Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Show not tell

"You can no longer tell people about your brand; you have to let them experience it."

- Esther Dyson

(via JD)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Two obvious secrets

A great observation on Seth Godin's blog:

The two obvious secrets of every service business

every one...

1. Take responsibility

2. Pay attention to detail

The thing that's so surprising is how little attention is paid to these two, how often we run into people (business to business or b2c) who are totally clueless about them.

You'd be stunned to see a hotel clerk stealing money from the till or a bartender smashing bottles or a management consultant drawing on the client's wall with a magic marker. But every single day, I encounter "that's not my job" or "our internet service is outsourced, it's their fault." More subtle but more important are all the little details left untended.

All the magazine ads in the world can't undo one lousy desk clerk.

All businesses are service business and experience is the product...

He says 'every one' at the beginning of the blurb, and he's right. I also think there are a lot of software products out there that don't understand that they aren't actually products, they are services -- and this is especially true of social software. Many companies launch their web "products" and then walk away, not understanding that after launch their job has just begun, requiring daily -- sometimes 24-hrs a day -- hands-on management and unflinchingly constant attention. Social software only works when the trolls and spammers are instantly squashed, good contributions rewarded, people listened to and provided with what they need.

Another thing: props to Seth and team who have built out Squidoo, which I have been following for a while. Have a look around; they're doing so many things right.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mashup Camp

David Berlind is spearheading an 'unconference' initiative called 'Mashup Camp'. A lot of the so-called "Web 2.0" conferences have a traditional top-down talking head format, and he thinks that if all the hackers came, brought their laptops and hunkered down together for a few days, some great new things could be built, connections made, ideas spawned. I love it!

Watch the Mashup Camp site (nothing there yet) for future details.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Delicious and Digg

You can probably guess from the content here that this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time. :-)

Yes! Yahoo has acquired Flickr's sibling company (which you may have noticed, is now accessible using the domain as well). We're whooping it up on the inside, from which vantage point watching the evolution of Yahoo is the most fun.

People have been discussing the parallel plots of Digg and Delicious, including my pal Marc on the O'Reilly Radar blog. He posted this map from Alexa, which, after the Yahoo announcement has put Delicious up in the peaks. But prior to the announcement they were neck-and-neck. I've been watching this too, having some interest in it myself.


Delicious is designed to be completely about the links. You can add text if you want, but most people don't: they just save the link, giving it their implicit "vote" or "seal of approval". Their "popular" links on the right side of the page is a look into their database. Digg, on the other hand, is explicitly designed to promote a link, and the links that are Dugg float to the front page. The author provides a title and description and the links with merit, having been Dugg by various Diggers, it rises to the top -- and some of this has to do with how well the user "sold" the link, i.e., did they write an attention grabbing headline and description?

I like Digg, not least because they have a beautiful UI, with the lovely "124 Diggs" in the big square box, a UI innovation I've seen replicated on bunches of sites, including Flock. My question is how long Digg can sustain the quality. Watching Slashdot and Metafilter, two similar sites whose members contribute links and descriptions, and sustain comments, it seems as if there is a sweet spot where the # of contributors vs. # of commenters are maximizing quality. And there seems to be a hazard with attention inciting inanity -- people write comments on Slashdot just to say stuff like "It looks stupid, I'm not even going to try it" just to get their name or POV up there, and these tend to take over after a while, as the thoughtful contributors move elsewhere. Individual blogs tend to maintain quality, especially in comments, as there is one benevolent dictator to keep the rabble in line. In some respects, a community site such as Digg's real value will come from the ferocious defense of quality, the weeding out of "It looks stupid" comments and relentless suppression of spam.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Blog Archives and Living Ideas

I was having a conversation with Bob Baxley a few months ago about how the structure of Flickr makes it possible for people to continue to discover and view "old" photographs -- photographs that had been uploaded months or years before. These usually surface through tag surfing, or searches, or groups, or personal tag maps, or the feature on the explore page that shows the most interesting photos from a year before.

Usually, in a blog format, old photos, or old blog posts don't get a lot of a traffic. Most traffic is reserved for the most recent post, and regular readers of the blog are assumed to have already read what is in the archive. Blogs don't really accommodate *new* users -- who are arriving for the first time. The tag maps that people have been adding to their sites (see the one at the top of We make money not art) help with this problem, while simultaneously providing a snapshot of the interests of the blog authors.

