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evan williams

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

Dear Evan,

Would you come and speak at the do lectures.

I know you are busy and we are far away, but with a name like williams you must have some welsh roots. Let us know, glad twitter is doing well. all the best. David.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Blogger Should Do

I was recently asked about the "death of blogging" for this article in The Economist. I didn't get back to the reporter in time, though, so my comments ended up, ironically, on his blog. (Conclusion: I don't believe blogging is dying, but...it's complicated. Like in most healthy ecosystems, new species are breeding. Whether or not they're called "blogging" is a question perhaps best left for scientists, but there are many new forms that are undeniably part of the blogging genus.)

Last night at the Churchill Club, I was quoted as saying that Twitter "will dwarf Blogger." I do believe that, but it will be no easy task and will not be soon. Blogger is big. Really big. That chart was from six months ago. Is it losing traction? I don't know. It doesn't look like it was then. And since then, the team over there seems to be kicking ass. A glance at Blogger Buzz show's they've been launching feature after feature the last few months. Launching any features when you're that big is usually a daunting task. Shows that a lot of years building a solid platform have paid off. 

So, the question is: Where do they go from here? Part of that, I suppose, will be determined by where the Google powers-that-be decide Blogger lands on their priority list, given the leaner times. Clearly it's not one their cash cows, but it's also not a side project they're dabbling in. I've heard it makes money (from AdSense on blogs they host), but I really don't know. In fact, I know so little about Blogger these days, I feel like I can actually write about it as an outsider. 

From a product perspective, I do feel like they could get more out of the capabilities and incredible usage they already have. Here's an unordered list of some of the ways I'd look to do that if I were in charge:

Build a Network of Networks: Building more interconnection between users and blogs is clearly part of the focus now with "followers." It's something we realized we were remiss in not doing more of way back when we built the (not very good) profile pages in 2004, when Friendster was the big thing and Orkut was launching down the hall. There are a ton of mechanisms to do this, but one thing to consider: Don't try to make one big network. Perhaps enable anybody to create a blog network/community thingy. (There might be a doc around there about "Blogger Hubs" -- not sure if it's still relevant.)

Point People to Good Content: When it comes to interconnectedness, don't just try to make it more "social." Social is important, but pure socialness can be achieved elsewhere. One unique thing about Blogger -- vs. say Facebook or MySpace -- is the content. How can you make the content more interlinked and use the network to get more attention to the good stuff, thus rewarding the creating of more good stuff? You know what the most-viewed/commented/linked-to post on Blogger was today. Show it to me! I bet it's interesting! (Even better: Show me what's most popular within my blog network.) BTW, if revenue, not just usage, is a priority, this plays to that, because it's the content focused blogs that can make the money.

Get More Out of the Navbar: The toolbar you have at the top of millions of blogs could do so much more. This is where you can put the feedback mechanisms, interlinking mechanisms, etc. NextBlog could be a whole thing! Make that so I never wanna stop clicking because it always shows me something awesome. (Think StumbleUpon within the Blogger network.)

Prettier Templates: When it comes down to it, many people just want a page that looks good. This a large part of Tumblr's appeal, in my opinion. You gotta upgrade those templates. I know prettiness is not a focus in your culture, but bring them into 2007 at least web design, if not 2009. 

Help People use the Layout Engine: The new templating system does everything anyone would every want. But you kinda gotta be a programmer who likes programming in production, in a textarea, in a language you've never used, to tap into it. Yes, there's point-and-click design and widget goodness, but it seems...hard. Can you make it seem fun? Can you make it so pseudo-developers can figure it out and others can leverage that? Layout sharing perhaps (kill two birds)? 

Make it Fast: You've made some progress on slimming down the posting form page (at least in Draft). But I don't know if we've fully embraced the Google mantra of speed is every. I predict you'd see a 30% increase in posts if you made posting twice as fast. (That goes for the whole workflow, not just the posting form.)

