The perfect storm, 2-5 years out

IBM didn’t see it coming, but Microsoft does. They are smart. That’s why we’re aligned with them. ;)

What is this perfect storm? What happened to IBM? IBM got hit by the PC revolution, economies of scale. The tremendous book “The long tail” makes two superb points:

  1. The internet allows the long tail to operate, where brick and mortar stores truncate this natural phenomena – by restoring the long tail to your business you can add up to 35% to your revenue
  2. The world economy always reorganizes itself around free (or near free) resources. When we built ships, the seas were “free” to sail on and so we sailed and traded. And so on, as growth reveals more “free”, the world adjusts economically around that free resource. China, India, Indonesia and Russia suddenly revealed near free (relative to US and European salaried rates) employees and the world reorganized around that.

Item one above is interesting… item two is compelling. And now we have Google. Their stuff is free. And Microsoft’s stuff is not. Now hold on… before you sigh and give up and close the browser, just stick with me and see where this is going. I suggesting that like the discovery of ships led to a vast new past time (sailing and trading) this free resource will lead to things only 1 year away that we never imagined.

What is Google offering… when you swallow these facts, you might be able to see why Microsoft is plunking down $2billion per year to create their own data-centers!

I don’t open MS Office any more

Google GMail was good. Google Apps for your domain is awesome. (Google Apps). I now send and receive through gmail but using my EXISTING company email addresses. NOT my gmail address. Since I moved to the Google Apps version of GMail, I only opened Outlook to export my contacts. Really. Bye bye Outlook. Google Writely is a free Ms Word, Google Spreadsheets… except that it’s free. Google Calendar.

I doubt I will renew my MS Office subs… I don’t need it any more! I simply do not use it. Except for the development environment, like Atlas and so on. But as my next point explains, that might not be for too long.

UPDATE: Today I opened Frontpage to edit some HTML. 

No more SQL Server licenses?

Google got my corporate mail and of everyone working on reBlogger. What else will they take?

You might not get that heading right away. Look at this. You know about Google Base where I can define my data structure and then generate pages to expose the data. The data is hosted by Google’s servers.

Now entering into this picture is Google Base and the Google Database API where you can write against this “GData” and access it from your own servers. Unlimited free data hosting on a server where you don’t have to worry about scalability? No more budgeting for 20 million of backend server racks. This is profound. Sayonara to SEO… look at the BASE slogan: “post it on base. find it on google”.

UPDATE: I found an article about gbase being moved into the retail sector. Lookout amazon!
I know what you’re thinking… the latency between your server and the Google servers would make it unworkable. But what if they hosted the application, just as they now host my company email? Enter Google Page Creator.

It’s all free

I confidently said to my co-worker about 2 months ago that within 1 year I wouldn’t be using MS Office any more. He doubted me. It’s 2 months later. I don’t use MS Office any more.

I am hesitant to say when we will stop using the .NET web developer stuff… there is far more for Google to have to build before I can use it. But the offer of not having to build an enormous backend for my online reBlogger business is just so tantalizing. Not having to write code for storing and indexing the masses of data that reBlogger collects and stores… ohhh yeaahhh.

Every blogging company (eg wordpress etc.) would just leap at free hosting of their data. You bet! And automatic inclusion into the Google results!? Of course! Woohoo!

But look a bit further down the road. Take technorati as an example. If they built for the Google “Platform” (developers! developers! developers!) then they wouldn’t need to collect their own data, they simply use GData to mine the EXISTING Google data store. Now can you imagine what we could do if Google hooked GData into their existing data store?

This idea is already being explored by the Alexa crew with their APIs, but they don’t appear to have the vision and based on my interaction with them during the year, they don’t value interaction with mere mortals and don’t want to meet the needs of these mere mortals. Hey, that’s ok, Google or Microsoft will.

Why Microsoft won’t be an IBM

Because Gates is smart enough to see this coming. Oh, wait. Gates is leaving. But they will see it, I have no doubt about it. Their decision to spend $2billion on server farms tells me that they are responding. But their cash cows are under threat. Someone is cow-tipping over night and we KNOW who is doing it. hehehe.

