Okay, now Dave is starting to scare me

As I’ve said before, I think Dave Winer – one of the first bloggers, and the guy who created the specification for RSS or “really simple syndication” – has a couple of different personalities. There’s the nice Dave, who gives advice to new bloggers and sort of sees himself as the eminence grise of the Web, the one who also wants to be part of the whole blogosphere as it develops — but that can quickly turn into the other Dave, who gets all snippy when he doesn’t get invited to speak at conferences to pass on his wisdom.

“I felt so wronged, why do they lie about these things, don’t they know eventually they’ll get caught in the lies, or don’t they care. (BTW, that includes Scoble too, I asked why he didn’t give me a heads up, and the answer was unsatisfying.)”

This is an ongoing theme with Dave – and it’s tied into another one, which is that everyone steals things from him:

“Now I see things a bit more clearly, it looks like Esther wants us to think these are her ideas, and how inconvenient it would be to have the person whose ideas they really are, there, in the flesh, explaining how the stuff really works.”

Of course, this then leads us into the whole RSS thing, about which there has probably been enough written already, where Dave tries to stop anyone who is doing anything with RSS – all the while protesting that he doesn’t want to be the “Lord God of RSS.”

But now there are signs of a different side to Dave – a kind of scary side. Here’s what he said on Sunday:

“Why not wait until after the OPML Editor 1.0 release ships to try to hijack the format. After that I won’t fight with you. I probably won’t even fight very much now. The fight has pretty much gone out of me.”

I’m feeling the stress of all the fighting, and age… Why not let me go, quietly and peacefully, I’ll stop writing my blog, I’ll stop developing new stuff, you can be me if you want, I won’t be in your way.

Whoa, Dave. Take it easy, dude. Just because you didn’t get to speak at SXSW and Rogers Cadenhead tried to set up an advisory board on RSS, that’s no reason to start talking crazy. Update: Now Dave has taken things a step further and says he’s planning to stop blogging altogether.

Nortel throws investors another curveball

The marketing tagline for the 1970’s shark-attack movie Jaws 2 was “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” If you replaced the word “water” with the name “Nortel,” you’d probably have a fitting tagline for what’s going on at Canada’s favourite love-it-or-hate-it networking-equipment company, Nortel Networks (or “No-tell” Networks, as one wag dubbed it). Except, of course, that for Nortel the latest financial restatement isn’t just the sequel to its previous financial troubles — it’s the third in a series of such restatements, each of which affected several years worth of results.

In case you need a refresher course in how not to run a giant telecom supplier, Nortel has spent the better part of the past three years restating its results, changing chief executive officers and otherwise reorganizing itself. Not long after John Roth left the company and was replaced by former chief financial officer Frank Dunn, the company announced that its results were not reliable. That produced the first restatement, which altered revenues and profits for several years, and led to an internal review that eventually produced a second restatement to correct errors in the first one, which delayed the company’s official filings for more than a year. As a result of the review, Mr. Dunn and half a dozen other executives were fired.

Former U.S. Navy officer Bill Owens came on board to straighten things up and get customers back on board, but after an acquisition that didn’t get many cheers and a failed succession plan that got a lot of boos, he left and was replaced by former Motorola executive Mike Zafirovski. And a new CEO seems to require yet another restatement, this time for various contracts that were signed in 2003, 2004 and part of 2005. Why? Mike Z says it’s because the company is now applying more stringent rules to how it accounts for contracts. And guess what? He said he can’t say for sure that there won’t be more restatements or “adjustments” as they go through the rest of the deals from last year.

To continue with the horror-movie analogy — one that some Nortel investors might see as appropriate — let’s hope the company isn’t trying to create a 10-movie legacy like the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Investors have suffered enough already.

Office if necessary, not necessarily Office

What started with a rumour last night – which Om Malik (among others) wrote about – has become fact: Google has acquired Writely.com, which provides something approaching an online version of Microsoft Word. Needless to say, this has revived talk about the much-rumoured Google “Web Office,” with Web apps that take the place of the different parts of Microsoft’s Office suite – the one that accounts for a fairly substantial proportion of the software giant’s revenue and profits, in case you’re keeping score at home.

