The 2007 Australian Record Industry Association awards were held last night, which are always great. I’m always impressed with the diversity of music produced by Australian artists and the 2007 ARIA awards night really highlighted that fact with acts like:
- Operator Please
- Damien Leith
- Sarah Blasko
- Sneaky Sound System
- Hilltop Hoods
- John Butler Trio
- Kate Miller-Heidke
Of interest out of that list where Operator Please, which are a young band with an average age of 16 who won their way through via a battle of the bands. The Hilltop Hoods hail from Adelaide and offer a unique R&B sound. Gotye, largely a one man band provide electric, synthesised music blended with traditional sounds. Kate Miller-Heidke, well – she was just strange, querky and different but excellent none the less.
The highlight of the night for me though was watching John Butler Trio supported by Kieth Urban perform. While it wasn’t quite the same as a typical live performance from the John Butler Trio, there were hints of the brilliance which the audience realy appreciated.
Mark Pilgrim once said that the number of keys on his keyring was a measure of the complexity of his life and that longed for the day that he no longer had a requirement to have any keys.
This week my life got a little tiny bit simpler as I removed yet another key from my keyring – I now have three to go:
- Front door
- My car
- Claire’s car
I know some people who have key rings that have so many keys on them that you nearly need a wheelbarrow to carry them around. I grapple with that whole concept, a little while ago I even separated my ‘must have’ keys from my ‘lesser have’ keys to keep it a little simpler but that was an effort as well. I’ve now got it down to three, which I think isn’t too bad – how many do you have on your keyring?
After a lot of rumours flying around the internet about Facebook looking for investors or buyers and the rumour being continually shot down; today sees an announcement that Microsoft have invested USD$240 million dollars in Facebook. The $240 million dollars is nothing short of a minority stake in Facebook, which has now been officially valued at USD$15 billion dollars, yes you read that correctly billion dollars.
While everything was still on the rumourmill, it was expected that both Google and Microsoft would have been bidding for a stake in Facebook. What has surprised the industry to some extent, is that Microsoft actually won the deal. Of course, this investment has now extended the marketing agreement between Microsoft and Facebook, which now sees Microsoft as the supplier of user centric advertising on the Facebook platform globally, where as it was previously limited to the United States. Of course, Facebook haven’t closed the door on further investment opportunities – we might see at least one other deep pocketed company come to the table yet.
While I appreciate how important this investment was for Microsoft, in a vain attempt to keep themselves in the online marketing game – I haven’t yet joined the dots on how it is going to work. As most savvy internet users will attest, the Microsoft search platform via MSN and its successor Live is some what limited. To add insult to injury, the advertising platform that Microsoft have been building seems so lacking compared to Google, that Microsoft are only recently realising just how far behind they are.
None the less, it’s good for everyone to see some healthy competition in the online advertising space. I expect there will be a lot of people watching this space to see how it develops over the coming months; for all we know this might be the starting point for Microsoft to launch a full frontal assault against Google.
Last week saw another meeting of the Gold Coast .NET User Group and was presented on Windows CardSpace by Daniel Bartholomew.
Windows CardSpace is the Microsoft implementation of the Identity Metasystem, a standards compliant platform agnostic system which hopes to solve the identity crisis. CardSpace is referred to as an identity selector, which is client software which helps create, manage and share personal information in a secure and trusted manner. Since the Identity Metasystem is platform agnostic and built upon WS-*, identity selectors already exist for Linux and OS X.
After you install Windows CardSpace, the user is then able to create Self Issued cards. A self issued card is not unlike a normal business card in that a user tells everyone who they are and they don’t have a choice but to take the users word for it. CardSpace allows a user to create many different digital business cards for themselves, with varying levels of personal information attached to them which may even represent numerous online identities or persona’s. To help solve the ‘you really are who you say you are’ problem that government agencies and financial institutions have been grappling with for the last few years, the Identity Metasystem also provides for Managed Cards. A Managed Card is created by someone who would typically has previously verified the identity of an individual, such that after receiving their managed card – the institution can assert that User A really is User A and is not simply someone posing as User A.
When using an online service, the web site developer can choose to support Windows CardSpace as an authentication mechanism. Once the identity selector is invoked on the client, the user has an opportunity to securely choose which identity to provide to the web site, such that the level of information provided matches the importance or significance of the service. An important point at this point is that if the user provides the same card to many web sites, each web site receives a unique version of that information – such that multiple web services cannot collude.
Daniel presented on an ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit extender for CardSpace, which gives the developer the ability to integrate Windows CardSpace into an existing site with relative ease and good flexibility on the user interface. Daniel happens to be a DotNetNuke junkie as well, the examples that he provided on the night highlighted the existing product integration point quite well. It isn’t all smooth sailing though, Daniel did point out that the developer still needs to do a little work – however the majority of the complex stuff has been taken care of.
Watching the Identity Metasystem mature over the next year or so is going to be quite exciting. Even since listening to Daniel present a week ago, questions I posed to him regarding how CardSpace and OpenID fit together are being answered already with implementations in the wings. If the online identity management scene makes your ears perk up, you can find a whole swag of information at Kim Cameron’s Identity Blog.
The ever popular blogging service Gravatar started by Tom Werner has been acquired by Automattic.
For those that aren’t aware what a gravatar is, it’s a globally recognised avatar. I can hear the question already, what is an avatar and stop speaking Greek. An avatar is a little image or animated icon that people often have displayed beside their names in online forums. A gravatar is generally meant to unique to a user and is used with the intention that it’s easier of recognise a user by glancing at an image rather than by having to read their name.
Automattic acquiring Gravatar is an excellent move for the community in my opinion. In the last year or so, the Gravatar service has been failing after having a solid adoption rate throughout the blogging community. It was a vicious cycle really, as the more exposure they received the more users signed up and the more the service struggled to manage that load. The Automattic crew have quite a bit of experience scaling web sites and services out, after successfully delivering services such as Akismet for fighting spam and the massively popular hosted WordPress.com blogging platform.
A quick message by the founder of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg, points out that since migrating the services into the Automattic infrastructure, that it’s already three times faster. It seems they’ve got some pretty cool plans for the Gravatar service in the future as well:
- Rewrite the service in PHP, the programming language of choice for Automattic
- Move the image delivery into a Content Delivery Network, reduces their load and lowers end user latency as well
- Push the 1,000,000 plus avatars currently in WordPress.com into the Gravatar platform so they are available everywhere
- Integrate the newly rebuilt Gravatar services back into WordPress.com
- Implement cleaner URL’s for each gravatar
There are a bunch of other features that are coming but those are the ones that I thought were most interesting. Congratulations has to go to Tom Werner for developing a great specialist product to start with that was worth an acquisition. I’m excited to see how that all unfolds now under the management and guidance of the Automattic team.