Tag Archives: Google

Aaron Brazell

Vetoing FeedBurner

I’ve been a fan of FeedBurner for a long time. Going all the way back to the early days at b5media when they were a good company. Then they sold out to Google, and I warned any who would listen exactly who they would become. It was denied, though (most likely in good faith), and then they went down hill. Since the Google acquisition, they have slowly ported over to Google servers and infrastructure – an enhancement that was supposed to help. I can honestly not say if it has or it hasn’t. What I do know is that they are not noticeably better.

Then, of course, they had an outage today.

I’d call that the equivalent of calling out sick on the third day of a new job.

In the next 30 days, I have decided to remove all of my content from FeedBurner. They no longer have my vote of confidence, nor do I trust their competence. It’s probably a management thing more than technical. Much of the same team is still in place as was prior to the Google acquisition. You know, when they were good.

Please ensure that, if you subscribe to this feed using a feed reader (You really should use a feed reader… it does make blog reading so much easier. Despite my clear disdain for Google in this matter, I swear by Google Reader), you are subscribed to


For the time, this URL redirects to FeedBurner, but it will soon not and you don’t want to lose the feed subscription.

For a very long time, we have needed a viable alternative to FeedBurner. I don’t think we need all the bling that FeedBurner offered necessarily. But we do need an alternative to FeedBurner that will take a feed, normalize it for the most feed readers, provide some insight around readership (such as number of subscribers) and an extensible framework/API for using and publishing that data.

I’d very much like to talk to anyone who is developing options around this concept.

Aaron Brazell

Google Blows Up, Suggests the Internet is Harmful

It appears some sort of bug has snuck into the Google secret sauce. A feature that was intended to warn users of potential phishing sites has jumped the shark declaring the internet harmful. That’s right, every single result is deemed by Google to be harmful.

This is surely a bug and will be fixed but these guys really should be running some QA testing before rolling new releases.


Modern browsers give the opportunity for you to select your default search provider for your in-browser search box. Traditionally, my search box has been set to Google. However, it’s set to Ask.com right now, and so far I’m happy with the results.

Update: TechCrunch had it first.

Update 2: Google Mea Cupla – it was the fault of a slash (/).

Aaron Brazell

How We Moved Thomas Hawk to WordPress

It’s been about a week and I haven’t said a whole lot about one of the most special projects I’ve ever worked on. Thomas Hawk has been one of the people I’ve most looked up to since I began shooting photography. I’ve never met the guy before, but I hope to at some point. I also keep my eyes and ears open to absorb anything and everything he ever says about photography in a hope that I will learn from him. Mentor from a far? Maybe.

A few weeks ago, a comment was made on Friendfeed (I don’t remember how it started) and it became clear to me that Thomas desperately wanted to get off of the Blogger blog platform. I can’t blame him. I’m always looking to help people move to WordPress so I asked him to contact me. As a veteran of “moving people to WordPress”, I was sure I could help him out.
We exchanged emails over the subject and his biggest hurdle seemed to be the number of comments that were housed on Blogger. He was concerned, naturally, that all of his content would not be able to come over. I asked him to give me a shot at it and he obliged.

Blogger Problems

As I’ve mentioned, Blogger can be a bit of a pain. While it used to be the great granddaddy of blogging software, Google has done little to keep it nimble and competent. That, I hope, will change in the months ahead as my friend and colleague, Rick Klau, formerly of FeedBurner has taken the reins as the product manager and has been incredibly helpful working with me on this project.

The problem was a pretty common problem. It didn’t take long Googling around to find hundreds of other people who were having problems with Google having a 5000 comment cap on their export. In other words, if you had over 5000 comments (Thomas had over 21000), you were screwed and could not get all of your data.

I went to Rick and asked if he could help me get this problem solved. He happily obliged, asked me to wait a few days, and went off to his team. Within a few days they had solved the problem. Not only for me, they solved it for everyone.

WordPress Problems

For an unknown reason, though, the WordPress Blogger Importer did not work the way it was supposed to. Though it now accurately reported that there were over 21,000 comments that could be imported, it failed to do so. As a result, I was forced to improvise using the Blogger-supported format for data portability – a super large Atom-format XML export that included all the data I needed. Unfortunately, importing this data was now impossible in its present form unless I decided to build a WordPress import script for the occasion. Instead, I discovered the Google provided Blog Converters, open source scripts that could convert WordPress or Movable Type exports into Blogger Atom formats and vica versa. With this tool in hand, I was able to successfully convert the Blogger Atom file into a WordPress native WXR file.