Om has a nice graph that puts the issues into perspective, with Google’s Web-based versions of Word, Excel, mail and so on — all of which Microsoft charges almost $400 for. Google’s price? Zero. My friend and fellow M-list wagon-trainer Kent Newsome doesn’t think this model will scale, but it doesn’t really have to scale all that much before it becomes a threat to Microsoft. In effect, there is nowhere for the software behemoth to go but down in terms of market share. Yes, it’s true that not everyone wants to use Web-based apps, and there are issues with the reliability of free services such as Gmail.com (which has been down several times today and yesterday).

But at the same time, Writely and JotSpot Tracker (an Excel-style spreadsheet app) and presentation tools such as Thumbstacks.com are likely to be good enough for many people, and perhaps even small businesses – and as some smart person pointed out recently (if I remember who, I will insert it here) it isn’t always the people or services that are better than you that should concern you, it’s those that are good enough to draw your customers away.

For me, having used Writely.com to plan the Web 2.0 conference I’m helping to organize in Toronto this spring, Writely is definitely good enough. And if you combine it with something like Gdrive, then the relevance of Microsoft’s Office becomes less and less compelling.

Is a blog as good as a press release?

Former Merrill Lynch and Oppenheimer analyst Henry Blodget of Internet Outsider – which is where Henry pretends to still be an analyst, even though his legal settlement with Eliot Spitzer prevents him from actually becoming one again – has posted a long rant about Google announcing a proposed settlement in a “click fraud” case. Among other things, he seems upset that the search company disseminated this info by posting something on the official Google blog. Here’s what he says:

“To make matters worse, the company released its “statement” about the settlement on its blog. A $90 million payout on a critical issue at the forefront of every Google observer’s mind… and the company has an anonymous associate general counsel type up an “update” on a freaking blog. Google needs some new PR people, and it needs them now.”

Anyone agree with that? I’m not sure I do. I may not believe that the traditional press release is dead, but I would agree with Steve Rubel that blogs are serving the same function for many companies – and rightly so. Why shouldn’t Google put out news by posting something to the blog? I assume the company is still complying with disclosure in other ways, such as filing to various securities-related newswires and so on. And smart reports for wire services are watching the Google blog and filing stories about what they put there.

Want to keep up with Google’s statements on something? Subscribe to their RSS feed. I’m not sure why Henry thinks this is such a huge deal, unless it’s that blogs are somehow a joke and “real” companies do things the old-fashioned way, by sending out press releases and email spam and so on. How is posting on a blog any different than putting a press release on your website? Plenty of companies do that and no one complains.


Henry has expanded on why this bothered him. Still don’t see it, Hank.

Marketing and blogs, still lots of work to do

Pete Cashmore of Mashable has a post that is a nice microcosm of what is both right and wrong about PR and marketing as they relate to the web and Web 2.0 – at least as nice an example as the recent kerfuffle over Wal-Mart and Edelman (incidentally, Marc, I think your post is a little over the top – I know people hate Wal-Mart, but I don’t think the hate should spill over onto Edelman).

Pete, who tracks Web 2.0 apps, writes about how he has gotten dozens of breathless emails and comments from people who work for Kosmix and Kaboodle, and how they have voted for their own companies in Pete’s Weblist review over 25 times. As Pete puts it:

“You’d think this was obvious, but clearly some startups need it spelling out: never, never, never promote your company by leaving fake comments on blogs. There’s absolutely no need to pose as a “happy customer” – just state that you work for the company from the outset. How hard can it be?”

A great point. There’s more to the story, though – someone who works for one of the companies Pete mentioned wrote a comment on his blog post, saying:

“Pete and all – sorry, our guys got a little over-enthusiastic when they saw we were on Mashable. Yes, naivety and awkwardness would both apply here. But…like most companies we’re very excited about what we’re doing.”

Very smart. The response, I mean. The commenting and multiple voting – not so much. You excited about your company? Great. But don’t spam websites and bloggers, don’t try to rig votes and don’t try to pretend that you’re a satisfied customer if you’re not. That didn’t get Nvidia very far. You know what works best? Honesty. If you’re pitching wine, just be like Hugh and say you’re pitching wine, and then send a case of the stuff to someone’s party and hope they write about it.