Heading off to Women 2.0

It’s cool to be somewhere where there are multiple events for women entrepreneurs. Will blog about the program when done.
One nice touch for networking — the lunch is after the talks, the better for conversation-starting. It’s more awkward to mill around with a group of strangers, and then, by the time you have more things to talk about, everybody leaves

Popularity can’t ruin open source

I am glad to see that this this LinuxWorld articlecontains plenty of quotes countering Forrester Analyst Michael Goulde’s report: “Vendors Refine Their Open Source Strategies/The Risk of Subverting Open Source Freedoms Mounts”.
Goulde argues that “The traditional open source project with a large community and volunteer contributors is going to be diluted by extensive vendor participation,” he told LinuxInsider in an interview.”
What Goulde is missing is that fast that in the open source ecosystem, a very high percentage of projects fail. Most projects, whether initiated by individuals or vendors, don’t get much contribution and die a quiet death. That’s nothing new. If new vendors release open source projects that are not interesting to developers, then those projects won’t get community participation. A tree fell in the forest and nobody heard.
His other argument makes even less sense. He writes in the report: “As major software suppliers adopt open source software as part of their strategies, the risk increases that the goals of the open source movement — user freedom to use, modify, and distribute software — will be undermined.”
But the freedom to modify is in the license, not in the promise by the vendor. If a vendor open sources a product, it uses either GPL, or BSD, or some other style of license that grants permission to modify, and requires redistribution to be credited or to be also open source. Once the vendor releases the software, they can’t take it back. Even if they offer new software under a different license, the community is now free to fork the code.
Wikiwyg — the wysiwyg editor for wikis that was initially developed by Socialtext and released open source, is getting a increasing number of useful patches and bugfixes from the community. People find it useful, it’s being adopted, and developers are contributing. The right to modify and redistribute is protected by LGPL.
If a vendor releases software that’s useful, the community will pick it up. If it’s less useful, it will get less traction. Projects might pick up interest as they mature, or lose interest if the software diverges from what the community wants. All of these patterns are common.
Rather than describing risks to open source, Gould might have described risks to vendors. If vendors hope that simply by opensourcing their code, they are guaranteed developer interest, they are sadly deluded. Just like any other product, an open source product needs to meet the needs of its customers — in this case, open source developers — in order to be successful.

Yes, Google Video is Evil

Google gives the content industries freedom to set their own prices, starting with Free. This will be popular with content providers, who hate Apple because Steve Jobs insists on setting his own prices for online music and video.
But Google does not allow video producers to set their own terms of use. Google Video has their very own, proprietary DRM that doesn’t let users save the video to their PC or portable players. No time-shifting, space-shifting, excerpting, or other hallmarks of fair use. Fair use is forbidden according to Google’s support documentation.
If Google wanted to be Not Evil, it would allow video producers the choice of providing content in DRM-encumbered or DRM-free formats. Video providers who wanted to allow users to download, time-shift, excerpt, and mash-up would be able to do so. Video producers who want to restrict content could do so too. If restricted content loses viewers to sources with more convenient terms, that would be neither here nor there to Google.
Many video producers who upload their content to Google Video are small non-commercial players, or obscure sources like this sushi documentary that have much more to gain from exposure than from restricting use.
Google gets a very small bye for beta — maybe giving content providers their choice of format is a soon-to-come future feature. If not, Google Video really is evil.

Aggregated shopping

Donata.com writes about auto advertisers shifting budget from tv and print ads to the internet. He’s predicting a new trend in online advertising, away from search context ads (Google) and an unstructured database (Craigslist), and toward structured, decentralized, XML-based ads. In this model, each dealer would post their list of available cars, with price and options. Now, there are already a plenty of centralized aggregator services. Froogle can find you deals on desk lamps and rain boots. If Froogle let users subscribe to a search by RSS, that would be a long way toward the vision.

Smart textile remote control

Maggie Orth’s International Fashion Machines is marketing a fuzzy light switch. Touching the pompom completes the circuit and turns on/off the light.

A fuzzy switch is kind of nifty if you don’t have little kids with sticky fingers. But it’s not that different from a regular switch that you need to get up to flip.
What would be really nifty is a fabric household remote control. Touch bits of fuzz or parts of a colorful pattern to could turn on/off lights, heating/air conditioning, stereo, run the bath. The trigger could be a soft press, or a bounce for the playful. It could be a fuzzy desk toy, a mousepad like desk accessory, or a watch band.
It will be especially fun when these are available as kits, and 8-12 year old kids will be able to make them as crafts projects.

Telcos prevent customer satisfaction

Last week’s WSJ reported that “Several large telephone and cable companies are starting to make it harder for consumers to use the Internet for phone calls or swapping video files.” Surely, the best strategy that a business can take when faced with booming customer demand is to reduce what it offers to customers.
The incumbent telcos and content companies have the same problem — they’d rather protect their obsolete business models than to see what customers want now and provide it.

Someday when Apple merges with Disney

On that day, Disney will license all of its content with creative commons licenses, and offer Disney fans a set of creative tools to remix video, and retell stories, and create games, and resell the content they create using Disney raw materials….
Then Disney stories will return to the folk art roots from which they started, and fans young and old will multiply the time they spend with Disney stories and characters by a factor of several, and the market for creative tools and accessories will grow.
Today this is but a fairy tale. Second Life, the creative stepchild of the entertainment business, is enabling the creation fo a secondary market in player-created game content. The stepchild of the entertainment business is misunderstood and despised by its elder sisters, but it will be queen someday.

What’s Google doing with that fiber?

Om Malik speculates that Google is building a nationwide fiber network, will use wifi at endpoints to reach users, and then use location-awareness to turbo-charge ads.
The dots to connect are:
* Google has been quietly buying up dark fiber around the country
* Google is working with a small startup in San Francisco that has software for location-based services at wifi hotspots
* Google just launched Google Talk, a text and voice messaging client.
* Google spends a lot of money on IP transit fees, and could avoid those fees by sharing traffic directly with ISPs.
If that’s what Google is doing — wow. Google is very good at building very big, low-cost computing systems. The network incumbents have an inflated cost structure and a business model based on lobbying for competitive advantage. Some smart capital investment could free vast potential energy in communication services. This could go kaboom.