Blogging goes retro, gets physical

April 20th, 2007 by Bill

I chuckled on hearing a story on NPR this week about a publishing company from Iceland — yes, ICELAND! — that plans to launch free daily newspapers in 10 US cities. Apart from the Iceland connection, nothing unusual about that. The rub is that the newspaper content will largely come from selected web bloggers. Its a sort of vanity press — on paper — for the digerati. The publisher will pay the bloggers for their content, but obviously at a lower rate than, say, the NY Times pays Tom Friedman.

The really interesting thing to me is that the whole idea turns on its head the notion that news in physical form is a dinosaur and that everything good is going digital. Not so, it seems; people still like to hold a newspaper, or book, in their hands. Another thought of possible interest to bloggers whose content might be selected for print publication (“Anablogs”?): the Pulitzer Prize awards for journalism haven’t (yet) favored digital journalists. If ya wanna be famous, ya gotta be in print!

Saving for Live

March 8th, 2007 by Editor

by Claes-Fredrik Mannby

Life LibraryA topic that has started migrating from research communities to widespread adoption is the notion of a Life Library.

In 1945, Vannevar Bush proposed a computer system he called the memex (“memory extender”). It involved electronically linking frames of microfilm. Ever since, and probably since long before then, people have had the notion of treating the world around them, in a sense, as an extended memory system.

When you collect souvenirs from the places you visit, and put them on your shelves or in your drawers, you stash away potent memory-evoking devices that you know you will run into, bringing back memories when you encounter them.

When you read books and add them to your library, you extend an index in your mind, and accrue wisdom. The books themselves, whether you keep them at home, or rely on other libraries, become reference material that you can use to elaborate on the memories as needed.

Digital media, as exemplified by movies, audio recordings, hypertext, photos and chat logs, open up a similar world of extended human mind.

Exbiblio sees incredible value in uniting the physical and digital worlds into a single extension for your mind, in this sense. By capturing video and audio recordings of physical parts of your “library,” we can connect them directly to the digital realm, which usually has counterparts to the physical library, and add value in various ways by helping you navigate both realms, continually learning from your individual usage and from aggregate usage.

It’s a very topical and interesting question, then, what aspects of such “Life Libraries” that have been proposed or exist, which have failed and which have been successful, and which will become commonplace, if any.


A Warm Thanks to Hugh

March 8th, 2007 by Editor

by Claes-Fredrik Mannby

In starting up our external blogging activity again, I think it’s fitting to give a big, warm thanks to Hugh for finding such interesting related developments in the world to write about, and especially for the courage to implement Naked Conversations here at Exbiblio.

Our ambition is to be a truly open company in many ways, upholding truth, honesty, and transparency in every aspect of our business, be it corporate communications, reporting, software code or hardware layouts.


Goodbye Exbiblio

November 27th, 2006 by Adam

It has been an whirlwind year and a half at Exbiblio. This will be my last week as an employee. Hugh did a good job of describing the current situation in his post, so I won’t rehash it here.

I’ve been able to have lots of different roles: Contract Programmer, CEO (in the early days), Mac Developer, Beta Manager, Blogger, Web App Developer, Product Designer, Operations, Branding, Mail Delivery, etc… I’ve had seven different offices if you count the first months when I worked from my Bee Documents office!

I recently came across the phrase “boiling the ocean” which is a good way of describing my frustration with Exbiblio. We have been trying to change the world, business, and technology all at once without a clear plan to do so. I think we could done a much better job at carefully choosing targets and knocking them down one at a time. Hopefully, the team that remains at Exbiblio will be able to find this kind of focus.

Certainly, there have been many great positives to working at Exbiblio as well. The biggest joy has been all is the people I’ve had a chance to work with, both past and present team members…

Martin has an idea a minute, challenges convention at every opportunity, and feels that a business is only worthwhile if it changes the world for the better. Hugh takes honesty and openness in corporate blogging to a new level. Lauren has the coolest music collection ever which got me re-interested in the Beatles and older Wilco stuff. Noah introduced me to sushi which I am now addicted to. Hap exhibits the kind of living that we all aspire to. Janinne is passionate about creating the kind of work environment and culture that everyone dreams about. Arial has “integrity” tattooed to her hand, literally. Claes-Fredrik can make a game out of any technological innovation. Ed M does the best job of herding cats that I have ever seen. Thanks to Ed T for the phrases “vaguely Asian” and “classy” which I have adapted and made part of the my vocabulary. Hillary has a passion for the environment, that if it could somehow be converted to electricity, would solve all the world’s energy problems. Richard is often a cool voice of reason which is at least as valuable as his brilliant technical ability. Quentin pointed the way towards bringing Martin’s crazy ideas to fruition. Ania asks really hard questions about beauty and truth in design meetings. Ian is the kind of person everyone wants to work with and be around. Damon is so smart it’s scary. Brendan is quiet until the topic of bicycles or politics come up. Jer’s blog posts about green design speak to his passion and he illustrates images of dog food surprising well. john makes sure that we are not just a pizza pocket and Coke type of operation (who knows why we aren’t allowed to capitalize his name?). Jesse makes everything work that way it should, and has a good answer for every question.

