PodLeaders podcast interview

I few weeks ago Tom Raftery interviewed me over Skype as part of his weekly PodLeaders podcast. We chatted about Technorati, Macs, Microsoft, podcasting, and many more topics I’ve been meaning to blog about.

Tom is a fellow Irishman and some of my answers are aimed at a European audience. I’ve briefly answered the questions from the podcast below. You can listen to the entire interview for my full responses to questions from Tom and his listeners.

I recorded the interview from my home at 8 a.m. after a brief cup of tea, so hopefully it all makes sense.

Can you tell us first off about your background? – 0:36
I’ve been in vertical search for about 7 years and blogging even longer. I’ve worked in shopping search, institutional investment search, small business search, and most recently in blog search.
Are PriceGrabber.com and NexTag a bit like Froogle? – 0:57
I’ve never been too impressed with Froogle, and neither has the market. Froogle is about #7 or #8 in the space and PriceGrabber and NexTag are somewhere in the top 5. Kelkoo still dominates in Europe and might be the most familiar shopping comparison site for Tom’s listeners.
How did the Om and Niall PodSessions podcast come about? – 1:46
Om and I would often chat about telcom and the changing Web. We both like being exposed to new ideas, and our conversations were so interesting I wanted to share them with the world. I interviewed Om a few times about VoIP, broadband, and some other topics he likes to cover on his blog, and eventually we decided to create a brand out of it and podcast weekly. He used to call it “lazy blogging” but I think he’s come around to podcasting as a unique medium.
It is interesting how you don’t always see eye to eye – 2:58
That’s what makes it good! We report, you decide…
You recently left Technorati and joined the guys in Microsoft. Does that feel a bit like going over to the Dark side? – 3:43

I think we view companies with large market share as “the dark side” due to their ability to move a market and throw their weight around a bit in not so great ways. Microsoft did some pretty stupid and anticompetitive things I don’t agree with in the late 90s such as threatening businesses such as OEMs not marching to the Microsoft desired beat.

The Windows Live initiative is a chance to rethink how average Internet users interact with online data and that’s an exciting opportunity to me.

When are you starting with Microsoft? – 5:42
I started on Monday, April 24, a few days after my interview with Tom.
Will it mean you having to move from San Francisco to Seattle? – 5:57
No, I’ll continue to live in San Francisco. I like being at the center of activity in the tech world here in the Bay Area and I’m introduced to new ideas all the time. I’m working in Microsoft’s Silicon Valley offices right now but hope to have an office in San Francisco in the near future.
How does Live.com differentiate itself from Google’s start page and MyYahoo? – 7:00
Live.com contains gadgets similar to what you might find on the Google personalized homepage for weather, stock quotes, RSS feeds, or whatever you want. Microsoft gadgets can run not only on your browser home page, but also inside the Windows Vista sidebar. In the future you could run the same gadgets inside a toolbar or on your laptop’s external screen.
You are a Mac user. How will Windows Live work with a Mac, I mean OneCare won’t work with a Mac, will it? – 10:31
Windows Live is a broad brand name but the websites and services should work with Macs and Firefox/Safari. OneCare, Messenger, and toolbar
Is there a business model around Windows Live that you are aware of? – 12:08
Advertising. Microsoft calls their new advertising platform AdCenter and it will deliver targeted ads across all the new websites. An online version of OneCare might have safety-related ads such as Volvo on the same page.
There are rumours emerging about Windows Live offering truckloads of disk space. Do you know anything about that? – 13:47
Yeah, I think it will happen. I blogged about some of the possibilities, and “truckloads” is all relative. We’ll keep wanting more and more space as more media becomes available as digital downloads or ripping technology improves.
What will you be bringing to Microsoft and what would you like to change in their attitude towards RSS/Atom – 16:23
I think about feed syndication technologies all the time. I geek out about the future but don’t forget about many of the potential users out there who would love the benefits of technologies we enjoy if only we could make the technologies easy enough to use. Microsoft has a few hundred million online users and I think they will enjoy reading feeds as part of their daily lives.
What do you think of RSS/Atom/ and other “standards?” Do you think there should be one standard to unite them all? – 18:14

Ah, politics! From a feed reader perspective we’re going to have to parse and make sense of popular formats of publication. If China decides to invent their own XML syndication format tomorrow because existing methods were not invented in China we’d still support reading the data.

I don’t think there will be “one format to unite them all” anytime soon. I think Atom, as an IETF standard, will be the preferred standard of governments swapping data such as Europe’s interoperable delivery programs. RSS 2.0 has been in the wild for about three years now and has a large and proven deployment.

How will that affect Microsoft’s extension of RSS? – 21:09
Microsoft introduced some XML namespaces regarding ordering lists (simple list extensions) and synchronizing data between devices (simple sharing extensions). Both proposals have Creative Commons licenses and, based the conversations I’ve had with Ray Ozzie, are intended as first drafts and idea-starters.
If you had some advice for some aspiring bloggers who wanted to improve the technical sophistication of their blog, what would it be? – 21:43
I get technical sometimes, but I also enjoy explaining complex things to new audiences. If you’re going to be technical I suggest picking a specific topic area and diving deep into it over and over again. Use that topic as an example of technology applications, helping people understand its uses.
As I understand it, you are going in to do some major work on RSS. If that’s true then is this for IE7? Or is this part of a longer term strategy regarding RSS inside MSFT apps? – 23:30
The Windows RSS platform is a part of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP SP 2 and above, including Windows Vista. I’m working on an online platform connecting online and desktop services with common feed syndication tools and technologies. I live online, and IE7 is on the desktop.
Did he have an inkling of an offer from Microsoft before he quit Technorati? If not, I find it interesting that he had enough confidence in his own “brand,” as represented by his blog, to feel he could make that leap into the unknown. – 24:39
The position at Microsoft did not exist when I announced I was leaving Technorati. I left Technorati with a few opportunities in motion, including my own startup. Leaving Technorati was a bit of a leap into the unknown, but I knew the job market was strong enough and was not worried too much.
Bif wants to know how you think the U.S. will do in the World Cup? – 31:30
It’s going to be difficult to keep morale high playing Czech Republic (ranked #2) and Italy (ranked #14) in your first two games. There will be so many Czech and Italian fans in the stands it will feel like a home game for both squads. The U.S. has a strong squad with some good depth, and we have a lot more players in Europe with good weekly competition than we had during the last World Cup. If Ireland almost beat Brazil last year, anything is possible.
How do you keep up with information management? What tools do you use? – 33:51
I try out new feed readers all the time but I mostly use NewsFire and NetNewsWire on my Mac and FeedDemon on my PC.
Will you have to give up the Mac working for MS? Or will you use Bootcamp? – 35:40
I use Windows at work to take advantage of Outlook, Exchange, and intranet sites that work best in Internet Explorer. I still use my MacBook Pro all the time. I bought my first PowerBook so I could have a different work and home computing experience. Coming home to a Mac doesn’t make me feel like I am doing more work. It’s fun.

Thanks Tom!


Commentary on "PodLeaders podcast interview":

  1. Damien Mulley on wrote:

    He forgot to ask when you’re coming over here to talk to the Irish techies. Microsoft have a major presence here so you can come drinking er I mean come over on business to meet Microsoft people. :)

  2. Tom Raftery on wrote:

    What Damien said Niall – when are you coming to Ireland to do some real work?

    Thanks again for being so generous with your time and for such a insightful interview.