Importing the new file was a breeze but created a new problem. I needed to maintain all of Thomas’ permalinks for the search engines. Blogger has a strange way of creating permalinks that involves breaking the title of the post into “word chunks” then piecing together a permalink out of a seemingly random number of words. In WordPress, permalinks are generated by taking all the words in a title, and piecing them all together to make a link. So I needed to find a way to preserve all of this.

I found the Maintain Blogger Permalinks plugin, a single use plugin that would alter the post slugs to the previously used Blogger slugs. Unfortunately, it relied on content that was pulled directly out of Blogger, on import, using the Blogger import script. Since I had gone around that by using the Blogger export format, I had to figure out how to get that data. Fortunately, it was as simple as actually running the Blogger importer. Since the importer only did not work with comments, all I had to do was make some simple PHP changes to the script in order to make it not skip over already existing content, and instead update that content with the appropriate data I needed.

I could outline those details, but that is special sauce. I’m happy for you to pay me to do this for you. ;-)

WordPress Perks

Once all the data had been moved over and Thomas had blessed the “flipping of the switch”, we kicked it on live. All the permalinks still worked. All the data was successfully moved into its new home. Comments were good. Posts were good. We had a nice minimalistic theme that brightened up his digs. I used the Picturegrid plugin to pull in his Flickr photostream.

We, of course, encountered some problems involving caching. WordPress still doesn’t do well on high traffic sites without some caching. I implemented WP-Super Cache, an absolutely essential plugin for high traffic sites.

I am Available

This was a special project for me as Thomas is someone I look up to. At the same time, it’s what I do. It’s how I make a living. And it’s how I am able to continue keeping this site going. Contrary to popular belief, it is not sustained by advertising.

In the next few days, I will face the darkest time of my life so far. At this time, I have exactly one week to extend my pipeline with additional work, find viable employment elsewhere or simply… I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it. The economy sucks right now, and I’m in the middle of it. Though I know everyone is tight and hiring is frozen, there is still some liquidity available. I am asking, even begging, that if I can help you with WordPress (or any) consulting work – even short term – that you let me know. I hesitate to strike this tone, yet I am in in dire straits right now and need a breakthrough.

If you work for a company, go lobby for them to employ my services. If you are a CEO, I ask you to consider if you could try to get me for a discount. If you are an entrepreneur, I ask you to consider if you are able to pass me projects that are filling your plate. I have put up a consulting page to provide an overview of some of the services I have done and can do for you.

Thank you all, and thanks Thomas for letting me work on your site. It was great fun.

Aaron Brazell

Google Predicting the Future?

Geeks among us will recognize the term “chaos theory”. It is a highly philisophical, and yet scientifically unproven, theory of physics that says, among other things, that there is a natural order to the universe that cannot be observed directly, but can be seen in patterns. Popularly known as the Butterfly Effect, it theorizes that though there appears a dissonance and disorder in nature, nature actually behaves in an orderly and predictable way. Examples of chaos can be seen in weather, the flow of currents and even the natural cycle of economic conditions. Though no two iterations of an event happen exactly as they happened before, there is a pattern that is distinguishable if charted or mapped.

Ike Pigott requested my input on a theory he floated last night on his blog. The theory is that Google, in their attempt to meet their stated mission of “organizing the world’s information”, is attempting to predict the future. He framed his argument around the dissolution of many Google services over the past week, in an effort to economically streamline their business and Steve Rubel’s prediction that their Google Reader product is next on the chopping block.

Ike’s argument was that, through Google’s monitoring and recording of key behavioral patterns – such as reading and sharing of stories, commenting, time of engagement, and subscriber base numbers – that Google is able to create a massive database over time that “learns” the patterns of human information engagement. With these patterns (and a nod to Chaos Theory), Google can accurately predict a large number of events, or cultural shifts before they come to be. Additionally, as the only owner of multiple copies of the internet in their massive server farms, Google positions itself to be the one and only benefactor of such information. It could be argued that “the Machine is among us” (in another nod to common science fiction themes),

It has long been my assertation that the tendency of the internet world to easily trust and adopt to Google efforts is a dangerous precedent to set. Increasingly, people rely on Google for mail, calendaring and even productivity. New bloggers tend to setup blogs on Google-owned Blogger and the saturation of video content is due, in no small part, to Youtube. Why? Because Google makes products that are easy and ease of use is more important than virtually any other factor that consumers might think of.

Without raising the alarm bells, folks should be cognizant about entrusting Google with all of their data. Personally, I use Gmail, FeedBurner, YouTube and other services, but the data is yours and should be diversified as much as possible.

