Amateurs not killed the professionals, Andrew!

Andrew Keen Interviews

I was in the bar after Primeconf with Chris Dymond and Hwayoung.  Discussing something and somehow me and Chris mentioned Andrew Keen. If you don’t know Andrew Keen, he’s basically the man who’s been shouting about how the professional sector is going to be swallowed alive by the amateur sector. From Wikipedia…

He is particularly known for his view that the current Internet culture and the Web 2.0 trend may be debasing culture

Well 8 years later, his book The cult of the amateur seems as silly as it then. In actual fact we were discussing how the amateurs have moved across to pro-amateurs. An example is blogging! The number of blogs like mine has certainly dropped and most are now “professional.”

Not kept up with what Andrew’s point is now but frankly he was wrong then and I called him out at multiple events for this view. I have also called out a few people for a similar and embarrassing point of view (no names, but they know who and should know better!)

Last nights geekdinner with Chris Anderson

 Chris talking to Dedrie, Rachel and Chris

Well I'm still pretty speechless about yesterday's Geekdinner with Chris Anderson. Not only was it the most popular geekdinner I've done to date (between 80-90 people came along, not including the @media social) but it was also the most stressful in a good way. Before I go into details, I would like to say thank you to Dr Jo Twist, Rina Gill, Nizam Shaikh and of course Chris Anderson.

What made the geekdinner stressful was the amount of time between announcement of the event and the actual event, which was a total of 7 days. I found a venue the Bottlescrue on Holburn Viaduct which allowed me to have the back room free on a Friday night. The room held about 40-50 people maximum, but there was space outside of the room for overspill. This was great because according to the signups on Wednesday it looked like we may get about 35 people. (The maths I usually do according to most other geekdinners I've done is, take the signup half them and add a few more.) Well this time my maths was badly wrong. Almost everyone who signed up, came along and then some. So we quickly ran out of food. So half way through the night just before Chris talked, I pleaded with the manager to buy more food. And in the end all the extra cash went straight back into more food. Honestly, ask Nizam, we bought everything they had. Nothing was left after the geekdinner, no chips, no pittabread, no crisps, no nothing. So big cheers to the Bottlescrue for doing everything they could and coping under the massive pressure. I'm sure there profits for the night went through the roof. I'm also glad I didn't have to run to tesco and buy tons of stuff.

The only other negative for the night which was also related to the huge crowd of people who turned up, was the move to outside. Outside was fantatstic and the London summer air was warm and inviting. But it also meant traffic and noise from the street. When it came time for Chris to talk, he was always fighting against the background noise of the street and general bar area. I positioned him where I thought it might be best, aka noise behind the crowd but there were so many people it was hard for Chris to shout that loud. I'm very sorry to everyone who were around the fringes who found it very hard to hear him. If we were inside it would be very different and usually at geekdinners, I have a microphone and PA system setup. Oh and for the record, I did try and rent one from work, but they wouldn't let me take it out of the building. So I might have to invest a cheap one from ebay or something.

Ok finally on to the positive and frankly amazing night of fun the geekdinner was yesterday. Chris was on top form, I was worried because Rina did say he had just done 3 talks that day and was slightly tired but was very much up for the geekdinner. Actually talking to Chris briefly, he said he was actually look forward to the geekdinner more than anything else, simply because it was his type of thing. Who could say no to Beer, food and good conversation in a nice London bar during Summer? Anyway he was a little concerned about projecting his voice when he finally got to the venue but was happy to hang out and speak to people after a 45min Q and A. So while the food was being consumed quickly, I hit two glass bottles together and got the talk going.

Now I didn't record the whole thing but Kosso did. So as soon as he uploads the video, I'll link to it. I did however start to record the question and answers. And will have them up soon. As usual there are tons of photos by myself being uploaded to Flickr using the tags londongeekdinner and geekdinner.

I was highly impressed with the amount of new people who turned up and I have to say the percentage of women to men wasn't that bad either.

Thanks again to everyone who came, I'm planning the next one with someone from Amazon for late July. So keep your eyes on the geekdinner site for announcements.

