Results tagged “pyra”

Evolving Blogging

March 6, 2012

First, a bit of background: Blogger, Google's venerable and pioneering blogging service was created in 1999 by a small team at Pyra Labs, as an offshoot of the project management platform they'd originally set out to make.

As one of the earliest users of Blogger, I was always amongst the service's biggest fans (and have been duly impressed by the new features introduced on Blogger lately). Pyra went through financial struggles, had a painful breakup of the original team, got back on its feet with a new team, and then finally sold to Google. And all of that happened more than nine years ago. Amazing how time flies!

In the years since, I've either remained or become friends with most of the folks who were involved in Pyra's various incarnations, and so when I started to lament the lack of innovation and evolution in blogging software and platforms in recent years, that early crew came to mind as the first people to talk to about where we should be headed.

Thus, I present a discussion which became wonderfully fruitful, featuring Ev Williams, Meg Hourihan, Paul Bausch and Matt Haughey. Along with Matt Hamer, they formed the core of the Blogger team at the time I fell in love with it thirteen (!) years ago. I think you'll enjoy their conversation as much as others who've shared a link to it, ranging from Tim O'Reilly to Michael Arrington to Om Malik to Dave Winer.

How do blogs need to evolve?

Add your comments by, you know, blogging about it on your own site.

Related: My skeptical, but not entirely incorrect, post about Google's acquisition of Pyra from 2003. And courtesy of the Web Archive, my info page on Blogger Pro from early 2001, proving what a fanboy I've always been.

Know Your Shit: Ten Years of Twitter Ads

April 21, 2010

Last week, Twitter announced its new advertising system, called promoted tweets. I was at Twitter's Chirp conference as a speaker, so I got an up-close look at the reaction to the big news, along with the (frankly, more interesting to me) announcements for developers and media.

But from the New York Times to CNBC to the dozens of other media channels that covered the story, there was no mention of the essential fact that Twitter's senior executives have all made similar advertising and monetization systems in the past.

Why does it matter? Because looking at the decisions Ev, Dick, Biz and other senior Twitter execs have made in the past could provide valuable insights to anyone trying to understand the roadmap of how the company got to this point, and what they're going to do next. And because innovation happens in the tech business not because of who you know or how much money you have (though those things help, of course) but because, fundamentally, you know your shit. The tech trade press wants to focus on personalities and funding, but for the developers I met at Chirp, or who are making their way to Facebook's F8 conference today, success comes from recognizing industry patterns.

So, some examples:

  • PyRads, launched in November 2001, was a self-service text ad system built by Pyra CEO Ev Williams, now Twitter's CEO, to provide an advertising system for users of Pyra's signature application, Blogger. (Trivia: PyRads was named by Jason Shellen, now CEO of Brizzly.) PyRads actually launched between Google's rollout of AdWords and its later introduction of AdSense, alongside similar efforts like Matt Haughey's TextAds and Phil Kaplan's HttpAds.
  • SpyOnIt, launched in 1999, was led by its CEO Dick Costolo, now COO of Twitter, as a realtime notification system for changes on websites. In addition to sending instant messages when a site had updated, the SpyOnIt team stayed at 724 solutions after it acquired their company, with one area of focus being the delivery of realtime notifications through partnerships with mobile service providers. Dick and his SpyOnIt cofounders would later go on to create Feedburner. You know, that thing that does realtime delivery of feeds with ads in them?
  • A bonus one: Xanga, launched in 1999, was one of the earliest large-scale blogging services, and its initial marketing efforts were led by Biz Stone, now Creative Director of Twitter. While Biz was at Xanga, they launched one of the first pages to aggregate media consumption in a blogging community, creating an Amazon shopping portal of the most popular books, music and movies amongst their users.

There are dozens more examples, but if you are going to compete or succeed in the Twitter ecosystem, shouldn't you know exactly what choices these men made when in nearly identical circumstances a decade ago? Because I'm friends with these guys, I can just ask them. But none of the developers I've talked to at events like Chirp seem to know this legacy, and they don't have the access and privilege that I do to ask questions directly. That's not really a criticism — a lot of them are young or inexperienced or simply arrogant and don't think history matters, so they are disinclined to listen to an old-timer like me rant about ancient times when they were in junior high school.

And while the brashness of youth can be a powerful driver of innovation, a blind devotion to the narratives as presented by today's tech press is incomplete at best. Without the whole story, today's startups are going to be sitting around surprised when industry cycles repeat themselves. It doesn't have to be that way. All you have to do is Know Your Shit.

Don't worry, I'm not 100% Grumpy Old Man yet; Here's video of me improvising a PowerPoint presentation to slides I'd never seen at the close of the first day of the Chirp conference. Caution: The jokes are nerdy.

Update: The video works now.

google's first mistake

February 16, 2003

So, yeah, everybody's gonna be buzzing about Google buying Pyra, but my take is that it's not really that great a fit.

Of course, Google bought Deja, which is the closest parallel as far as their acquisitions go. But Deja archived everything in Usenet, and Blogger only encompasses a part of the blogosphere. Granted, it's probably close to half, but relegating the incredibly intricate network of LiveJournal users and the aggregator-powered Radio users and the thought leaders who use Movable Type (including, amusingly, Gillmor himself, who broke the story) to second-class citizens seems like a critical misstep for Google's path so far.

More to the point, Google's consistent marketing message so far has been, "We do search, and we don't want to be a portal". My relationship with Pyra and Blogger goes back a long, long way and their tool has always seemed to be about creation of content.

Also, on a slight tangent, Google's never run a service that requires users to pay. Blogger Pro and all of the variations of BlogSpot Plus, not to mention BloggerDomains and whatever other auxiliary services Pyra offers, are all for-pay services, and though it's possible that Google is going to try to turn those users into people who pay for additional features from Google in the future, the reality is that it puts Google into a far different role than they've had so far.

The most relevant quote by Gillmor, to me is when he says, "The buyout is a huge boost to an enormously diverse genre of online publishing that has begun to change the equations of online news and information." I think competitors like LiveJournal, Nick Denton's Lafayette Project, Userland and Movable Type could be bigger winners long-term, or at least could be as big winners from this.

In all though, a very impressive deal. Congrats to Ev and the gang for pulling it off, and for broadening Google's vision. It'll be interesting to note what effect it has on Blogger's reliability and scalability. Back when Blogger was hacked, Steve sent me an indignant refutation of my assertion that the problem was with the development of weblog tools. His defense, which is entirely valid, is that the vulnerabilities tend to be in the platform software itself, and that it was to blame for most of the problems. It seemed kind of like he was saying "blame Rudy, not me!" while being too polite to actually say that out loud.

Now that the platform is moving to a presumably much more robust infrastructure, it'll be interesting to see what effect that has on the services they offer in the future. My sense is that weblogs as a whole are more valuable than any one platform, tool, or community of weblogs. Once Google's plan becomes clearer, it'll be possible to see whether Google's adoption of part of the blogosphere is prescient or unfortunately incomplete.