Industry organizes around near free resources

Google are inventing the “ship” (in the analogy) and the industry will begin to re-organize around the free resource that has been exposed to us: unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hosting, unlimited scalability.
The thing is that they are making money, theirs is not a bubble economy. The revenue model is usage based. It’s going to be interesting!

6 reasons why reBlogger will not be like Kiko

This post is our company reply to my own post: Bubble 2.0 begins to deflate – 9 lessons

Here are some reasons why reBlogger will not deflate with Bubble 2.0, but instead we will increase and grow:

  1. We have more income than expenditure – we’re cash flow positive, without any investors (low risk approach)
  2. Metcalfe’s Law is still valid and this alone tells me that reBlogger is the right product, at the right time: Metcalfe’s original insight was that the value of a communications network grows (exponentially, as it turns out) as the number of users grow because as the network grows, as participation grows (via RSS) the need for management inside companies grows too… and we’re the only product that offers to resolve this problem for large companies
  3. The pricing is crucial – and our pricing is right. We have a free version, hobby, corporate and very large corporate versions.
  4. We have great features but we’re not afraid to remove many of them. Some say that a movie is not finished being edited until the “favorite/protected/darling” scenes have been cut. Just today we agreed to remove central features from the default install, to make it an easier learning curve for initial users.
  5. We have big dreams and a great vision, but we’re still focussing half our time on making what we have work better than before.
  6. We have made a strategic decision to align with Microsoft and they reach the cashed-up corporate market where companies still have money to spend long after the Bubble 2.0 has gone under

I think that we must simply ignore the carnage that is about to happen and keep our minds focussed on creating the best product to monitor corporate blogs. The best place to watch internal blogs, track competitor’s blogs and keep up with the industry news – right there in your cubicle using reBlogger.

Bubble 2.0 begins to deflate – 9 lessons

Do you remember the way we used to be? Our lives untainted by memories. And we laughed and we cried and we…. yeah yeah yeah. You know the song.

Well it had to happen. Bubble 2.0 is starting to deflate. Just as the new economy resulted in effed company which tracked the fall from dizzy heights and good companies with good people became road kill… in the same way Bubble 2.0 has deadpool and the body count is rising.

Well, the inevitable is starting to happen – a few new web startups are starting to close up shop as they find that building an application is a lot easier than getting users to try it out, and keep coming back. – Fold.com…Folds

Never a truer words has been spoken. Well, ok. Very seldom has… well yes… many truer words have been spoken. But still. This is a good word.

In our company we have been trying to focus on certain strategies and to avoid certain things for some time now. The acid test for me was not the hype, not the investment, not the long tail, not the ideas, not the talent, not the committment nor the features or buzz or excitement… it was the income.

You can’t take home and eat excitement. The proof of the pudding is still in the eating. Do people want to eat what you are offering… more specifically, will they pay for it? If someone doesn’t pay for it, you have NO business model.

Here are some really good posts about a recent startdown called Kiko:

As Richard White, member of the Kiko team, wrote:

I agree with the 37signals argument that having paying customers forces you to hone in on what that market wants, and that probably would have done us a lot of good – Actual lessons from Kiko 2

As Justin Kan blogged about Kiko

Stay Focused. … snip… If you’re a creative person, it’s very easy to get side-tracked on side ideas when you really should be working on your main one. This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. We did this a lot with Kiko, and it caused many delays in getting the product out the door.

Cute hacks can cost you time. Take the time to do things right from the beginning. Seriously.
Build incrementally. We tried to build the ultimate AJAX calendar all at once. It took a long time. We could have done it piece by piece. Nuff said. – Actual lessons from Kiko 1

These simple pieces of advice can absolutely mean the difference between earning an income and just getting by and never actually being able to make a difference in the world. The cute hacks one still drives me absolutely nuts as I struggle with moving us forward while having to undo the junk legacy code that was written in the past.
Some other lessons worth considering

Too many features killed the cat - It didn’t look it at first, but if you played around with Kiko 1.0 for 15 minutes you found out that there was a *lot* of functionality under the hood. Problem was that we felt we needed to bring *all* of that functionality over to Kiko 2.0. I mean you can’t cut features between versions, right? Wrong. We should have cut features, probably about 40% of them and launched.