The videos from yesterday are now up.. There a quarter of the size and encoded in Mpeg4. Quicktime and VLC will play it back no real problem.

Chris talks about wired's advertising problem
Chris Anderson on the Long Tail – 4meg

Ask the first question
Chirs Anderson starting the question and answers – 31.8meg

Chris disagrees on Net Netrailty
Chris Anderson on Net Netrality – 13.7meg

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Geekdinner with Chris Anderson – Today Friday 7th 2006

Me recording Chris at the BBC

After a weeks worth of promoting, the Longtail geekdinner with Chris Anderson is today. Funny enough, it may turn out to be one of the most popular geekdinner's we have done for a while now. The sign up looks like we may get close to the Dave Shea geekdinner which was limited by the venue more that anything else. I actually thought it would be a low sign up because Chris has been talking all over London the last few days. But then I saw this from Beers and Innovations Dedrie.

In addition to press interviews and the like, Google, The Economist, Reuters, IPPR, Amazon and the BBC have internal events with Mr A in the Greater London Area. All corporations (IPPR excepted) that produce and / or aggregate content, all looking to engage with a thinker and perhaps emerge from the meeting with a light dusting of Long Tail magic on their staff, processes and strategy.

For the rest of us outside the corporate walls, there’s a Geek Dinner this Friday 7th July at which Chris will also speak and partake in a Q&A with the crowd. To attend you just need to add your comment here.

If it’s anything like the last Geek Dinner I went to (which featured Marc Canter as guest) – this could be a better chance to get past the basics and really get the synapses firing than more high-profile public events.

The key part is the last part. See Chris won't have the chance to simply do his presentation again. There will be no projector or laptop, just geeks. This is certainly a chance to really get geeky and discuss the long tail at a level which you may not get anywhere else. To be honest, geekdinner is a great example of the longtail. Its very niche and wouldn't work as a mass market type of thing. This is what I don't get when people write to me and suggest that geekdinner could be something bigger that it is now.

Back to tonight. I've finally worked out all the details.

When: Friday 7th July 2006 (today)
Where: The Bottlescrue
53 – 60 Holburn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FD
Nearest Underground: City Thameslink (Holburn Viaduct) or Chancery Lane Station
Time: 18:30 – 23:00
Special Guest: Chris Anderson
Cost: 5 pounds (Final price)

Hope to see you all there…

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The next geekdinner with Chris ‘Longtail’ Anderson

The long tail

The next geekdinner will be on Friday 7th July 2006 with the Chris “the long tail” Anderson. If your not familar with the long tail, please do check out The Long Tail, in a nutshell which covers everything in excellent detail.

Chris Anderson is the current editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, which has been around before many of us were tangled up in the web. Chris first coined the phrase “The Long Tail” in the 2004 Wired article by the same name. And has expanded his thoughts into a book titled The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More (2006). Which you can buy on Amazon or any other good book seller. Before Wired he worked at The Economist, in London, Hong Kong and New York, where he launched there coverage of the internet, while Technology Editor.

Chris will talk about the big-picture consequence of the long tail and detail how our economy and culture is shifting from mass markets to million of niches. He will happily debate about the effect of the technologies that have made it easier for consumers to find and buy niche products, thanks to the “infinite shelf-space effect.” And touch on new distribution mechanisms, from digital downloading to peer-to-peer markets, that break through the bottlenecks of broadcast and traditional bricks and mortar retail.

Certainly not to be missed.
The venue is still to be confirmed, but the date will certainly be Friday July 7thThe venue will be The Bottlescrue, 53-60 Holburn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FD.. Maybe Chris will even sign or give away a couple of his new books? Don't forget to sign up on the geekdinner site

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Going nuts for certain tunes while paying 200 pounds for the privilage?

dj's de laptop

I just had a quick look at my audioscrobbler/last fm rss and noticed i'm listening to the same 3 tunes over and over again. Its not a mistake, its actually me loving these tunes which I stayed up to 2am searching for the other day. I've had them all of 2 days I believe and can not wait to do a mix with these new tunes. What are the tunes, you maybe asking?