If you know of any interesting blog designs that address this kind of issue, please post it in the comments.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Web 2.0 conference

My favorite moment at the Web 2.0 conference was recorded on my other blog, but there's been plenty of good stuff being presented and discussed. Yesterday a bunch of companies launched their sites, and they all bear some investigation:

Zvents built by Ethan Stock and team -- I met Ethan when he was working with a consulting company a few months ago, so I don't know how long they've been developing zvents. They had a really impressive "post to blog" event feature, which drew a lot of oohs and aahs from the audience.

Real Travel is a company that associates a social network with contributions from travellers on their experiences: where to go, where to eat, how to get there.

Rollyo was launched by Dave Pell, who made a lot of funny jokes and was generally very entertaining. It aggregates various sites into a "Searchroll" and searches just those. They did a superb job with the UED, and I'm impressed with their method of creating semi-celebrity "Searchrolls" to help people grok the product.

Bunchball has built a social platform for play. Flash developers can put their games onto the platform, and generate revenue from them. I'm on the Board of Advisors with Andrew Anker and have a lot of confidence in these guys and their vision.

Zimbra, and open source email client got a bunch of ooohs and ahhhs from the audience, as well as spontaneous bursts of applause. They demo'd an email that used the very best of all the web mashups: a date in an email would generate a pulldown menu of your calendar; an address, a map, and a Fedex tracking number the date, sender and status of the package. Phenomenal.

Today we've heard from Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo, Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Foundation, Jonathan Schwartz, CTO of Sun, and the list goes on. Mary Meeker is on now; she's showing us som fantastic stats. I want this deck.

I couldn't be happier to welcome Andy, Gordon and Leonard into the Yahoo! fold, with the recent acquisition of They are some of the web's most brilliant web developers and grok completely the newfangled web we're all in the process of building in this Brave New World. I'm thrilled that my new parent company is continuing to make smart moves along the paths of openness, community and personalized content, and these guys are right at the heart of it.

Congratulations abound, and this is just one of many, but cheers! Congratulations! My favorite comment is from Andy's Mom.

Emerging from this acquisition more discussion, from David Is Yahoo more Web 2.0 than Google?.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google releases astonishingly bad Blog Search

The much anticipated Google Blog Search was released today, and now I understand why it was held back for so long. As I've heard, it was being developed for the past 3 years, and has been "on deck" for over a year. Evaluating blog search is hard (evaluating any kind of search is hard), but generally blog search optimizes for either freshness or relevance in actual blog posts, or toggles between the two. You can do that here, but Google blog search is apparently optimized for neither -- its stated purpose is finding blogs on a certain topic, and boy is it bad at that. But what it mostly it delivers is blog posts. Take my search for "celebrity". There's a small chunk at the top giving the "related blogs" to that search, but then the rest of it is classic keyword matching:

Related Blogs:
Celebrity Baby Blog - The only website devoted to celebrity babies (and their parents)!
Celebrity Baby Blog - The internet's only source dedicated to Celebrity Babies!
Hollywood Rag - Celebrity Ragazine -
Celebrity Calls -
{ KOREAN + celebrity } - Korean Entertainment @ LiveJournal

Oxfam Auction - grab celebrity seconds
5 hours ago by Katie
Oxfam's Suffolk division is due to hold a charity auction of various bits of celebrity jumble. It's being held on the 1st October in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Sk8 er-girl Avril Levigne (or Lasagne as the Bayraider gang prefer to call her) ... Shiny Shiny -

SNL Celebrity Jeopardy
1 hour ago by Best Week Ever
"Here's the entire collection of all 13 "Celebrity Jeopardy" episodes on Saturday Night Live. Enjoy!" Relive your favorite SNL Celebrity Jeopardy moments. I pose a conundrum to you, a riddle if you will. What's the difference between ... Best Week Ever Blog -

Celebrity Fit Club
8 Sep 2005 by Jeanne
The other night while exercising on my recumbent bike, I turned the basement TV set on and watched back-to-back reruns of Celebrity Fit Club on VH1. Talk about a motivator. There is something about watching washed-up celebrities trying ... Out and Back -

I can't see any reason to switch, Technorati's recently release Blog Finder has gone further down the road in the direction I want to go. It's not perfect, but you can see where it's going.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Decisions based on Intuition vs. Data

In today's Sunday New York Times, there is an article in the business section devoted to Sanford Weill, of Citigroup. There I find this quote:

He was largely intuitive and his deals didn't come from plotting, planning and study; they came from his own instincts and connections.

