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Today's post about Microsoft got me thinking about web publishing tools. In the best of all possible worlds, I would have included a brief explanation of the state of Internet Explorer development to support my claim that Microsoft thought it had won the war. I might also have included a digression explaining what the innovator's dilemma is, which could easily expand into a discussion of what companies can do about it. Ideally, that discussion would attract reader contributions as well; surely I'm not the only one thinking about this stuff.
Digressions like these are better suited to a wiki than to the essentially linear structure of a blog. Wikis are good at creating space for digressions that can grow to be interesting topics in their own right. The problem with wikis is that the good stuff can be hidden deep within a twisting maze of links.
The ideal tool, then, would combine the clear structure of a blog with the potential richness of a wiki, using software simple enough to be friction free. I've been playing with Tinderbox, which claims to do exactly that, but has a pretty steep learning curve. Hmmm. Anyone have tools they want to rave about?
Just as troubling, Microsoft's search problem reflects its approach to new markets in general. It spends little time focusing on tiny, emerging niches that generate little, if any, sales. But those are precisely the markets that can quickly blossom on the Net into meaningful businesses. "Bill [Gates] and Steve [Ballmer] and the leadership don't understand the value of small things," says Robert Scoble, a former Microsoftie whose blog recently took the company to task for its Web missteps. "That cripples their entire Internet strategy from the start."
Operating systems and office software account for the vast majority of Microsoft's revenue. Hence, they get the vast majority of the company's resources and attention. Yet the PC market is already dominated by replacements, not new systems, and Microsoft already owns more than 90% of it. That space will grow at roughly the same rate as the overall economy, which is not exactly what technology investors are looking for.
Meanwhile, they clearly thought the battle for the Internet was over after they crushed Netscape. They quit improving Internet Explorer, outsourced their search engine, and seem to have essentially slept through what the rest of the world is calling Web 2.0. Oops.
Ars Technica contemplates Moore's Law, export controls, and what exactly Intel might be planning to build in China.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between web writing and other kinds of writing. In a way, web writing -- by which I mean writing that makes full use of the web's linking and interactivity, as opposed to conventional articles that just happen to be posted on the web -- is closer to performance than to other kinds of writing. Fully collaborative forms like wikis are the most extreme example, but the whole point of web-specific forms is very close contact between author and audience. The author makes a statement, to which the audience responds, helping to shape the author's thinking.
It's easy to see why many writers feel uncomfortable in this medium. We are used to polishing every last adjective and comma before giving anyone other than close friends so much as a glimpse.
Yet the informality of the web can be liberating, too. It's a chance to think out loud, to brainstorm with a community of others with similar interests. It's a chance to not obsess over every comma, for a change.
My tendency toward long silences interspersed with bouts of prolific postings is probably a symptom of the trade off. When I'm deeply involved in another project, I don't want to split my focus by posting here. When my other work is less intense, I'm more "talkative."
I'm thinking about doing more web-specific writing, but that would require a long simmer on a slow burner before you would see anything here.
The good part of writing about the same topic for multiple clients is that you can reuse much of the research and some of the actual writing. (With full disclosure and respect for copyrights, of course.) The bad part is that it can be really difficult to keep track of what you said where. And so the leap of logic that made perfect sense in the context of one piece becomes complete gibberish when you repeat it in a new environment. Oops.
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