LiveMink: James Governor, Redmonk

At the Sun Analyst Conference I sat next to James Governor of Redmonk on the coach to dinner. We made the most of the time by discussing Redmonk and the unique, pioneering approach they bring to industry analysis. I apologise for the audio quality, which results from using an iPod audio recorder attachment in a very noisy place, but I think you'll find James interesting and as provocative as ever.

He talks about Redmonk, how it works, where the money comes from and what its future looks like. Watch out for his opinion on the iPhone, and for mentions of Ambient Findability and of "Whuffie" (from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom). If you're subscribing in iTunes, watch out for the photos too!



The open source VideoLan VLC Player plays the podcasts fine and displays the pictures... nice one. James on a roll! ;-)

Posted by Mark Cathcart on February 13, 2007 at 03:48 AM PST #

What about offering this in some free, open, non-encumbered format like ogg vorbis or ogg theora if it contains video?

Posted by Mark Wielaard on February 13, 2007 at 05:06 AM PST #

@MC: Thanks, I actually tested it with that.

@MW: While I'd like to use Ogg, the tools I'm using don't support it and I'm not sure that iTunes does either, which I'm anticipating is the most widely used podcasting handler. Meanwhile, AAC is actually a pretty reasonable open standard to be using for this, with wide platform support. I'm open to change though, fire away with recommendations.

Posted by Simon Phipps on February 13, 2007 at 09:45 AM PST #

You and James on a shuttle to dinner, eh? Sorry I missed it! Sounds like fun conversation. :-)

Posted by Catherine Helzerman on February 13, 2007 at 11:46 AM PST #

Next week's with Michael Goulde is even better :-)

Posted by Simon Phipps on February 13, 2007 at 11:52 AM PST #

Nice interview Simon - the only improvement would have been getting all four of them! I like Jame's characterisation of their work as "ambient findability' - I think "convergence of information and connectivity" describes Redmonk nicely

Posted by Ric on February 13, 2007 at 06:22 PM PST #

even better huh? i will have to listen to that closely...

Posted by James Governor on February 13, 2007 at 07:59 PM PST #

@James: Got to drum up business :-) Actually, Michael says some things about Microsoft that are very revealing. So the evaluation is in terms of controversy, rather than charm, wit or insight :-)

Posted by Simon Phipps on February 13, 2007 at 11:58 PM PST #

iTunes does not support Ogg Vorbis. There is a QuickTime component for Ogg Vorbis support from Xiph, though, at, which makes it available in iTunes. That solves just half the problem with iTunes, though, as I don't think the Apple iTunes podcast directory serves Ogg Vorbis feeds. But, if, say, a future site revamped and hosted Ogg Vorbis/Theora feeds, one could convert the AAC files to Ogg Vorbis files using, or by throwing the appropriate sequence of flac & oggenc calls in a pipe, I guess. :)

Posted by Dalibor Topic on February 14, 2007 at 10:11 PM PST #

Just having the interviews available also in a free format when they are published would be great. I don't actually use anything "podcast enabled" so having the raw .ogg files would be enough.

Posted by Mark Wielaard on February 15, 2007 at 01:29 AM PST #

Simon: it seems that in some circumstances you're willing to use patent-encumbered formats, and in some circumstances you're not. I'm curious about where and how you go about drawing the line- utility of the related tools? availability of readers for the format? business practices of the patent holder? some other standard? Or does the patent-encumbrance not play into your choice of format? (I seem to recall that you've argued for that as a factor in choosing ODF over OOXML, but I don't have time right offhand to dig up any quotes to that effect, other than the implication in your notes on Adobe/pdf that you consider it important.)

I ask not to flame you for your apparent inconsistency, because you're certainly in good company in being apparently inconsistent, but to help me understand why there is the apparent inconsistency and perhaps understand how better to push for open standards like ogg that are not as popular as others like odf.

Posted by Luis Villa on February 15, 2007 at 11:19 PM PST #

@Luis: Great question. There are a few of things to consider here. All revolve around the idea of practicality.

  • First, there's the issue of what I'm aware of. I typically don't go looking for issues. So for AAC, I'm not aware of what the problem you're referring to is. I expect there is one, since people keep making a fuss, but since I have found a range of tools that support it I have not yet run into a problem and no-one so far has explained one. I expect most people are in the same position as me, learning about issues as they go rather than looking for issues under every rock. As I learn about them, I'll adapt.
  • Second, there's the issue of learning curve. The whole area is pretty difficult to learn, and I am starting out using the easiest thing I can find - GarageBand - to assemble the podcast. That tool only offers the option of AAC, I wish it had more options. I tried to use Audacity but it was too hard, and I couldn't find another tool that looked hopeful. I'm sure people will direct me to other tools that are within my ability to use, and that my skills will develop, but I had to start somewhere. Again, I suspect most people start somewhere and grow. Expecting everyone to start out using a complex mesh of self-written scripts, or a complex tool designed by an expert to meet his/her own needs, is unreasonable.
  • Third, even if I had the faintest idea how to create OGG from Garageband, using it would limit my audience to people who knew all about it. AAC is bad enough, since it limits non-specialist listeners pretty much to iTunes, but no-one would have had a clue what to do with an OGG.

I advocate ODF because it has crossed the threshold of practicality. As such it is both an excellent beginner format as well as a long-term guarantor of freedom. I believe making a long-term commitment to a format requires reflection on the long-term freedom issues. On the other hand, for my first few podcasts I'm afraid all I can do is use what is usable and right now that choice leads to AAC. I welcome education! Ultimately I'm a pragmatist with idealistic tendancies rather than idealistic absolutist though.

Posted by Simon Phipps on February 15, 2007 at 11:41 PM PST #

Hrm, interesting. I'll have to mull that over. I've been thinking about this in the context of open source advocates who use OS/X and open standards advocates who use Word; this is another aspect of the same issue. Obviously pragmatism is the main component of their decision, and particularly in the case of Word it is hard to blame them for that. I do think it weakens their advocacy, though, and I'm trying to grapple with the implications of that for those of us who have chosen to take the more difficult path.

Just for clarification on the first issue, the issue is 'mere' patent encumbrance (wikipedia has a sort of messy description I'm trying to clean up), and so there are plenty of proprietary tools who have paid the requisite licensing fee, and quite a few open source viewers for it. None of the open source tools are legal in the US, so you won't find one in any of the mainstream distros, but they are pretty widely available- I understand the spec is reasonably implementable. I think in the end that is why Mark Pilgrim settled on this format for his videocast work, despite the encumbrances.

P.S.- Your 'notify me by email of new comments' function appears to be busted- I got an email notifying me of my own comment (not useful) but did not get an email notifying me of your comment (less useful :)

Posted by Luis Villa on February 16, 2007 at 05:01 AM PST #

@Luis: Thanks for your feedback. Note that I'm not saying I'll stick with either the format or the tools long-term - it's just I have to start somewhere :-)

Comments: Yes, the Roller comments mechanism needs a bit of work, I have filed a few RFEs. The e-mail notification issue is becuase my own comment was marked as "needing moderation" like yours was, and it seems Roller doesn't notify when such messages are released by the moderator.

Posted by Simon Phipps on February 16, 2007 at 05:13 AM PST #

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.


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