Friday Afternoon Grab Bag

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Given the events of this past week, there is clearly no shortage of things to discuss. Still on my plate are the latest draft of the GPLv3 and the recent Project Indiana chatter. Both of those, however, are subjects that will require significant expenditures of time. Time which I regrettably don’t have today. Instead, you’re left with the usual Friday grab bag. Apologies.

  1. Office Format Harmonization:
    Jason wrote the other day that his takeaway from this list of file formats is “about the richness of innovation in software” (as an aside, I wasn’t aware that Google had its own format). Likewise, my colleague has said that he doesn’t “think the world needs one document format”. I don’t agree. I think the proliferation of formats is as inconvenient as it is inevitable. If you’re wondering why, well, my other colleague provided a perfect example for me just the other day. We’re going to see a lot of that in the days ahead, and I think it’s going to be a mess. As Jason says, there are “really good reasons why multiple formats exist,” but none of them are about making things more convenient for customers.
  2. LINA:
    A couple of folks from the media and in #redmonk have been asking about LINA, some after reading Allison’s generally positive take on the technology. While I’m an uninformed observer, not having spoken to the folks over there, I’m skeptical. First, I’m not sure about the volume demand for porting Linux apps to other platforms. Second, I’m generally less enthusiastic about emulation layers – which as far as I can tell, LINA is – than I am about cross-platform platforms, as it were. I like WINE, as an example, and use it and CrossOver to run IE on Linux, but it wouldn’t be a strategic platform for me. But I’ll keep an open mind.
  3. Amazon Web Services:
    Just got our bill from Amazon’s S3 service, which is used for RedMonk and personal backups.

    Greetings from Amazon Web Services,

    This e-mail confirms that your latest billing statement is available on the
    AWS web site. Your account will be charged the following:

    Total: $8.22

    Yeah, I think that’s in our budget.

  4. Communities and M&A:
    So CBS bought Last.fm. Paid $280 million for them. Good for Last.fm. But what about us, the users? Caroline asks the question on everyone’s minds, these days: why? Well, let’s consider that.

    For the sake of argument, pretend to be CBS. And now pretend that you valued Last.fm at $280 million dollars. What have you paid for? What did you buy? I, for one, don’t believe it’s technology – any more than Yahoo bought del.icio.us for the technology. I, like a great many other folks, would assume it’s the community – and the critical mass they’ve built up that enables some powerful network effects.

    If you buy that, I have just one further question: why has neither CBS nor Last.fm done anything to reassure the community post-acquisition? They’ve done the due diligence on the costs, I’d assume, and they’ve done the due diligence on the financials. And clearly the research they did on the community that they – in theory – paid for led them to the conclusion that it has substantial monetary value. None of that research, we’re to believe, might indicate that there would be substantial concern about the sale? That reaching out to the folks that helped make Last.fm worth $280M would be a good idea?

    I don’t mean to single out either CBS or Last.fm here, but it still amazes me that acquirers pay so little attention to the communities they’re acquiring. It probably shouldn’t, but it does.

And with that, I’ve got to wrap up. Need to head down to Brunswick and hopefully begin the office move in process. Given that it’s nasty out today, I probably won’t hit the boat this evening. But maybe tomorrow.


  1. I could be wrong, but I think his reference to Google having its own format was an attempt to spread confusion. As in– he’ll probably try to posit that because Google’s implementation of the Open Document format is imperfect, and doesn’t allow for 100% full fidelity round tripping with Open Office, it therefore is a separate format. (I just tested round tripping on a few files I had lying around and it worked almost perfectly, preserving all the formatting with the exception of some margin errors; however, I have read that for more comlpex files Google doesn’t do such a great job, particularly with styles.) I think Microsoft is trying to be as loud as possible about any issues like this, which could actually be a good thing if it were done honestly as it would point out where there were problems that could be fixed (e.g., like when when the MS-hired open source converter team members rightly pointed out that Google had screwed up their implementation of .odt in the original release of Google Docs, thus prompting Google to fix it in a matter of weeks), but it’s bad when it’s done in a dishonest manner to try and obscure the issues, as I think Jason was probably trying to do. Perhaps I’m wrong, and there’s something I don’t know about, but given the sort of half-truths I’ve seen coming from the company regarding document formats, they definitely don’t get the benefit of the doubt from me.

  2. You raise a very interesting point about last.fm – what if the community doesn’t like the deal and leave the service? $280M won’t look so cheap then … I know I’m worried about ads/DJ’s/other monetisation methods, because they’re why I haven’t listened to broadcast radio in years. Sean Park (http://www.parkparadigm.com/) had an interesting alternative source of funding – thinking of something like Zopa for community underwriting for music creation via last.fm …

  3. Oh – my bill from AWS? $0.02 … you obviously have more data in the cloud than me! And I’m with Daniel – I’m not sure how seriously I’d take an MS viewpoint about any other document formats … however many formats we might or might not need, we need lock-in at the data level even less than at the software level.

  4. […] 1st saw me make two promises to all of you. First, that I would weigh in on Project Indiana. That came a week […]

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