Question of the Day: Is this theory of future prediction fact or fiction, good will or conspiracy? Isaac Asimov outlined the rules for robots in his book I, Robot:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Food for thought.

Aaron Brazell

Tech Predictions for 2009

As we gear up for 2009, there remains many questions about the economy and the growth curve of the technology industry. As a team, we have come up with predictions for 2009. Ray Capece, Venture Files editor for Technosailor.com and I make our predictions.

As always, these are predictions. Last year, we were dangerously accurate with our predictions and would like to think that we have a good understanding of the business and technology marketplace in 2009.

Ray’s Predictions

  1. By now, all VC firms have had the ‘triage’ partners meeting — where they decide, whether existing portfolio companies will 1) receive additional funding, because they’re generating revenue and have the prospect of getting cash-flow positive; 2) be shut down (and recapture any remaining cash); and 3) receive no additional funding, but be left to their own devices (to get funding however they might on their own). In 2000, there were a good many in category #2, since dot.com rounds were in the $10s of millions; now, with social-networking investments averaging around $1M, there will be little cash if any to recover. But I predict there will be many in category #3 (also known as ‘the walking dead,’ since they’re burning their cash, no matter how slowly, till it’s gone.)
  2. Online advertising revenues in 2009 will continue to fall, as inventory outpaces demand. I *don’t* see the $$ flowing from other media to online offsetting this downward trend.
  3. Consumers have discretionary (albeit small) $$$ to spend. In times of bleak economy, they seek distractions (gaming and feel-good entertainment), and will happily pay $0.99 for iFart. The hope for developers in the social networking space will potentially lie with commerce in real and virtual goods. Facebook and the others need to make this extremely easy for third parties, and it will most certainly happen in 2009. (Yes, despite what others are saying about FB’s party line.)
  4. Consolidation always picks up in down times . . . good, small apps facing a difficult fund-raising environment reset their valuations lower, and robust companies with solid funding swoop in to pick up the team and technology on the cheap. It began in the fourth quarter with Pownce and others, will continue throughout 2009.
  5. As an extension to this prediction — we’ll see more Intellectual Property for sale on eBay.
  6. Apple will continue to grow its mobile share as others fumble about. Watch for new BlackBerry Curve to become the defacto standard for ‘button lovers.’

Aaron’s Take: While I agree with most of Ray’s predictions, I’m more bullish on early round VC. Even though we won’t see as much investment as we have, I believe it will still happen and companies that have already been funded will probably continue to receive investment funds, even if on down valuations, as long as they are somewhat viable. The reason is that most funds are long-haul investments of about 10 years.

Aaron’s Predictions

  1. Consolidations will occur en masse this year. Small companies with angel funding or Series A funding will be lumped into bigger conglomerates as the acquisition threshold is low.
  2. Brightkite will be acquired by Facebook, as poignantly pointed out by a commenter over at Read Write Web.
  3. The second Google Android-powered G2 phone will be released to T-Mobile in Q1. As the first one was a proof of concept that had little impact, the second iteration will be an essential release to prove the Android platform. No other carriers will take the platform until the concept is proven, but T-Mobile is already there and will be the victim for the second release.
  4. Twitter will *not* be acquired, but an advertising/partnership business model will emerge in Q2.
  5. Apple will release 3 new products this year. That is it. Their growth will continue upward but will see a decline over growth patterns of previous years.
  6. Net Neutrality will take a massive hit in 2009 with governments and companies looking to defend themselves in a down economy. The result will be regulations that will allow the big telecoms survive. Too big to Fail. Unless it’s the general public.
  7. No clear winner in the “single identity” space. OpenID fades, fbConnect gets fleshed out and adopted by many while Google Friend Connect makes significant inroads with others. An emerging war akin to Bluray vs. HD-DVD emerges between Facebook and Google with the internet world divided evenly among the two. Blogs and social networks will tend toward Facebook while bigger sites and services, possibly including newspaper walled gardens, trending toward Google.

Ray’s Take: Aaron’s crystal ball looks pretty good to me . . . except that, like Jonah in the whale’s belly, Twitter will be devoured.

Aaron Brazell

Obama Names Googler and Launchbox Digital Cofounder to Transition Team

In a move that demonstrates a commitment to web technology, President-elect Barack Obama has named a Google executive and a Launchbox Digital cofounder to his transition team.

julius-genachowskiJulius Genachowski, from Launchbox Digital a DC-based web incubator investment company in the order of YCombinator and Techstars, IAC and Rock Creek Ventures comes to the team with a tremendous amount of value and knowledge. And he’s one of our own.

