General


Last year, I wrote a post asking for a way to track comments from across the web.

Chris Golda emailed to let me know that his company, BackType, fills this very need.  BackType scours the web for comments and assigns them to BackType registered users (free to do so) based on the user’s id or homepage.  The cool thing about BackType is that it doesn’t require any plug-ins or change in behavior on the part of administrators or commenters.

I’ve created an account and set up my profile.  I’m hoping to see more of my comments (mostly at Slashdot, InfoWorld TSS, and CNet) as the crawler works its magic. Next, I’ll see who else is on BackType so I can start tracking their comments.

BackType has issues with capturing comments if the site doesn’t have a “homepage” (or similar) field when submitting a comment. I know that InfoWorld and CNet don’t have this field anymore.  BackType knows about this and is looking at assigning comments based on your user id at a given website.

Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Very interesting post from Nick Carr re. eBay’s auctions vs. fixed price selling. In a nutshell, Carr, and BusinessWeek, state:

“…eBay’s auctions are “a dying breed.” Buyers and sellers are reverting to the traditional retailing model of fixed prices…”

BusinessWeek goes on to state:

“Sales at Amazon.com (AMZN), the leader in online sales of fixed-price goods, rose 37% in the first quarter of 2008. At eBay, where auctions make up 58% of the site’s sales, revenue rose 14%.”

Economic theory suggests that auction pricing results in the most efficient prices for a given product. Throw the auction on the Interweb and the price efficiency should benefit from more buyers and sellers and more transparent information. In eBay’s prime, the end of fixed price product sales was predicted more than once. (Readers on the ball may notice the parallels between this and the oss/software market.)

The fact that we’re seeing increased interest in fixed price auctions is a natural result of human nature. We want the best price, but most of us are able to make pricing trade-offs for some other benefits (i.e. the time saved via a fixed price sale). In certain situations, I’m willing to enter into an auction-based sale. In other situations, I just want to buy the widget and move on. Both forms of selling have their place (again, note the parallels to oss vs. proprietary software). To suggest that one form will (nearly) always win out over the other form ignores human behavior.

Matt asks (almost as an aside to a post on a related topic):

My question: why not just buy Red Hat? Before Red Hat buys MySQL, and gives those database numbers a run for their money?

Then, Larry Dingnan writes:

A Credit Suisse analyst thinks BEA Systems is likely to go on the auction block in the next three to six months.

And the potential buyer is two likely suspects: Private equity firms or Oracle, which indicated it has no plans to slow down its acquisition pace.

I’ll play Nostradamus and predict that Oracle will not buy Red Hat. Oracle may buy BEA. Here’s why…

If it’s possible to summarize the complexities of decisions in a large business such as Oracle based on reading a book about its founder & Chairman, then Oracle won’t buy Red Hat for the same reason that Larry didn’t buy Netscape. And no, it has nothing to with whether Larry’s cat can write an operating system. It does have everything to do with the “value” that Red Hat brings to the table. Essentially, what does Red Hat have that Oracle doesn’t?

Three key reasons for buying a tech company would be: technology, brand recognition and customers.

By announcing Oracle Unbreakable Linux, Oracle has already proven that Red Hat doesn’t have a whole lot of technology that can’t be easily replicated. Sure, Oracle UL hasn’t been a rip roaring success to date, but I agree with Matthew Aslett, that this is a long-term investment.

Red Hat does have an awesome brand. But its brand is tied to open source. As long as customers relate the two, and the OSS market remains less than 1.8% of the total software market, the value of Red Hat’s brand to Oracle is questionable.

Additionally, Red Hat doesn’t bring a whole lot of customers that aren’t already Oracle customers in some shape of fashion. Even if Oracle were to migrate every RHEL customer running Oracle DB to Oracle UL, the end game isn’t getting customers to Oracle UL. Oracle’s goal is getting customers to Oracle middleware & Oracle apps. Customers don’t typically make application & middleware stack decisions based on their operating system. Consider the Microsoft customers who run WebSphere or SAP or Oracle Apps on Windows.

Oh, and if Oracle tried to buy Red Hat, I’m sure that other vendors interested in the future of open source and Linux would have some role to play in the discussions.

BEA is different. They have IP that Oracle can’t get their hands on without an acquisition. BEA has good brand recognition in the middleware market, an area that Oracle wants to grow. BEA’s customers are likely also Oracle’s customers (as BEA always had an affinity with Oracle DB vs. DB2). But BEA’s middleware customers could be migrated to Oracle’s middleware stack, which is strategic to Oracle.

PS: My admiration for Oracle will subside after I finish the book I’m sure :-)

I’ve been reading Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle recently.

The book is interesting because it’s written by Matthew Symonds, an author from The Economist, but Ellison gets to add footnotes explaining his side at the bottom of the page.

It’s a quick read, quite funny. Since the book was published in 2003, you can track Ellison’s visions, as stated in the book, with what we’ve seen. For one, he pretty much telegraphed Oracle’s acquisition strategy in the book.

I disagree with his views on IBM’s marketing (i.e. “how do they get away with the lies”) and some of his statements on Microsoft. But hey, as I said, the book is a howl.

My favourite story from the book: Larry describes why he didn’t buy Netscape:

Netscape’s Navigator browser ushered in the Internet age. They single-handedly changed the Valley. EBay, Yahoo!, and all the other Internet companies exist because of Netscape. But Netscape had a big problem. It’s just not very hard to write a browser. Andreessen wrote Mosaic in his spare time when he was in college. So there was no technical barrier preventing Microsoft from writing a competing browser. To emphasize that point, I said my cat, the one that recently died, could write a browser. For some reason that made Jim Barksdale [Netscape’s CEO] and Marc very angry at me. I don’t know why. She was a very smart cat. The two cats I have left, incidentally, can’t program worth a damn.

Okay, I’ve spent way too much time playing around with the visualizations on this IBM alphaWorks site called Many Eyes. I read about it on CNet, and popped over to take a quick look…over an hour ago!

I know I’ve seen at least one user generated “data reference” site where users upload charts from various sources. I can’t find that site again for the life of me though.

The interesting thing about Many Eyes is the visualizations you’re able to create with the data, and how others can create different visualizations with the same data.

This is a cool one dealing with US Budget Expenses from 1962-2004. Check it out!