or so, including GTalk, Google Analytics and so on. And the most recent – not including the hideous and lame Google Page Creator – was the addition of a hosted email and domain service, which The Scobleizer got all upset about for some reason.

But there’s more. Garett Rogers, the ZDNet columnist who first spotted evidence of the hosted email solution — hidden inside the Javascript code that underlies Google’s Gmail webmail service — has found something else in the entrails of Google’s programming. It appears to be the precursor of a voicemail offering Google plans to roll out, which would make sense considering that voice-over-Internet calling is part of its GTalk service. What would make more sense than bundling instant messaging, voice calling and voice messaging into one web-based application?

So let’s think about that for a minute. Email, contact manager, voicemail, instant messaging all integrated into one app. What is it missing? If it were Microsoft’s Outlook, it would be missing a calendar, so you could schedule things with all your business or social contacts. So where’s the calendar, Google? It has been much rumoured in the past, and rumours have sprung to life again more recently.

Will Google do it? It seems like a natural fit in many ways, and it could be one of the last links in the chain – apart from the word processor and spreadsheet part, of course – creating a Google hosted-Office suite of some kind. One thing is for sure: many people seem to want them to do it. And the customer is always right.

Update:

Google also appears to be getting close to finally launching a Finance hub. And Google Page Creator has been having some teething problems.

Hey look – it’s 1996 all over again

Yet another Google product launch, and yet another collective yawn – or worse, a quizzical look and a shrug of the shoulders. What the heck is Google Page Creator supposed to be? You go there, type in some text, maybe drag an image, change the font, choose a template and away you go. Google publishes and hosts the page at yourname.googlepages.com and you get 100 megabytes of space. Does this sound at all familiar? It does to The Blog Herald, and to Jim Benson at J. LeRoy and others – including me. It sounds like GeoCities.

Remember them? They were one of those great website-creation tools that sprang up in the late 1990s and quickly tried to outdo each other in the low-price, garish design sweepstakes. It got to a point where I refused to even go to a webpage if it had a GeoCities.com address. Nevetheless, there were plenty of similar services – including TheGlobe, which saw the largest increase in market value ever on the day of an IPO. It later disappeared, but GeoCities was bought by none other than Yahoo for $3.6-billion.

Apart from the use of AJAX, which makes it that much faster to create a crappy website, Google’s page creator is like going back in time. Richard MacManus of ZDNet wonders whether it isn’t part of a much-rumoured Google Office suite of some kind, a sort of proto-word processor. Matthew Gifford feels the same. But Nik Cubrilovic says it looks like just another lame product rolled out the door with too little thought, like Google Base or Froogle.com, and I must say I’m leaning in that direction myself. Maybe it’s part of a larger strategy, but if so then the rest of the strategy better look pretty damn good, because this is lame.

DemoCamp in Toronto was a blast

Before too much time has gone by, I wanted to write something about DemoCamp Toronto, which was held on Monday in the offices of Tucows, a domain registrar and blog software provider run by my friend Elliot Noss. Organized by David Crow, it was a fun event attended by about 100 people as far as I could tell. There were six presentations (including one from Blogware), each of which lasted about 20 minutes with a demo and questions.

Brent Ashley presented a chat application for blogs that he developed a while ago called (what else) BlogChat, a group from the University of Toronto presented a wiki-style software development tool called Dr. Project, OpenBlue presented an online shopping platform for jewellers, and Geoff Whittington demonstrated a local job/social networking site called Local Guru.

But for me the standout of the night was Nuvvo, an online learning platform developed by John Philip Green, his wife Malgosia and a small team. Nuvvo provides everything you need to start offering an online course in something – such as “Hindustanic music for the Western listener.” You can create a course in minutes, send and receive messages, upload files and Nuvvo provides an online payment system as well. There is a free tier, and then for-pay tiers will be coming soon with extra features.

All in all, I had a great time watching the presentations and listening to the questions along with my friends Rob Hyndman and Mike McDerment, and enjoyed the discussions over beers afterwards as well. Nice job, David.