Sonal Shah comes from the Google.org Philanthropy branch of the internet search giant and is also a former executive for Goldman Sachs.

sonal-shahI guess the takeaway here is that grassroots is power (Launchbox Digital) and that an Obama administration believes in “Don’t be Evil.”

One of our key cornerstones for an Obama endorsement was his commitment to advancing the technology and science sectors here in the United States. This is a great start in the right direction.

[Source: CNET]
Aaron Brazell

The Apple Store isn't the Only Place Intelligent People Go to Die

Apple announces an iPhone and people stand in line for it, despite the manufacturer never having entered the phone market before.

A new line of computers is announced with some new feature never seen before in the platform, and people make a rush on the store to get their hands on the new sexiness.

Apple announces a new line of iPods and the rush to get one takes over the market with a hysteria only eclipsed by the rush to buy other Apple products.

I wrote the post, The Apple Store: Where Intelligent People Go to Die last year but since then I’ve noticed that Apple really isn’t the only company that has this effect on its customers. Google does as well, in a slightly different way.

The obsession with Google is less about consumer usage and more about press and media obsession. Whenever Google does something, it is covered ad nauseum.

Google has now released their G1 Android phone, a first for a company who, like Apple, has never been in the phone business. The G1 phone was announced earlier in the year and is built on the Android platform, an open source code base that seeks to challenge the way phones are done in the age of the iPhone.

T-Mobile is the carrier of choice for G1 users. It is available in the United States and will be available on October 30 in the UK with the same carrier.

Fortunately there hasn’t been a consumer obsession with the first generation Google product yet, as there is already a security flaw that could allow malicious keystroke logging software to be installed on the device. What do you expect from a company who is perpetually in beta?

My point is this: Google is a great company that produces highly innovative products that always run a chance of revolutionizing the landscape. But, they are subject to the “Don’t buy Generation 1” rule. Consumers and media need to be careful not to simply give the Big G a pass because they are the Big G. Approach every product with skepticism looking to falsify their claims. If they pass the test, then use the product. Google, Apple, Microsoft, or any other company with any other product out there. It takes time for a product to fully gain trust, and in the meantime, you don’t really want to have security or stability problems.

Aaron Brazell

Google Shiny is Not as Hot as You would Think

Much has been said about Google Chrome Shiny this week. Google stormed the internet by announcing that they too had a browser that web users could be proud of. They claimed the best of all browsers while slipping in some legal language into the EULA that revoked privacy of user browsing data while using the product. That was quickly changed when their bluff was called.

Regardless, Shiny has created quite a buzz with people like Gabe Rivera, the founder of Techmeme, claiming a 14% market share of all Techmeme readers using Shiny. That may be the most dramatic number I’ve seen, but certainly folks have been bandying around their numbers as if this was a huge coup de grace.

Let me remind you of what Brad Feld said in 2006: The first 25k users are irrelevant. (Disclosure: Brad is an investor in Lijit)

Got that? Irrelevant.

They are all kicking tires. There is nothing “new” here, as far as I can tell, and anything Google is greeted with a bunch of tire kickers early on. People want to get in, test things out, see how it works and then decide on what works for them.

You’ll see another surge in market share when Shiny becomes available to the Mac, and those users will be irrelevant as well.

That is not to say that Google cannot command a noticeable market share, but there are big hurdles to overcome:

  1. The browser market is saturated already: IE7/8, Firefox 2/3, Safari, Opera, to name only a few
  2. Internet Explorer, Safari and, well, Konqueror maybe are the only gifts that keep on giving. These are the browsers that are bundled with the Operating Systems and it is the only way to ensure market share. Google needs an OS in widespread adoption to compete on this level
  3. Google says they are innovating, but there is nothing innovative about the browser. It is built on Webkit. That is, it’s Safari.
  4. Google privacy concerns will continue to keep hawks like myself away.

The real measure of success is not going to be today or tomorrow. It’s going to be in six months. After the tire kickers run their test drives and uninstall from their systems. I’m guessing they can command a solid 2% market share by June of 2008. No better than that though. It will always be a niche browser.

Aaron Brazell

Google Blog Platform

A few years ago, in the early days of blogging, Google made a play to buy the Blogger platform. What occurred after that was a long period of time where Blogger received no love from their new parents. Also during this time, Movable Type came along and was then eclipsed by WordPress. WordPress went from a project to a business with the advent of Automattic and WordPress.com while the software remained an open source project for anyone to use and build upon.

