Okay, I really want to play with this…

Seen a few posts on Xobni through the usual channels the past few days (most recently through Fred Wilson on A VC).

The video on this page sums it up better than I could ever explain but in a nutshell it’s an add-on for those of us ‘laggards’ still running Outlook that adds a bit of the social network ‘flair’ to the app.

Clearly written by folks like me – who live and die by what’s buried in their email client – every one of the six main features outlined on their ‘Learn More‘ page speaks to me with a sense of “ooh, I really gotta have that”.

As usual though they’re in private-Beta – soooooo….. anyone got a spare invite they could toss my way?

Flickr Goes Global

I actually intended to post this before I left for Germany but I got busy and then had crap Intenret connectivity for a week. So, belatedly, here it is…

Anyone who’s dug around in the “Everyone’s photos” section of Flickr has probably realized that the people who submit pictures to the site come from all over the world but oddly enough, up until now, Flickr has only ever had an interface in English.

I noticed the other day that there was a new title bar across the top of the screen offering up the fact that Flickr was now available in a multitude of languages.

On top of English, Flickr is now available in French, German, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. Localized interfaces are something that, more often than not, I’ve found the Web 2.0 apps are lacking. Most are aimed squarely at US English speaks and that’s it.

Screencap: Franz Patzig
Amusingly enough the trend that has emerged is companies in foreign countries creating the same tool but in their local language. A German-based Digg clone was acquired for many millions – a huge number when you consider it was a market that the company could likely have served for want of some localization work and global thinking. Instead they left the door open for someone else to walk right into their market, leverage their effort and ideas and then take a huge chunk of money off the top as they get acquired.

Any company that offers a software product, thick client or web-based, should take these types of lessons as a reminder of the importance of thinking beyond North America’s borders.

Bitching about trees blocking your view of the forest

Periodically the guys at 37Signals come up with some good stuff on their Signal vs. Noise blog – although I’ll admit I don’t always agree with all of their approaches I can accept “to each their own” and move on. This morning though I opened up my reader to this post.

Which is bizarre when you look at how availability of connectivity is ever increasing. EVDO cards, city-wide wifis, iPhones, Blackberry’s. There are so many ways to get online these days that the excitement for offline is truly puzzling. Until you consider the one place that is still largely an island of missing connectivity: The plane!

But planes are not a very common hang-out spot for most people. The two major groups of people who are on a plane often enough to care and have an interest in web applications are traveling salesmen and techies who go to too many conferences.

It’s funny, in some respects that I totally know the mindset this post was written in – You get so wrapped up in an argument/train of thought you leap over all kinds of logical conclusions and miss the true point of a topic. It’s unfortunate though that he didn’t catch it before he made such a cocky post.

The excitement behind offline applications isn’t being generated by guys on planes – sure for consumer apps the offline notion is largely unnecessary but for a business it’s just not optional. The unfortunate reality is that Internet connections are still not 100% reliable (although getting better everyday) and outside of the US unlimited data plans are either ridiculously expensive or, in Canada’s case, non-existent.

Case in point – back in December we had our DSL modem die and for whatever reason we had a nightmare of a time finding one that worked (we went through a few all with their own troubles). Problem – at the time we had just started using Google Docs for passing around a bunch of stuff we were working on internally and thus, they were completely unavailable to us. We were literally stuck on a major internal initiative until we could get home & get connected once more.

Until some of the online business tool apps start offering offline capabilities we just can’t take that risk anymore. It’s issues like this that are driving excitement behind offline app access, not bored guys on planes looking to put in an extra few hours of work.

One comment that caught my attention:

“So when 37signals can’t do something, they just tell people they are stupid for wanting it.”

Hmmm… I wonder if there’s some truth in that….

The Future of Racing?

Wow. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare between 2pm & 4/4:30pm (EST) today head over to NASCAR.com – yeah, yeah, yeah make your jokes but if you have any interest in very cool web technology you owe it to yourself put aside your preconceptions and check out their new “Trackpass: Raceview” feature.

In a nutshell, NASCAR is now offering a feature that gives you a real-time 3D view of the race focused on your favorite driver (or driver of choice). You can choose from three angles, listen to in-car audio from up to 40 cars or choose to listen to the radio broadcast.

Extra features include telemetric data (data from the cars) and real-time standings including lap-times, split-times & championship points etc.

NASCAR is running it as a free preview for today during the Gatorade Duels which are qualifying races for this weekends Daytona 500.