  • FB Featuring Edun – Who's Knocking (Ferry Corsten Rmx)
  • Gabriel and Dresden feat. Molly – Tracking Treasure Down
  • Kosmas Epsilon – Innocent Thoughts

.

They've been on my list for quite some time but finally went actively searching for them on Trancetraffic and found them all there in 320kps Lame encoded Mp3 format. Mighty impressive quality and great tunes which could not be found on iTunes and Allmp3.com.

I simply will not buy music which is DRM'ed, practially Fairplay DRM (what a joke for a name) does not play on my ipaq, mobile phone and certainly not in my Dj application Virtual DJ. I mean why the heck would I buy music from the iTunes store and put up with the fact that I could not mix with it? Insane I tell you. So much for the mix in Apple's Rip Mix and Burn tagline from years ago.

Anyhow talking about Insanity, dance music and mixing. I saw this Digital DJs Unaware of Copyright Law on Slashdot recently.

The BBC reports that if you're a DJ, playing your digital copies of files off a laptop or mp3 player is illegal. The UK royalty collection agency, PPL, demands that such DJs pay £200 for a license in order to do so. From the article, 'Many DJs are still unwittingly breaking the law by playing unlicensed digital copies of tracks months after a new permit scheme began, the BBC has found. This includes legally-purchased downloads, which are normally licensed only for personal use, as well as copies of tracks from records or CDs.

What the heck? Geez this is the kind of thing I hear about in America not in the UK. Going through the comments it seems this headline grabbing story may not be all its craacked up to be. The first informative comment goes like this

I think the article summary is a touch misleading. My reading was that the public performance of songs whose copyright the DJ doesn't hold is what's illegal, and the £200 is for a licsence that remedies the situation. Nobody is telling anybody they can't play music on their laptops, and I'm sure the submitter didn't intend this, but I think it's important to point out that this only relates to public performance. Additionally, DJs do not need to pay the liscence if they are playing from CD or vinyl.

So this still applies to someone like me it would seem? I don't get it why because its digital I have to pay a license fee on top of all the music I'm playing on my laptop? As someone said, its a specific license tax on just those who utilize digital delivery systems. Some comments which sum up better than myself.

So a DJ can play a CD, but if she plays the same track ripped to an MP3, she has to pay an extra 200 pounds for a license? Where's the sense in that? The US compulsory license scheme actually seems sane by comparison.

Hey you thief, don't you dare be playing my tracks where lots of young impressionable kids will get to listen to them and then afterwards possibly go out to their local DJ shop and buy my records/CDs! Well unless you give me 200 big ones!

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If the mainstream media do not get it, we’ll do our own media

Mobuzz TV

Watching a load of Iptv stuff from my geek download folder today, I've come to the conclusion that there is more than enough content out there to easily watch just this and nothing else. I mean between Rocketboom, MobuzzTV, Geek Entertainment, Diggnation, Twit, NerdTV, DigitallifeTV, The Scene, Hak.5, etc. There's hardly anytime to watch much else, and honestly who would want to when you look at what was on TV last night.

8pm – Just came in from work quite late for one reason or another. Whats on? Well Football (not interested), The Bill (no thanks), 10 years younger special (what the heck?), What not to wear special (no thanks), Natrual world (not quite me). Ok to be fair I've just picked on the 5 standard analogue channels on English TV but none of those are of any interest to myself.
9pm – Cooked and eaten. Would like to watch something while I do a little online socialising. Whats on? Rome, more football, life in the undergrowth, british comedy awards and space cadets. Its actually not till 10pm when Lost and the BBC news is on till I'm tempted to even bother turning on the Digital TV box. And even then, Lost I've already seen because I'm watching series 2 like most people I know and I can consume the news a lot better by visiting my mainstream media folder on my rss aggregator. If I go as far as visiting the BBC website I can even watch AV content from my laptop or even on my Xbox using a nice little BBC news Python script on Xbox media centre.