It wasn’t until WordPress.com came along that we began to see some forward motion with Blogger. Google tied it to their authentication system and added some spit and polish, but nothing earth shattering. One of the biggest failures of Blogger is not the platform, but the management. It is the single largest source of splogs (or spam blogs) in the world – a failure of leadership that can be placed squarely at the feet of Google management. Meanwhile, WordPress.com is an open and airy environment that is policed actively (but passively, if that makes sense – no one is being a Nazi about content, but spam is ruthlessly dealt with).

While Google continues to release a parade of new products (anyone tracking the release of Google Shiny(Beta) today?), some of their largest and most potentially lucrative assets continues to meander aimlessly in an industry that continues to expand at a relentless pace.

Here’s a comparison between Blogger and WordPress.com

Blogger WordPress.com
Cost Free Free*
Personal Domains Yes Yes*
Template Control Yes CSS*
Javascript Yes No
Discoverability No Yes
Remote APIs Blogger Movable Type, Metaweblog, Atom, WordPress
Portability w/Domain Hosting only WXR Export
* Optional Paid Upgrade

Of all the migrations I’ve ever made, the biggest challenge exists around Blogger blogs. I’ve moved WordPress to WordPress, Movable Type to WordPress, Blogger to WordPress, Serendipty and Expression Engine to WordPress. I’ve moved TypePad to Movable Type. Blogger to Movable Type. You get the point. The most difficult migrations are off of the blogger platform.

Mark Evans suggested this morning that Google buy WordPress.com for name recognition and platform familiarity. The idea is to bolster the suite of services that Google offers now that it will have its integrated browser. Mark argues that WordPress.com has tons of traffic.

Here’s a hint though. Google doesn’t care about traffic. Plus, they have Blogger. Granted, Blogger sucks but according to Compete, it gets more traffic anyway.

Picture 2.png

So here’s what we know. Blogger gets more traffic, but savvy users like it less (particularly the UI and SEO). We also know that Blogger is a closed platform and that it is laden with spam. We know that Blogger is under very little active development, or their release schedule is abysmal.

We also know that WordPress is an open source platform that invites external developers to hack on it. We know there’s viable business in using the platform (hey, you don’t have to pay for active development on the platform!). We know that there is a hosted and self hosted version currently and that the WXR format makes it easy to transfer data around. We know that Akismet is open source and can be used to kill spam as well. We know that there are tens of thousands of people developing themes, plugins and offering knowledge. We know that it is possible to have a hosted version of WordPress in the vein of Blogger. We know Google engineers are smart.

So here’s what I propose instead. Leave Automattic alone. Let them keep innovating and building their enterprise client list like the New York Times, Dow Jones, and more. Matt has no interest in Google (at least he didn’t) as his philosophy is largely incongruous with Google (open source via mostly closed source).

Instead, Blogger should be transformed into an WordPress MU platform. Google engineers can solve problems such as providing FTP to other hosts, as Google has, with the new WP_Filesystem class that is used for plugin and automatic upgrades.

They can use their cloud to provide DNS services to point Blogger blogs to a different host, as they do now. They can tie in Google Auth with the available hooks. They can even port existing Blogger theme offerings to WordPress themes.

They retain the traffic and immediately compete on a close level, at least by all tangible metrics, with WordPress.com. Of course, there is that little thing about management styles where WordPress.com wins hands down in the current paradigm, but… thats something that can’t be addressed by technology.

Personally, I think it’s a solid play. May not happen, but it probably should for Google’s sake.

Aaron Brazell


This is a guest post from Andrew Feinberg who is a journalist working in Washington, D.C. covering the technology policy discussions occurring on Capitol Hill. He works for Washington Internet Daily published by Warren News

6:30am – alarm

7:00am – stop ignoring the alarm

7:35am – dressed and out to subway

8:10am – arrive at Capitol, eat a bagel.

10:00am – Leave press office, go to hearing room.

DC is a big small town. You see the same cast of characters every day, except of course for the interns, who think they truly run the place.

Which makes surprises even more fun. For instance, sitting down and seeing Kara Swisher across from you at the press table. Wearing a T-Shirt and Jeans.

Why? Kara has been covering technology forever…

…from San Francisco.

Kara and I were both there to cover the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee’s hearing on the Google-Yahoo advertising deal (aka GooHoo). Why was this so special?

A) Kara is from SF. She doesn’t see this stuff every day. She’s not jaded.

B) She’s a blogger. For Dow Jones, but a blogger nonetheless. She doesn’t have to be “objective.”

C) It shows people are starting to care. Less than a month after I get Robert Scoble to come to DC for some interviews, we get another great tech blogger to actually cover a Senate hearing.

More, please.