There are many others who have been apart of the Exbiblio team. Sorry I can’t list all of you. Thanks for the memories and the knowledge you have given me.

The other great aspect of working with Exbiblio is that big dreams are the fuel that this company runs on. The dreams of the founders and employees are a very explicit part of daily operation, which is a rare and valuable environment to work in. I hope that many of the dream come true.

Thanks for the great ride, I will always be a friend and fan of Exbiblio.

Corporate Blogs Still Suck

September 1st, 2006 by Adam

Corporate Blogs Still Suck

I came across this shirt the other day proclaiming that “Corporate Blogs Still Suck.” It made me laugh, but then it made me think… Do they?

In the 50 or so blogs that I read on a daily basis, there are very few “corporate” blogs though there are quite a few blogs of interesting people who have started small software companies. Probably the most corporate blog I follow is the Direct 2 Dell Blog.

I think most of the time, the Dell blog doesn’t suck. I’m wouldn’t consider myself a Dell fan, but I’m not a hater either. I admire their mastery of the supply chain process and have bought a few Dells over the years. It is amazing how quickly and inexpensively they can put together and deliver a completely custom machine. I have also had good experiences with their customer support the few times that I have needed to call.

I’ll admit that part of the reason the Dell blog is fun to watch is that they got completely slammed by negative comments in the first few posts. Turns out that there is a lot of pent up frustration aimed at Dell, and some of the early posts seemed canned and readers let out their steam in the comment section.

I admire the folks running the Dell blog though because they have stuck it out and have been evolving the blog into more of a conversation and less of a brochure blog. Not that it is perfect yet, but you can tell that they are really trying to get it right.

I’m wondering what your favorite corporate blogs are and whether you think that corporate blogs, in general, still suck. If you think they do, what needs to change so that they don’t? Please comment!

Website Redesign

August 21st, 2006 by Team Member


This is a re-post of a blog entry I made to my internal blog on August 18. Internal blogs are one of the ways we communicate process and progress with one another at Exbiblio, and I thought I’d share it on our main blog as well since it’s about a process that many other small companies face at some point or another. So, without further ado, the post. — Ariel

What’s happening in my world (long)

Perhaps it’s hubris to think so, but maybe there are one or two folks out there who wonder what the heck happens on my side of the office every day. Well, among a couple of other smaller projects, I spend the majority of my time working on the website redesign.

Traditionally, web presences for small companies have been built as an afterthought. Many of these entities don’t want to devote time and resources toward building what is seen as simply a static brochure, so a site is launched with no planning or concern for the needs of its audiences; the goal is to just have a web footprint. I’m sure each and every one of us has been directed toward a company’s site hoping to learn more about it, only to find vague text and a directive to call the company for more information. How many of us pick up the phone?


Cool Sites

August 15th, 2006 by Hugh

I’m very pleased to see that Neville Hobson has picked our blog as one of his top ten cool sites of the moment. Just in case you are wondering, I don’t know Neville personally, but I do drop by his blog frequently and sometimes leave comments (but no bribes).

He’s put us in the company of 9 really cool sites indeed. I’ll pick out three that I think will go down particularly well with Exbiblio people. They chime in with the company’s obsession to create an ultra cool product that will do plenty of good in the world, perhaps best expressed by Claes-Fredrik recently.

Presentation Zen is by a former Apple employee. It’s much more than a design blog, and looks at all things presentational, including stand-ups in front of a conference hall. It fits in with Exbiblio’s mission to leave beauty in its wake. As I’ve mentioned before, Apple is much admired around the office. I recommend this post on the Steve Jobs style at doing Macworld summer presentations. He points you to one you might not have seen recently – the 1997 vintage.

Creating Passionate Users The name speaks for itself. Exbiblio’s hardware / software project is seeking out passionate users. Try reading code like a girl to see if that gets some office debate going.

The Institute for the Future’s Future Now.
You’ll find plenty of wacky inventions here, for example the Synthetic Gecko suit that would help your window cleaner climb up the wall like Spiderman.

Why blog?

July 28th, 2006 by Hugh

The first week of this blog has had a slightly bumpy ride, but I suppose that all the most interesting journies have a few bumps on the way. I thought it might be useful to link to the site which explains why a company might want to have a blog in the first place. It’s called the Cluetrain Manefesto, and it propounds the now famous theory that markets are conversations and that those conversations are conducted in a human (not marketing/pr type) voice. You’ve probably come across it before, but it’s always worth a re-read. You have to scroll down the page to get to the Manefesto.