Not only is podcasts changing what I'm hearing day in day out. I'm also changing my habits in regards to what I watch and download. At the moment I would say by pure megabyes, I'm downloading more legal geek TV stuff than shady American and UK TV. Thats quite a large shift from a year ago when I was only downloading bits of the broken and from the shadows now and then. Niche and genuine content is the name of the game now (insert Longtail business model here if you like). I mean even Sarah likes Diggnation and Rocketboom. Some of the mainstream media will catch on and start going straight to the consumer like ABC and NBC with there Apple store content. Some will use it as a lost leader like in the case of NBA.com, but at the moment its all about the genuine voices and cleverly niche topics and if you feel your under served? Go out and do something about it. The equipment is affordable and barrer to entry much lower than its ever been. The revolution my friends started a long time ago, go get some. I wont go into details, but I'm certainlly looking into doing something myself.

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Go Digital Special Tim O’Reilly Podcast

Tim describes his joy of being at the BBC

Quoted from a internal email sent to quite a few people in the BBC World Service after Tim's invite to the BBC and his interview on Go Digital

Last week we delivered an extra edition of Go Digital through it's podcast stream, and the email response it's generated has been huge! In our last programme we featured an interview with CEO of O'Reilly Publishing and Open Source guru Tim O'Reilly and we decided to put out a tidied up 'full length' interview (17 mins) in addition to the main programme.

The response has been overwhelming, and over the weekend the programme has received around 10 times it's normal weekly email bag, without exception every response in favour of the extra content.

This demonstrates one of the real benefits of the podcast medium, that instead of simply regurgitating radio programmes for Podcast, being able to deliver something different that adds value to our regular broadcasts is something I think our audience will really appreciate.

Well this pretty amazing would you not say? I knew Tim Oreilly was a great speaker but 10x the usual response asking for the longer version or saying how great the interview was. This strikes me as a really compeling reason why podcasts work. There simply not bound to the time limits of radio and they can be super niche or serve the longtail. Actually a few of the emails outlines this perfectly.

Cameron Walker wrote,

Instead of setting the shows up to a set time, like in what your used to on Radio and TV. Podcasts can be from half an hour to an hour to 1.5hrs

Jean-Pierre Morissette from Montreal wrote,

Thank you so much for this idea. The content of this interview was so good that it was a real gift to be able to listen to it all. I call these significant moments.I opens new perspectives, new ways of looking at the world around us to listen to comments like these.

Comment from John Barton in the UK,

Just listened to the exteneded session with Tim O'Reilly.Great use of the technology. The ability to allow the speaker to extend beyond the normal programme time boundary and really get into his topic was well worth the effort. As I use a podcast agregator I got the feed automatically and was able to enjoy this bonus session without any additional work on my part. Looking forward to other extended sessions

Jim Puls from Chicago wrote

Well, I very much enjoyed your interview with Tim OReilly. I found myself stopping the podcast from time to time and backing it up to take some notes. A few months ago I didnt know what a podcast was, and now I find it enriches my life greatly. Its Saturday afternoon in Chicago, and Ive done my chores, and its time to listen to some radio … what I want when I want it. Just before Go Digital I listened to Ockhams Razor from Australia

and added in a email to myself.

As I noted in my email, you and your colleagues are carrying on in the long tradition of informing us all, and deserve our thanks for doing that.

Edwin Boatswain sums the podcast up nicely with,

Thanks for the extra content. It was a nice surpise when this turned up in the feed. I think the edited version of the interview captured his thoughts well, but it was good to hear the whole piece.

NerdTV from PBS do a simlar thing already. They produce 3 different cuts of the same interview. I download the entire show and listen to it while working but now and then glance over at the video running on my laptop. But I have never downloaded the nerdy or juicy parts cuts, i guess its not a big deal when I can simply jump around with the slider myself. Obviously the entire show isnt for everyone and a juicy cut would make a lot more sense if your only generally interested. I wonder how many people listen/watch each version?

Like one of the emails said,

While it's understandable that you have to edit down a given interview to fit into a time slot, it seems like a real shame to have whatever was left on the (virtual) cutting room floor to disappear forever. Personally, I'd very much like to see such material made available in the future (where it's deemed to be of sufficient interest/quality, of course).

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Tape it off the Internet, no really do!