You must have a plan for escaping the TechnosphereTo a degree, it didn’t matter how many posts we got on TechCrunch, LifeHacker or Scoble; we would still be stuck in the same Technosphere duking it out with Google, 30Boxes and everyone else. You can make a nice living just pimping your wares in the technosphere (which is what I’m attempting with SlimTimer) but if you ever want to gain any real traction as an online calendar service you have to target the cubicle dwellers and their Outlook calendars that only exist outside the sphere. Techie users are fickle, transient and demanding. You can spend all of your time implementing ATOM feeds and hCalendar export and never be the better for it. We didn’t have a plan for how to go mainstream, which, in hindsight, was a prerequisite for our success.

I would add one more thing: know when to stop. If you’ve been pouring money into something and it’s just not happening, not finishing, not there… its always “just” this or “only” that and if the issues keep shifting (even if it’s FOR A GOOD REASON) then you might need to swallow the loss of your investment and regain control of the direction of the company. We recently did this too.

So in summary:

  1. Buidling the product /= gaining revenue from it.
  2. Be cashflow positive. Earn more than you spend. Live within your means.
  3. Work on the main idea, not on all the “great” (but peripheral) ideas
  4. Do not hack in things badly, they will cost dearly you later
  5. Build and release incrementally (3.1, 3.2, 3.3… 4.0)
  6. Launch with the features that are complete, don’t forever delay the launch for “still to come” features
  7. Business is where the money is, not the technosphere – have a plan to reach the cubicle dwellers in companies
  8. Know when to stop going down a wrong path. Stop wasting money and accept the loss.
  9. Find a way to charge for your product because this produces realism. If no one buys it… then no one is buying it, there is no future… you can then change products, diversify, cutback and try again. If they are buying, then keep on keeping on.

These are the strategies to keep out of the deadpool.

Kilo is currently for sale on eBay. 40,000 monthly visitors… being sold for $50k.

Free Ajax Microsoft Atlas (Ajax) Lab

We’re pleased to announce our free Microsoft Atlas (Ajax) Lab in which we provide free .NET source code to explain how to use Microsoft Atlas. The following blogs should be read in conjunction with the code above:

We hope this is productive and useful for you.

Launch of new website and new pricing

Yesterday we launched the new look and feel of our reBlogger website and our new pricing structure.

5 new versions

We also have 5 versions of reBlogger: one to meet every need.

personal_small.jpg hobby_small.jpg small_business_small.jpg corporate_blog_manager_small.jpg market_research_small.jpg

We are particularly excited about the introduction of the Corporate and the Research versions!

Personal Use

This is the free edition for small scale personal use.

Hobby Website

Do you run a small hobby website where you want to collect the news feeds from around the web and publish them to your Windows website? This is the version for you.

Small business

If your business has a small number of blogs to publish to your website, this version of reBlogger is ideal for you.

Corporate Blog Manager

For a company that has hundreds of bloggers, this version of reBlogger will track the blog posts, filter them and notify the managers when a blog post has swearing in it or discusses pre-release information. This version of reBlogger manages the content for the manager, so you don’t have to.

Market Research

This version is typically used to track competitors employee blogs and to research trends and explore market positioning. The so called “social” features of reBlogger enable an internal corporate discussion to slice and dice the blog posts of the competing employees.

ride_wave.jpgBlogging is not just a new wave, we think of it more as a tidal wave which will redesign corporate communications. We’re riding the leading edge of that wave.

We have recently decided on new innovations (like a free Ajax/Atlas Lab) and an improved direction for the company, so be prepared to see still more change and innovations from us.

Check out out reBlogger website and let me know what you think.

17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders

17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders. Well worth reading… along with the other similar posts I’ve collected in this blog.

A quick list of links that reBlogger caught overnight

I went to reBlogger on SEOData to catch up on the SEO news. It collects 157 SEO and blog (wiki etc.) related web feeds.

I wasn't happy with the existing keywords and so I added a Web 2.0 section and a Blogosphere, social, meme section with a bunch of keywords including "Blogosphere, Structured Blogging, Microcontent, Technorati, Bloglines, Social software, DIGG, Syndication ".

