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Writely Quick Note Bookmarklet Sam
12.13.2005 [0 comments] - Permalink

I love remixes...this is a nice start:


More (hopefully) soon!

The Rise of the Mammals Sam
12.12.2005 [1 comments] - Permalink

I stole the title - it's from Michael Mace's posting here. This is very well put, and is something we've been thinking about for a while at Writely.

I'll add one thing to the mix - in the days of OpenDoc, etc, integration was at the level of programming languages, which are typically very brittle and hard to deal with.

One of the things that's really different in the web world is that we're starting to componentize, as Michael put it, at the level of metadata - formats like SOAP, RSS, XML, REST (well, that's not a format, but you get the idea), are not just language independent but platform, country, network, etc independant. Think about the difference between working with a web service versus a COM object. Think about how hard it would have been to develop an app on top of Google maps, if you had to write COM code and get it ported to the mac and linux...who would have bothered? It's much easier to do something that just...works....across all kinds of localized, mac/win/linux systems. Like it or not, XML, JavaScript, JSON, AJAX and the rest are really, actually, finally, systems that can be used to reach a really broad number of users with minimal hassle.

I think this is what's really amazing about the current situation, and it's what reminds me of "Web 1.0", when it was suddenly apparent that the combination of HTML and TCP/IP was a really, really powerful global publishing and communication mechanism. As a salty old desktop developer, it's thrilling.

Anyway, an interesting read, I think, even if we are mentioned in it. :)

Tools and more tools Sam
10.21.2005 [] - Permalink

First off, I wanted to announce that the excellent guys over at NetVibes have added support for Writely. So now you can have your list of active Writely documents, or the revisions from a specific document, or set of tags, appear on your NetVibes home page.

Second, we've heard from some folks who'd like us to do something similar to Flock for grabbing parts of a web page and adding it to a document for blogging. We might do this ourselves, but I thought it would be a nice opportunity to see if anyone wanted to do it for us. I think it's a pretty simple, fun, little bookmarklet to write.

More generally, as we've talked to more folks, we're starting to get offers to integrate and extend Writely. We're very interested in this. I wanted to say here that, if you have something you'd like to do to extend us, drop me a line and I'll be happy to help get you started. We had to make some minor changes to our app to get NetVibes going, we don't mind doing this sort of thing.

Finally, we'll be announcing more of these mashups in the near future - at least one next week...

Calling all RSS Readers Sam
10.13.2005 [] - Permalink

I was talking with the NetVibes folks last week. They wanted to add a Writely module to their list. The only problem with this is that you need to send the user and password over to Writely to get the feed URL for that user back...so I wrote a little service you can call to do this. You can call it with http or https. The service is at:


You pass two parameters useremail (the user email address) and the password. So, it might look like:


The service either returns an error, or the URL of that user's personal RSS feed. I thought I would post this here in case anyone else wants to add us to their start page.

Mashups and Openness Sam
10.07.2005 [] - Permalink

I've been thinking a lot recently about the subject of mashups. It's trendy, and we're seeing a lot of it, so that's not surprising, I guess.

We see a lot of openness in applications that handle personal information, things like blogs, or local events, or maps, etc. Our space touches that, but it's a little different - we want to help people create and publish documents that involve daily business and personal tasks. I want to bring meaningful openness (that is, more than just an RSS feed of your calendar, for example) to this kind of data. I think this is possible, and desireable.

When we set out to do this, one of the reasons we didn't try to do a whole office suite was that we didn't think we could push users into it. I still don't. OpenOffice has been around for a long time, and has a really tiny share, and there's a reason for that - you have to add a lot of value to overcome the MS marketing machine, and user inertia. So, we thought we'd focus on a smaller problem where we could really add value, and where folks could start using it without having to make a huge committment. And, to a large degree, I think that's worked well - we've doubled every week since we've been open, with no advertising or marketing at all (finally hired a marketing person this week, though!)