Thanks to a comment by Duncan in my kill TV post a while ago, I've now checked out Tape it off the internet.com. Although its not actually a web 2.0 application or social tool yet. Its got a lot of potential as idea at least.

They seem to have a lot of the simple things right, for example there is a post about why recommendations could be important when you drop off the schedule. There right, when you drop off, you end up relying much more on friends recommendations and what people and things around you say. So for example me and sarah have become big fans of Firefly and Serenity, browncoats some would say. The reason I engaged with Firefly and the movie serenity was a couple of things. My friend doug, a lot of blogs about the treatment Firefly got from Fox and what tipped the balance a Wired article. I was recommended Lost by my buddy Waheed and Prision Break from Tom but another way I gage interesting shows is by torrents which have lots of downloaders times by the time it was published. Some Torrent sites make this easy to sort by, others dont. It would be nice to have a webapi for these things sometimes.

But back to tape it off the internet, another thing which made me shake my head in agreement is the friends x episode tracker. Its best explained in the post.

Let us take the problem outlined below, that of different friends of yours not all being on the same episode of a show, making conversation about said show… delicate to say the least, lest you drop a clanger of a spoiler.

Seriously this happens all the time, i usually have to ask what episode someone is on before talking about it. Lost is a nightmare right now because a ton of people are on the UK series which I believe is coming to the end of series 1 soon. A couple of friends have seen the whole series 1 but not started on 2, and then about 3 people I know are fully up with ep5 of series 2.

So guys behind the idea, when's the vaporware going into Permanent BETA with a Open API, tagging and tons of Ajax? hehe…

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The striking differences of pro-amateurs and professionals marketplaces

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My blog is worth $0.00.
How much is your blog worth?

I heard this absolutely amazing talk today via IT Conversations. Paul Graham last year upset a lot of people with his comments about Microsoft and Java in his hilarious Great Hackers at OScon 2004 which can still be found here on IT Conversations. But this time he turns his targets at the tradition workplace, professionalism and big business in the OScon 2005 keynote.

I wont go into details because I couldn't express the way Paul puts over the points in his own unique way. Here's the Blurb from IT Conversations.

Paul Graham, popular author and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it's not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated.

Paul takes blogging as an analogy and explains how the phenomenon is actually very similar to the open source movement. Both show that amateurs often surpass professionals in what they choose to do, because they love what they are doing. He also points out that in the age of the Internet, which has made collaboration extremely easy, large corporations find it difficult to compete with software produced by a bunch of inspired hackers. Paul also takes a dig at workplaces as we know them and illustrates how the most productive phase of any company is when it is still a startup.

I've always thought about blogs and opensource being quite similar in terms of there backgrounds, attitudes and coverage but nowhere at the level of Paul. I mean think about for one moment. Mainstream business has been talking about open source for a long time but and sees it as a treat to some of there propitery ways but tend to poke at it with a stick and not really adopt the open source methology. This statement can almost be put directly on the mainstream medias view of blogs. They poke around with it but not really adopt the methologies behind it.

Paul makes such good references to the false ceiling of professionalism and amateurism. He made a comment about the fact that the word amateur has been changed from its original meaning. So I had a little look around and he's right. From wikipedia's entry on amateur

The word amateur has at least two connotations. In the first, more widely used manner, it means someone performing some task without pay, in contrast to a “professional” who would be paid for the same task. In this sense, labeling someone an “amateur” can have a negative connotation. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball or football would not be regarded as having ability on par with professional athletes in those sports.

Where this can be interesting is in the case of the Olympic Games. Most Olympic events required that the athletes be amateurs, or non-professionals. To receive pay to perform the sport could have disqualified an athlete from an event, as in the case of Jim Thorpe. Such regulations are now nonexistent for all Olympic sports with the exception of boxing.

Also in the areas of computer programming and open source, as well as astronomy and ornithology, many amateurs make very meaningful contributions equivalent to or exceeding those of the professionals. To many, description as an amateur is losing its negative meaning, and actually carries a badge of honor.

The other, perhaps somewhat obsolescent usage, stems from the French form of the Latin root of the word meaning a “lover of”. (See amateurism.) In this sense, retaining its French inflexion (“am-a-tEUR”), an amateur may be as competent as a paid professional, yet is motivated by a love or passion for the activity, like a connoisseur. In the 17th and 18th centuries virtuoso had similar connotations of passionate involvement.