So now it pretty much catches all the posts I'm interested in. Here's the cream of the posts from overnight:

Enjoy!

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

Sentence level annotation is coming!

Well… it had to happen. What we invented for a future version of reBlogger is already appearing here Unobtrusive Sidenotes and you can see the example here. They use CSS to achieve the effect of adding comments to the existing page. Niffty.

Now I've run into this crowd: Diigo : social bookmarks and annotationstestimonials.gif

Don't just bookmark! Highlight important paragraphs and put up digital sticky notes anywhere you wish in the whole wide web. Easily find what is important and why you saved it in the first place!

sticky_notes.gif

With a virtual highlighter and digital sticky notes, now you can highlight & jot down your comments directly on any part of a webpage and scan through all your research findings quickly. Easily extract and compile all your highlights across multiple pages for a given subject.Keep your annotations private or share with others. Exchange viewpoints on any specific area of a webpage – great for collaboration or debating an issue.

It's remarkable how quickly you can get an idea and find that others are doing the same thing. I am constantly amazed at this. Other people have productized this before us, so it will be interesting to see what happens now. Perhaps we'll launch what we have and throw it open to people to play with. I've got a bunch of blog posts pre-loaded from a while back which will give a good run down of the idea. It's really quite revolutionary.

They made it public first, but I think what we have in mind is not only better, but far more useful. Natch! :D

The death of Wikipedia

On the 24th of May this appeared on roughttype.com and it caused a stirr…

The death of Wikipedia

Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that "anyone can edit," was a nice experiment in the "democratization" of publishing, but it didn't quite work out. Wikipedia is dead. It died the way the pure products of idealism always do, slowly and quietly and largely in secret, through the corrosive process of compromise. There was a time when, indeed, pretty much anyone could edit pretty much anything on Wikipedia. But, as eWeek's Steven Vaughan-Nichols recently observed, "Wikipedia hasn't been a real 'wiki' where anyone can write and edit for quite a while now."

And the next day this appeared on the same site…

Now, let's bury the myth

I bought into the myth myself, I'm ashamed to say. In composing my requiem for Wikipedia yesterday, I originally wrote, "There was a time when, indeed, anyone could edit anything on Wikipedia." No, it turns out, there was never such a time. It was a myth from the very start. But "openness" is only the very tip of the mythical iceberg that Wikipedia has become. The bigger myth is that Wikipedia is an emanation of collective intelligence or, in the popular phrase, the "wisdom of the crowd." In this view, Wikipedia has a compeletely flat, non-hierarchical structure. It is a purely egalitarian collective without any bureaucracy or even any management. There's no authority.

Do you remember the dotcom boom? Remember the dotcom bust that some people didn't wanted to believe would inevitably happen? I can still remember Bill O'Reilly ranting that it's the new economy and that Greenspan is messing it up. Muhahahaha. I wonder if he still thinks that or has reality sunk in?

In the same way that some people wondered if there is a new economy and the old rules are done away with… in that same way how many of us thought wikipedia was the advent of truly social software – where the wisdom of the masses finally hit it's stride and conquered old media?

But… if wikipedia is a sham… then perhaps it's not something new, it's the same old same old. That would explain why old media News Corp owns so much of the new media as well. Is it business as usual?

Ah well… it was fun while it lasted eh?

Boxxet

Ok, now on to Boxxet.

boxxet-logo.gifThe site is not public (it's by invitation only at this stage) so I can't review their UI.

I can only guess at their functionality content by reading the various reviews.

What I found out is that you can't (yet) create a personal boxxet, you can only create publically editable boxxets. As a result those boxxets then improve and continue to improve as many people work on the same ones over time. So this makes boxxet like a wiki, because I can improve any wiki page. I really like this!

Boxxet: Wants to be the About.com of Web 2.0

[Update: Once a user creates a boxxet, other users (who registered with an email address) can go in and rank the content there, i.e, whether they like or dislike it, and the system will respond by emphasizing or de-emphasizing that content in the ranking order. If enough people vote an item down, the content will go away.]