And in the eGang group this month, Barry Diller explained why he bought his first web company, he wasn't sure why, "It was nothing but instinct." In contrast, the biography of another self-made billionaire, Warren Buffett, starts with a description of how obsessed he is with numbers, with data, with information.

One of the questions a colleague of mine asks in job interviews is, On a scale of 1 to 10, do you make decisions based on data (1) or intuition (10). I liked this question. I answered 10. I make my decisions almost entirely based on intuition. Data, as I see it, can be molded to fit any agenda, and is based only on the past. Most decisions will impact only the future. Data is a good slave, but a poor master. And of course, there are decisions you have to make based entirely on data, i.e. this insurance policy provides the same coverage as that insurance policy, but is $500 cheaper.

The interview question is a bit of a trick question, however. It is more of a test of the person's ability to make decisions, to be decisive. The worst answer you can give is 5.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Glocalization and Web 2.0

Yes! We've all been circling around what "Web 2.0" really means, and I think Danah has gotten to the heart of it in her latest blog post. All this talk about read/write and user-generated content and people finding what pertains directly to them: she sums it up quite beautifully:

In business, glocalization usually refers to a sort of internationalization where a global product is adapted to fit the local norms of a particular region. Yet, in the social sciences, the term is often used to describe an active process where there's an ongoing negotiation between the local and the global (not simply a directed settling point). In other words, there is a global influence that is altered by local culture and re-inserted into the global in a constant cycle. Think of it as a complex tango with information constantly flowing between the global and the local, altered at each junction.

During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals. People manipulate given structures to meet their desires. We are faced with a digital environment that has collective values. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in search. For example, is there a best result to the query "breasts"? It's all about context, right? I might be looking for information on cancer, what are you looking for?

A global village assumes heterogeneous context and a hierarchical search assumes universals. Both are poor approximations of people's practices. We keep creating technological solutions to improve this situation. Reputation systems, folksonomy, recommendations. But these are all partial derivatives, not the equation itself. This is not to dismiss them though because they are important; they allow us to build on the variables and approximate the path of the equation with greater accuracy. But what is the equation we're trying to solve?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Slowly but surely consumers are being taught the value of open systems that the hackers intuitively understood 40 years ago.

Is this true? I hope so.

A VC posts about openness, and the hacker ethic of the 60s:

I've been reading Steven Levy's Hackers.

There is this great story where the hackers at the AI Lab at MIT are being forced to use a time sharing system on their beloved PDP-6 and they are in revolt.

So Ed Fredkin, who runs the lab, enlists Richard Greenblatt to create a new "hacker friendly" time sharing system. Richard enlists Ted Nelson and the two of them hack together a new time sharing sysem in "weeks of hard core hacking". They called this system ITS, for "incompatible time sharing system".

The reason for mentioning this is that ITS was completely open. It had no passwords. It was completely extendable. Anyone could add features to the system. It was designed specifically so that everyone could look at everyone else's work.

ITS was built in the late 1960s.

Almost 40 years later we are finally seeing the "hacker ethic" arrive in consumer software and services.

When we were trying to explain difference between Shutterfly and Flickr. When we were explaining the difference between Flickr and Shutterfly/Ofoto/Snapfish to users we often claimed that those services were "holding your information hostage" -- they were. Photo sharing was "free" -- but it was really a loss leader for photo finishing services. Photo sharing was the wide mouth of the funnel that led you to print your photos -- and that meant you could not access the high-res originals that you yourself had uploaded. These were kept away from you (and your friends and family) so they could charge you for prints.

People should own their own data, and interestingly, openness goes two ways. people own their own data, they are more willing to share their stuff. The examples that he gave in his post, the blog post, the public photos tagged with "Vietnam".