Indeed, another thriving example of such work is Amateur Dramatics – whether plays or musical theater. Often performed to high standards (but lacking the budgets of the professional West End theatre/Broadway theatreversions) and with an intense passion for the scene.

It has been suggested that the crude, all or nothing categories of professional or amateur should be reconsidered. A historical shift is occurring with the rise of Pro-Ams, a new category of people that are pursuing amateur activities to professional standards.

This is a sticking point for a lot of the opposition to many things, and thinking about it more. Its got to me too. For example, recently I was pulled into a heated battle about the quality of content in blogs. The other parties were saying the writing was not professional enough. Now instead of outlining examples of brilliant writing like Paul Ford's Ftrain. I should have said no, on a whole its amateur writing but thats no reflection on the quality. I was drawn into a debate about professionalism without me realizing. Miles said something profound about my blog the other day, which relates so well to this and I only just saw the link. Obviously this is me power phrasing – I read your blog because its your thoughts and ideas not some wannabe wank wanting to play by the mainstream rules. And he's right, I dont want my blog to be in the Technorati top 100. I dont care that my blog is worth nothing to the mainstream media, its not the rules I'm playing by sorry.

Cluetrain #81 : Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

Cluetrain #88 : We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

Amateursation (is there such a word?) once removed from its below professional setting, its really easy to reclaim back the word as its what drives the long tail of Internet content. But more interestingly is the Pro-amateur word which I would categories some of the podcasts I hear and watch as. For example, IT conversations is a pro-am of podcasting. Its content is not broad like mainstream media, it sticks to a niche audience and adopts all the values and spirit of the amateur marketplace. Likewise the Rev3 guys are certainly the Pro-am of the videoblogging. I cant quite put my finger on it but Digital Life TV feels closer to mainstream media than Systm.Maybe thats why I end up skipping some parts?

I'm not quite done with Paul Graham yet….

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Serenity, a cracking example of the long tail?

Serenity now in theaters

So I went and watched Serenity the movie yesterday with a friend and Sarah. And honestly I was very suprised at how entertaining and enjoyable the movie was. A few weeks before I was reading about the movie and how it actually comes from a TV show called Firefly which was cancelled before the 1st season ended. But the upset fans and got together and planned many ways to express there views on the cancelling, including a advert in Variety magazine. Theres a better overview in this wired article titled Serenity Now!.

What I find not so much amazing, but impressive is the coordination of the 1000's of fans. Its so impressive that I was driven to watch the movie and maybe even buy the DVD in the near future. Fox were really not paying attention to the conversation happening in the long tail. And credit to Universal because they must have been, why else would you screen sneak previews of Serenity in 35 cities. Except to thank the loyal fans for a money spinning series and a movie tie in?

I didnt know till I got online again, that all the actors and actresses are the same as in the TV series. And can I just say one of the actresses, Kaylee played by Jewel Staite is one of the cutest women I have seen (next to my wife of course). Dont get me wrong Zoe, Inara and River are also beautiful.

Anyhow, back on topic. We are already seeing a hell of lot more of this grassroots driven influence, like the cluetrain says #57 – Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner. Fox just learned #60 This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.. Let the revolution continue, and dont forget to check out the pictures of the UK premiere online and the personal email from Joss Whedon (the director of both Firefly and Serenity).

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Skype opens up

Skype

Just as google talk hits the news, Skype unleashes a response which answers a few of the questions about Skype and its openness.

Skype has a present to give back to the internet for all of the amazing support we have received from the internet community. We are announcing two new initiatives that make Skype and the Web a little more interesting and open up new possibilities for the developer and partner community. After all � sharing is good

The full text is here. Theres also a developers area and a official skype blog. Which is weird because I kinda of assumed Skype Journal was almost it. Skype is also tipping its hat to the community efforts through there extras gallery, which is really a large directory of links.

For those wondering about Google Talk vs Skype, check out this good summary of the difference from a normal user point of view.

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