About Mortality

July 26th, 2006 by Team Member

Martin King writes: Hugh’s post “Mortality” gave me serious pause. For a short time I changed the WordPress state of this post to “private” – but then we restored it.

One of the guidelines we established in deciding to blog about Exbiblio was that we must reserve the privacy of exbiblio’s employees (of which I am one). There’s nothing actually wrong with Hugh’s post, no major inaccuracies – I just felt it was way too personal. But (of course) this turns out to be my fault, not Hugh’s. Here is the background:

Until very recently Exbiblio’s website described me as a “wacky inventor.”

So one of my “wacky” ideas was that we should write a book about Exbiblio, which book (as was suggested by several people) would employ Exbiblio’s technology – i.e., would be the first truly
interactive paper document, have numerous markup layers of comments, personal experiences, photos, etc. for each of Exbiblio’s employees (including me), etc. This imagined book would tell the story of our radical, values-first company – and might come bundled with one of the oPen scanners we are building. This imagined book would also essentially tell the the story of itself being written, maybe with a last chapter describing us shipping off the paper manuscript plus a scanner to various publishers…

Wacky, but by no means too wacky for me. And, a bit to my surprise, others at Exbiblio also thought this book idea was at least worth exploring. So on a Sunday afternoon last May I posted this to the Seattle Craigslist:

Experienced and Accomplished Author Near Seattle
Reply to:
Date: 2006-05-14, 1:48PM PDT

Experienced and accomplished author near Seattle with technical depth – to write a sequel to Kidder’s “Soul of a New Machine” – but where the context and story are far, far more interesting.

This book will be about a truly extraordinary Seattle technology start-up company with a grand vision of the future – and it will be about (and written in collaboration with) the remarkable group of people who are pursuing this vision.


And I also reached out directly to several established authors – including Hugh’s business partner Matthew Lynn (at the time I was reading Matthew’s “Birds of Prey” – which is wonderfully written). This is how we eventually get to Hugh (in London) blogging about Exbiblio (in Seattle).

A few weeks ago, at Exbiblio’s invitation, Hugh came to Seattle to see what we were doing and to discuss a possible book. But shortly after he arrived I steered our discussions and efforts to blogging for the company – not least because I wasn’t at all sure I was going to be willing to give up my treasured (and much defended and long preserved) privacy if we ever did decide to do a book.

So Exbiblio engaged Hugh to help with our blog – but Hugh and I also continued to discuss the potential to do a book, and the material it might contain. Indeed, as Hugh and I were sitting in Seattle’s fabulous SeaTac International Airport, with two hours before his return flight to London, I brought our conversation back to this maybe, sometime, probably-never-happen book. Or I thought I did anyway. Hugh thought we were still discussing the Blog.

So I am telling Hugh some of the background behind Exbiblio, my motivations, and a bunch of personal stuff – thinking this is possible material for the book, should we in fact ever decide to do a book.

And Hugh, who is thinking blog, keeps saying things like, “You know, everything you say will look different in print…” and, “You really won’t have a problem if these things are published?”

A few weeks later (as in last night) key parts of this conversation showed up on our blog. Hugh was sound asleep eight time zones away (unfortunately, not exactly “Near Seattle”). So I took his post off the site for 12 hours (hey, it was about me) until I could reach Hugh to discuss it. At which point we discovered some slight differences in how we understood our conversation at the airport. And I realized his post was here to stay.

The Founder Question at Start-ups

July 24th, 2006 by Hugh

I want to be open about a challenge I face in my role as an outside blogger for Exbiblio. I believe it reflects a common situation at start-up businesses. Let’s call it “The Founder Question.”

The founder of Exbiblio is a man of very strong character and vision called Martin King. He knows that the time will come for him to bow out of his leadership role. As it happens, in his case he is far more acutely aware of this eventuality than most – but that’s an important story for another time.

Martin has asked me to minimise mentions of him in this blog and to “depersonalise” where possible. This is understandable. He wants Exbiblio’s values and culture to become so deeply rooted that they last for long after he has stepped back from the company. To quote an influentual book, “Built to Last”, a “visionary company” is far more enduring and has more impact that a “visionary leader”.

But the story of a start-up without the founder is a bit like Hamlet without the ghost (or even without Hamlet). The plot would not make sense. Inevitably, this blog will have to cast him in a central role, although I will try to meet his concern where possible.

“The Founder Question” has many aspects, and is surely one that almost every start-up has to come to terms with and solve. It all boils down to knowing when to let go. It’s an interesting topic to which we shall be returning.