Become the Aggregator: One possible answer to the question to what role does the stand-alone blog live in the age of a million-and-one generalized and specialized participatory web experiences is as a personal aggregator that reflects back the other stuff one does on the web. Yes, I'll load all that stuff into FriendFeed, but that's not my "online presence" as we used to say back in the day. Everybody (or at least a lot of people) needs an URL -- and one without a ? in it. I want my tweets, and my photos, and my whatevers to show up on evhead.com (hosted by Blogger) in an attractive way. 

Put Ads in the App Interface: For example, the published landing page alone must get millions of views a day. And it's the perfect point for someone to go elsewhere. See if you can target it off what they wrote about. No one will mind (much). And strengthening your revenue story will strengthen your position in the company. 

Do Something Radical: I almost feel like this list is way too conservative. Not that I think Blogger's in trouble. But I suspect there something potentially more awesome that you could pull off by leveraging what you already have. You probably have those ideas. When there are so many great things to do that you know will work, it's hard to not focus on them. But it might be time to try something wacky.

Sorry, I know you've already thought of these things. When you're working on a product and people on the outside tell you what you should do, acting like they're all smart, it's annoying. The hard part is building stuff, not thinking it up. Carry on. (But seriously, the prettier templates thing.)

Tea manifesto

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

i am a tea junkie.

right now i am doing my normal january thing - no choc, no coffee, no alcohol and no tea.

i miss the no tea the most.

i made everyone a cuppa tea this morning, including myself out of habit.

then had to watch it go cold as i remembered it was january.

anyway, i saw this the morning.


we even get a mention.

pete, if you are reading this, lets ask them to do a piece for the catalogue.

pete, if you are not reading this, where are ya?

Manifesto of the Tea Appreciation Society 

1. We want to sing the love of tea.

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be loose leaf tea, boiled water, a tea pot, a china cup and a biscuit.

3. Literature has up to now magnified idleness, and slumber. We want to exalt these slow movements of ecstasy, feverish boiling of the kettle, the pour, the perilous stir, the rattle and the clink of the spoon.

4. We declare that the splendour of the world has been enriched by an old beauty: the beauty of tea.

5. Beauty exists only in considered brewing. There is no masterpiece that has an aggressive character. Poetry is not a violent assault on the forces of infusion.

6. We want to glorify peace - the only cure for the world - militarism, patriotism; these destructive gestures kill the beautiful ideas of the human race.

7. We want to visit museums and libraries, encourage philosophy.

8. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work; the revolt, smashing the supermarkets; we will rejoice in the baking of bread; the polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern music as we play our ukuleles: the nocturnal vibration of the worms in our compost; our spirits suspended from the clouds by the thread of cup in sleeve tea bags; and the gliding flight of creativity whose propeller sounds like the sipping of enthusiastic tea drinkers.

Buy this book -One track mind

  • Posted by howies
  • 10 December 2008

it's done by a good friend of mine - tony davidson.

he was one of our biggest shareholders in the old days.

but it wasn't his money that kept clare and me going but his belief.

no matter how much bad news we delivered to his doorstep, he just kept saying keep going - i believe.

Then he would laugh out loud and we would get back to work.

yup, he's as mad as they come. but as smart as they come too.

he only trusts his instincts.

he only listens to his heart, not an accountant or a spreadsheet.

so please buy his book.

it's for a good cause -breast cancer research.

and if you do buy the book, please add your comments to the comments page on amazon.

I promised I would blog it, here's the website.

Favourite Products Spring/Summer 2007

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


Your faves:


  1. Woody Jean
  2. Utility Zip Hoody
  3. Rookie Jean
  4. Chesson Polo
  5. NBL Light Long-sleeved
  6. Timber Jean
  7. Turnmill Short
  8. Freetrailer Trouser
  9. Rimmer Polo
  10. Janitor Jean


  1. Eve Jumper
  2. Utility Half-zip Embroidered Sweat
  3. Tomboy Jean
  4. Campus Tee
  5. Yurt Fleece
  6. Wellies T-Shirt
  7. Dorothy Skirt
  8. BU Jean
  9. Prudence Vest
  10. Seeker Jacket

Favourite Products Autumn/Winter 2006

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


Your faves:


  1. Organic Skomer Jean
  2. No Bull T-Shirt
  3. Slouch Trouser
  4. 9 Bikes T-Shirt
  5. Long-Sleeved NBL - Black
  6. Love Me, Love My Bike T-Shirt
  7. NBL Light Long-Sleeved - Cyan/Graphite
  8. Life T-Shirt - Navy
  9. Janitor Organic Trouser - Jungle
  10. GB Ltd T-Shirt


  1. Tomboy Jean
  2. Calamity Poplin Shirt
  3. Sawyer Jean
  4. Tomboy Cords - Graphite
  5. Tomboy Cords - Jungle
  6. NBL Half Zip
  7. Prioy Pants - Black
  8. We Are All In This Together T-Shirt - Ketchup
  9. Priory Pants - Powder
  10. Freerider Jacket

Best Album 2006

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


It's taken a while - but here they are - the best albums of 2006.
Thanks to everyone who mailed in their suggestions.

What you liked

Hot Chip - The Warning
Muse - Black Holes & Revelations
Adem - Love and Other Planets
Beck - The Information
The Fratellis - Costello Music
The Kooks - Inside In/Inside Out
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
Fat Freddy's Drop - Based on a True Story
Thom Yorke - Eraser

What we like

Paulo Nutini - These Streets
Blessed Hellride - Zak Wylde & The Black Label Society
Mad Villian - Mad Villiany
Audioslave - Revelations
Goldfrapp - Supernature
Tool - 10,000 days
Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Thom Yorke - Eraser
Muse - Black holes & Revelations
Jack Johnson - In Between dreams (2005)

Best Books 2006

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


Books and the written word are powerful things, so here is a list of the most influential books of 2006 (although a few from earlier years have crept in due to popularity!).

What you like

Extremely Loud an Incredibly Close - Jonathn Safran Foer
Long Way Down - Nick Hornby
May Contain Nuts - John O'Farrell
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami
Jpod - Douglas Coupland
The Naming of the Dead - Ian Rankin
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence - Nick Bantock
The Iron Man - Ted Hughes

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning - George Monbiot
As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade - Mark Thomas
Let My People Go Surfing - Yvonne Chouinard
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy - Noam Chomsky
Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer - Chris Salewicz
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All It's Moods - Michael Wex
Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew - Bernard Hare
The Sky Is Falling on Our Heads: Lifting the Kilts on the Celts - Rob Penn

What we like

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Islam: A Short History - Karen Armstrong
The Accidental - Ali Smith
The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
The Northern Light Trilogy - Phillip Pullman
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Night Watch - Terry Pratchett
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Pollen - Jeff - Noon
Are You Experianced - William Sutcliffe

Best Track To Ride To

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


What you like

Aphex Twin - Girl/Boy Song
Cooper Temple Clause - Promises, Promises
Hot Chip - Over and Over
Defiance Ohio - Bikes & Bridges
The White Stripes - Blue Orchid
Royksopp - What Else is There (Thin White Duke Remix)
Sister Bliss & Rollo Mix - I Feel Love
Yo La Tengo - Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind
The Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet
The Rapture - The Devil

What we like

Animal Collective - Grass
Micheal Jackson - Thriller
Gorillaz - Dirty Harry
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
David Bowie - Rock N Roll Suicide
Muse - Hysteria
The Black Label Society - Blessed Hellride
Golden Earring - Radar Love
Steve Vai - Chronic Insomnia
Rancid - Fall Back Down

Most Inspirational Person

  • Posted by howies
  • 30 October 2008


Who you like

Steven Wilson - Illustrator
Bruce Parry - Explorer/Anthropologist
John Butler - Photographer
Candide Thovex - Professional Skiier
Al Gore - Politician
Mark Thomas - Comedian
Peter Hewitt - Director
Clive Minnitt - Photographer
Hunter S. Thompson - Author
Jamie Oliver - Chef

Who we like

Nathaniel Hornblower - Musician/Director
Dean Karnazes - Marathon Runner
Zakk Wylde - Guitarist
Anna Hemmings - Canoeing Champion
Ellen MacArthur - Yachtswoman
Valentino Rossi - Motorcycle Racer
Chris Wolstenholme - Bassist/Guitarist
Yvon Chouinard
Al Gore

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