Posts about Internet

Konfeedulator: Feedthink meets widgethink

Yahoo is buying Konfabulator, the neat program that lets you place all kinds of constantly updated widgets on your computer and lets all kinds of creative and generous people write those widgets. Apple — the great copycat — snarfed up the idea for its OSX dashboard. In the old days, we would have said that Yahoo is fighting Microsoft and Apple to take over the operating system or the desktop.

Now, I think it’s part of feedthink. The difference is that widgets are dynamic; they get current information; they gets feeds.

In my feedthink post, I wrote about Twest, a Munich company that was creating similar widgets before their time, about eight years ago, and they had two additional insights:

Widgets should be available anywhere, anytime, on any device. I should be able to see my widgets on my phone — and, in fact, that’s supposed to be a benefit of the new version of Windows, Vista (nee Longhorn). Auxiliary displays will let you see your email or other current information on a small screen when your laptop is closed or on your phone screen. See how Make is creating these displays now using Konfabulator.

Widgets should also be collaborative. I should be able to share a current widget with you. Say I have a shopping list widget. My family should be able to update it from any device and we should all be able to see it on any device. Content is functionality, functionality is content, content is communication.

It’s all part of feedthink.

: Yahoo taking this over means that it could do both those things to widgets. We’ll see.

: Also, if you have an online service of any sort, you’d better start widgethink. I don’t mean taking your content and putting it into a widget (there are plenty of stupid widgets already). I don’t mean turning out ad widgets (unless you’re Bud Lite and you make me laugh). I mean think feeds, think portability, think collaboration, don’t think platform.

Southwest Airlines created its own desktop ap to give you bargain airfares. I wouldn’t go to the effort of downloading that and putting it on my desktop. But I might widget it. Weatherbug was, in a sense, the original widget and now weather is on widgets everywhere (note that because anyone can write widgets from many feeds, it’s hard to hold onto terroritory and branding in widgetville).

News headline widgets are obvious. But what else can you do with them? Can you action-enable the headlines: let me email or save or Del.icio.us or blog the headlines from the widget, perhaps.

If I were Weight Watchers, I’d create a personalized diet widget you could call on from the laptop or the phone.

If I were P&G, I’d create that shopping-list widget.

If I were Nike, I’d sponsor the fitness widgets that already exist.

What else?

Small is the new big: HR department

Last month, I wrote that small is the new big. More demonstration of it: eBay is fast becoming one of the largest employers in America. Of course, it hardly employs anyone, but it enables a lot of people to employ themselves and run their own businesses: 724,000 people are using it as their full- or part-time employment, up 68 percent from a year go; another 1.5 million use it to supplement their income. Walmart is America’s largest employer with 1.1 million workers. Sure, the eBay-self-employed don’t have Walmart’s crappy benefits and uniforms (if eBay were really smart, they’d institute group health insurance!) but all those folks are their own bosses. As industry gets bigger and bigger, small becomes more and more of an economic force.

: See Rex Hammock in the comments on eBay’s power seller health insurance and the regulatory issues around it.

Free the tags

Stowe Boyd has a long riff on opening up tags. Yup and amen.

Note, too, what Nick Denton is doing on his blogs: He’s using an MT plug-in (I don’t know which one) to make categories free-form, which turns them into tags, complete with pages where you can see, for example, everywhere that Jalopnik wrote about Porsches.

The scarcity killer

One of the slides in my PowerPoint BlogBoy dance calls the internet a scarcity killler and contemplates what that means for media: when advertisers can always find somewhere else to advertise and when access to scarce airtime and presstime is no longer valued.

It doesn’t kill commerce but it changes the rules and the value. So, for example, the scarce commodity might not be paper but may be trust. And so those who establish trust gain value in the future.

At Always On, George Gilder went on a nice, hyperbolic riff on scarcity:

“TV is dying fast and it will be followed by Hollywood. These industries fed on scarcity. There are only a few channels available. TV was technology of tyrants. It fed this advertising model that has collapsed,” Gilder told an audience at the conference. “The thirty-second spot is just going to die. Nobody is going to watch any ads they don’t want to see.

“Book culture and blog culture can redeem a civilization,” he said.

Throw the Google at him

Andru Edwards tells the story of how GoogleMaps saved him from a guilty verdict on a traffic ticket. [via Make]