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May 28, 2006

The Baroque Cycle

QuicksilverConfusionSystem of the World

I have just finished reading the final volume of the majestic Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is one of my favourite writers - although generally known as an SF writer, his interests encompass commerce, cryptography, the history of science, and a whole lot else. This wide-ranging set of interests is exemplified by the scope of the Baroque Cycle - three books (don't call them a trilogy) spanning the period from the 1640's to 1714, and detailing the rise of the Royal Society, the late-17th Century machinations over royal succession in France, Spain and England, the emergence of modern capitalism, and the escapades of a very richly painted cast of characters ranging from Sir Isaac Newton to 'The King of the Vagabonds'.

I happen to be pretty interested in historical fiction (partly as a result of being married to a history nerd for nine years) as well as technology and science fiction (in moderation), so I lapped these books up (though, with the demands on my time of a one-year-old child, the last book has taken me most of this year to read).

The only thing I was worried about was Stephenson's famed inability to finish a story - a failing that lets his earlier work, Cryptonomicon, down quite badly. But the Baroque Cycle ends well, with all the bad guys being thwarted and all our favourite characters achieving peace, love, and happiness. Just what you want after slogging through over 2,000 pages.

If you're interested in learning more about Neal Stephenson, there's an excellent 'interview' with him on slashdot. Well worth reading all the way through. I may track the man down (out of sheer perversity, for he eschews recognition) when I move to Seattle, where he lives.

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May 05, 2006

Microsoft buys DeepMetrix

In a move that should generate no surprise whatsoever, Microsoft has announced that it is acquiring DeepMetrix, a Canadian web analytics firm. It's an obvious (and sensible) move to counter the activities of Google, whose own product, Google Analytics, is a useful adjunct to Google Adwords  - as well as having caused the biggest shake-down of the web analytics industry by being made available free of charge.

Funnily enough, although MS is obviously not first to market with this kind of offering, I think there are a number of benefits from being second in this case:

1. The launch of Google Analytics for free probably depressed the value of DeepMetrix (though MS's deep pockets were probably not much troubled by the purchase price)

2. Google's much-publicised cock-up of the launch of Google Analytics provides useful lessons in managing capacity (and expectation) amongst potential users

3. The web analytics market's moved on a lot in the past 18 months, with outfits like Omniture, Webtrends and WebSideStory really making a strategic move into online marketing management. MS may be in a better position to square the circle of working closely with these folks as partners (since their products will want to be able to deploy and track ad response on AdCenter) whilst simultaneously launching a (somewhat) competitive product into the market.

[Above post edited 6/13/06 to correct mistakes pointed out in comments below]

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The look of Web 2.0

Want to know what Web 2.0 will look like? This great collection of Web 2.0 logos is a good place to start. Seems that 'friendly' fonts, and the colours orange and green are the very thing for the aspiring Web 2.0 logo designers. Glad to see that the Foviance logo conforms.

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