Reactions to EMI/DRM Announcement

Yesterday’s big news for several of the bloggers I subscribe to was the announcement by EMI that it will offer DRM-free music. I won’t get all Sir Link-a-Lot about this, but I will provide one link: to Ryan Block at Engadget.

I tried to get a discussion of the announcement going in my class this morning. The typical student in this class is an early-20-something iPod owner. There wasn’t much awareness of, or interest in, the announcement.

Scrybe: Silence and Server

Yesterday, many Scrybe users, including me, couldn’t see their data. We can now do so again. Here’s (some of) the activity from the Scrybe forums.

So the time between the problem being noted and its being fixed was about 24 hours. I don’t regard this as unacceptable for a free service a few months in to closed beta.

The bigger problem is once again lack of timely communication. This is particularly important for Scrybe given that it’s calendar data we’re talking about, and that there is a history of lack of communication.

So my criticism here isn’t about the 24 hours. It’s about the 15+ hours between the problem being noted and its being acknowledged. The Scrybe team had a chance to show that they really are serious about communication with their current beta users and with potential future users had they:

  • Communicated within an hour or two (i.e. ten times quicker than they actually did).
  • Made it clear that the problem was with a server, rather than with Scrybe, and that data were being restored from backup. This they actually did, albeit very late.
  • Communicated on the Scrybe blog, as well as in the forums. When I go to the blog right now, I see that Gartner considers Scrybe cool. That doesn’t help me cool down.

I continue to wish Scrybe well, but this doesn’t make it any easier. There is no shortage of rivals.

Blank Scrybe

Do you rely on your calendar? Do you rely on your online calendar? Does that mean that you rely on a beta web service?

Perhaps you shouldn’t. Perhaps I shouldn’t rely on Scrybe. When I signed on this morning my calendar was blank. It still is. I see from the support forum that I’m not alone.

I’m not trying to jump on Scrybe. I have a superstitious feeling that I may have jinxed Scrybe with my recent rather upbeat post.

If you can’t rely on beta web services, then you can’t rely on Gmail. But at least one prominent commentator in Web 2.0 relies on Gmail, and has recently had cause to regret it.

This raises a whole range of issues, of varying degrees of freshness. If Web 2.0 means perpetual beta, then perhaps it means unreliability. It’s hard to use services like calendar and email without relying on them. Offline access to web applications can vital and needed-now, rather than an interesting future about which to speculate.

More on the blanking of Scrybe, the offlining of web apps, and so on, soon.

StoogeTube

So these big media companies walk into a web. One’s a clown. Another’s a comic, who states that the content on his web media site will expire after a month. When asked “Why would anyone leave a comment on your site?” he replies, “I’ve saved them the trouble, there ain’t no comment feature.”

Perhaps that’s as unfair on Comedy Central as it is unfunny. What the Motherload FAQ actually says of the expiring content is “We hope you enjoy it while we have it up.”

I saw this via Fred Wilson, and his first post in an intended DoTube sequence covering big media attempts at web video. I admire his willingness to check out MeTooTubes so that I don’t have to (though I probably will), and his talent for understatement. “Putting up content that’s going to expire in a month is not going to create the best web video experience.”

37 Scrybes

I’ve been a beta user of Scrybe since around Halloween last year. I haven’t found it to be the horror story that some have: I got an early invitation; I wanted it mainly for the calendar, which was there right away; and I like Scrybe’s print option (PaperSync) better than its counterpart in any other web calendar I’ve found.

On the other hand, there are some who waited months for a beta invite; I think that there are some still waiting after many months. Some of those in the beta are frustrated by the long lag behind the schedule for rollout of new function. Some are annoyed by the slow pace of fixed and enhancements to existing function.

I’m not annoyed. I am amazed when I reflect that, almost five months into the beta, I still can’t tell Scrybe that my weeks should start on Sunday (rather than Monday) and that not all appointments start on the hour, half-hour, or quarter-hour.

But I still feel somewhat positive about Scrybe and some recent signs of increased responsiveness. For details, and for an example of someone who feels more positive than I, and an example of someone who feels less positive, see this recent post.

The point of the current post (sorry it’s taken so long to get to it) is the contrast between the saga-so-far of Scrybe and the happier history of Highrise. Jason at 37signals posted extensive previews of Highrise, and many bloggers took the bait and posted enthusiastically about it.