The apps I see coming out that I like follow this philosophy of focusing on the user and a narrow, well-defined problem they can solve well, rather than trying to build out a whole desktop-based suite. I've started talking with a number of these folks about building a common, open, simple API for mashing these apps together. I think the idea would be that once your users get to the boundary of the problem you're solving, you need to have a good solution for helping them work with the next application (so, for us, if a user wants to do a graphical presentation, or a technical paper with Tex, etc, we shouldn't have to code it, and they shouldn't have to move the document, copy data, or sign in again to do it). If you do, they'll stay with you, if you don't, ultimately, you will not succeed.

It's my belief that this is a very powerful architecture - if it catches on, it will be very hard to exist as an application without participating in this API, and if you do participate as one, you'll have to be a very good neighbor, and work hard to solve your problem well. I think it will be a huge win for the user, and a great opportunity for developers to break out and build an ad hoc platform that solves real problems. I think the ease of connectivity on the net makes this possible, and the mashups we're starting to see are proof of concept.

I've never done anything like this before, in terms of talking to different folks about building a standard API. If you're an app developer and you want to participate, please drop me a line. I think there's something really interesting to be done here, and I'd like to get it right. I want to talk to as many folks as possible about this.

UPDATE: here's the working doc on this, email me if you want to collaborate.


Web 2.0 Sam
10.05.2005 [] - Permalink

Up at the Web 2.0 conference. What an interesting crowd. The bubble is back, for sure.

I'm going to be giving a (very short) talk later on tonight, about Writely. Nothing too exciting, just a little bit about how we designed our UI, and why we think it works well. The short version is: listen to your users, and try to incorporate elements of both the web and the desktop. The web to add value, but the desktop to keep folks comfortable with their data and the program.

Here's the link to the presentation (In writely, of course!)


Whee! That was fun Sam
9.29.2005 [] - Permalink

Hi Everyone! We got slashdotted today...it was an interesting experience.

The site seems to have held up well, aside from a brief period when it was not possible to register new accounts. If anyone experienced a problem, please let us know!

I also wanted to thank folks for giving us all kinds of great feedback. We love it all, positive or negative. We feel very strongly as a team that the only way to develop great products is to listen hard to your customers and iterate constantly. We're working as hard as we can to make Writely as great as we can make it. All the feedback helps. Don't be shy about negative feedback - it's useful too.

Lots of folks on the web are saying we're a threat to Microsoft, or something to that effect. I don't know if that's true or not (probably not), but it's not really what we're about. We really only care about one thing - that our users have a really great, useful experience with us, and that they (you) want to come back and use us again and again, and tell your friends about us.

I'm sorry I haven't been writing, we've been really busy. I have a lot I've been thinking about, with regards to how the Web 2.0 world is likely to go. I think it's interesting, and will surprise us all. Just as the open source world got a lot of power from the surprising direction of openness, I think Web 2.0 will get surprising amounts of power from similar areas: openness, connectivity, communication, and trusting and listening to your users. It's already clear that one of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 will be a much, much higher velocity in the application realm. Possibly we'll start to see applications that are customized to individual users on the fly, that connect and optimize groups in surprising ways, that foster global businesses with even more speed than before (we're hearing some really interesting business ideas coming up our of the user base, it's wild). These apps seem like simple ideas, but simplicity and reach is part of the power.

We have an iteration coming in a few days, hopefully. It's been three weeks since we did the last one, which is the longest it's ever been for us. This is light on major features (more blog providers, some UI fixes, and the ability to email documents into the system, or cc the system on emails and have them become collaborative), because we're focusing on fixing problems people have been reporting with the UI and workflow.

We've heard about Open Office, we've heard about Safari, we've heard about Opera, we've heard about localization, we've heard about the API, we've heard about templates...it's all on the list, and we'll get to it faster than you think!

Thanks again for the patience and the support. It humbles us. And, to quote Wynton Marsalis: "The humble improve".


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