I previously noted that within a couple of days of launch, 37s made some significant changes to Highrise. What I didn’t note, but Jason did, was that by then Highrise was already managing > 150,000 contacts. That shows that there was a lot of capacity for early users at launch.

Future startups might learn from the contrast between these launches of Scrybe and Highrise. I admit that it’s a rather apples to oranges comparison, in that 37s already had an established brand, prior experience of web app launch, etc. But a study of the contrast might help others decide what fruit they want to be, at launch and if and when they grow.

Crunching the Clown

24 hours in to the story of MeTooTube, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch provides a summary and an outlook. The outlook is not good: “the track record of major media companies working together to deal with this kind of viral attack on their business is not good… Google/Youtube, who have been referring to the project as Clown Co. privately, doesn’t look to be in any trouble.”

We’ll learn more soon. There may even be a name for the venture… then again, it already has at least two (MTT and CC).

The MeTooTube Mall

Much has been written about MeTooTube (e.g., this BBC article). My first reaction is that this sounds like a media mall being built, with security guards and shining floors. YouTube, by contrast, is a rather disreputable urban area with street performers, not all of them accomplished, and hawkers, not all of them legal. I’m more of an urban type myself, but will probably visit the mall to stock up on Simpsons.

My second reaction is that there’s quite a lineup of other web bigcos providing land for the mall (Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and MySpace). That just goes to show that it’s all about the Google these days.

Highrise Hears

Many of us felt that the plans under which we could purchase Highrise were too restrictive (or too expensive for what they offered). Some of us were even churlish enough to feel that about the free plan.

37signals listened, acted, and posted within a couple of days of the Highrise launch. So now:

  • Even us churlish cheapskates get to try the cases feature. My one case currently contains tax stuff.
  • There’s a new plan, along with the original six. The Solo plan allows only one user (no surprise there) and unlimited cases. I think that it will be popular.
  • File space has been increased for all five existing pay plans.  And it’s doubled to zero for those of us on the cheapskate rate!

Scrybe, the Cool Stumbler

Scrybe, which I use as my calendar and which I follow with interest as an example of a Web 2.0 startup, got much better at blogging just over a month ago. After a very viral video (which can still be seen at its home page) got it off to a spectacular start, Scrybe made a bad impression in three ways.

First, it fell behind its aggressive schedule for rolling out phases of function. Second, it generated resentment among people who waited months for an invite to the beta. Third, it failed to communicate.

Sabika, Scrybe’s main blogger, has I think eliminated the last of these bad impressions, and in doing so has also addressed the first. Scrybe is now more transparent about revising schedules, and about other things. I don’t mean to imply that there is only bad news for Sabika to blog about. For example, today’s post tells us that Scrybe is one of Gartner’s “Cool Vendors in PC Technologies, 2007.”

The same post tells us that thousands of new invitations to the beta will be going out soon. This is further progress on mending the second of the three bad impressions.

Floating down my river of news next to the Scrybe post was yet another excellent post on Read/Write Web: Emre Sokullu on How to market your web app. He starts off with the observation that the traffic to a Web 2.0 site often looks like this graph, with the peak coming from a writeup on RWW, TechCrunch, or the like.

Emre argues that some sites shouldn’t try for the TechCrunch bump early on. A site such as Dogster should develop its niche, and hence the content provided by its users, before going for the TechCrunch bump. In other words, it should wait.

A second strategy is to walk. I’d say that Scrybe walked, but couldn’t cope with the pace it had promised or the size of the crowd who wanted to follow it. In other words, it stumbled. What’s worse, it didn’t communicate clearly, so it mumbled while it stumbled. It’s doing better now.

Emre identifies a third strategy for marketing a web 2.0 app: run! I’ll leave it up to his post to tell you about it, although I will tell you that his post implies the strange equation: wait + walk = run.

Forrester Report x 2.0

Forrester Research reports that CIOs Want Suites For Web 2.0. Moreover, they want these suites from large incumbents. In other words, they don’t want wikis and other Web 2.0 tools from specialist startups.

Read/Write Richard provides more detail than Forrester’s summary page. He also delves into another recent Forrester report to state that “wikis and RSS are the two Web 2.0 technologies most likely to be adopted.”