Review 1. Review 2.

You can sumbit books, blog postings, bookmarks, RSS feeds, gear, photos, movies, bars, hotels and restaurants. I do find the latter 3 quite strange. One thing, which I find quite sad, is how the site doesn’t have any tagging. You can, however, comment or review any submission. Also, for blog postings you can click ‘like’ or ‘dislike’, fi you choose dislike you have to say why, and this effects a score.

Review 3.

Boxxet functions like a typical Web search tool. Type a term or phrase and it produces links to existing social networks created by Boxxet users that mention the term. The results are culled from blogs, news sites, photo sites, and lists of bookmarks that people choose to make public.

1% of site visitors create content, 10% synthesizes it

In terms of our company, this might be one of the most important posts. The summary at the end I hope will drive home the 3 different focusses we must have.

Here are two great posts:

The 1% Rule: Charting citizen participation

in June 2005 Wikipedia had a total of 68,682 total contributors. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is reported to have told a library group that month:

  • 50% of all Wikipedia edits are done by 0.7% of users
  • 1.8% of users have written more than 72% of all articles

If we also add evidence from Bradley Horowitz that roughly 1% of Yahoo's user population starts a Yahoo Group, we seem to have The 1% Rule: Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community. (Horowitz also says that some 10% of the total audience "synthesizes" the content, or interacts with it.)

Are you a 1 Percenter?

The overriding lesson: Avoid marginalizing the 1 Percenters as statistically insignificant, unrepresentative of the total audience or simply the lunatic fringe. If anything, the 1 Percenters may represent the leading indicators of how well your brand is being adopted, synthesized and vocalized.

This post Are you a 1 Percenter? does a fabulous job of summarizing all the responses and input from other posts around the web. No need to re-create that here, just go there.

The part that says 10% of your site visitors synthesize the content is something I've been driving at for a while. Our software needs to accomodate three types of visitors:

  1. The writer
  2. The synthesizer (editor, masher, cross-linker)
  3. The reader

Each type of visitor has a very different kind of perspective, attitude, expectation and need.

The DIGG effect

We used to say the Slashdot effect didn't we? How times have changed.

DIGG is on the way up and according to some research

Digg now rivals Slashdot as the most important nonsearch driver of links to technology sites, which is leading many tech publishers to consider two things: first, how they can get users to Digg their stories and, second, how they can add Digg-like functionality to their own sites.

Google trends shows how quickly DIGG has taken the effect out of Slashdot:

digg_vs_slashdot.gif

Del.icio.us is also a very popular social site and you've heard of mashups. What do you get if you combine DIGG + Del.icio.us + mashups?

digglicous.gif

When will the madness stop? :D

Google co-op

I'm still investigating the social stuff.

Google Co-op is a platform which enables you to use your expertise to help other users find information

I read some interesting comments about Co-op in Google Co-Op – Google Embracing Social Search?

There are obvious comparisons to Rollyo, Filangy, Prefound, Wink and other social search plays, but frankly Co-op just doesn’t cut it. It feels like another Google Base to me – ambitious in its scope, but utterly bamboozling to the user. Frankly, I’m not sure that Google will ever get social search right – community-building just isn’t in their DNA.

Scrolling down to the comments for that blog post… Google gets hammered for not making the application clearer and easier to use and this comment was particularly interesting:

One thing that bothers me at times about Google is how this massive corporation sometimes appears to act like an opensource, nonprofit project.

Froogle, Base, Co-op, and others all seem to depend on other people doing most of the work, and then Google ultimately owns the data.

I did some searches in the SEOData reBlogger to see what other posts on Google Co-op I could find:

The thing is… companies like Google keep on trying until they get it right. Windows 1.0 was nothing, 2.0 was nothing, 3.0 was good, 3.1 was big, 3.11 (with networking) was massive. reBlogger is the same, we'll just keep on going through the versions until we crack it. No one currently knows how to do "social" exactly right, so it's open slather for anyone. Google will eventually get this right and I suspect it will revolve around voting.

Here is the Wink collection for Google Co-op.

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

Is Amazon a sleeping 2.0 giant?

Still from the amazing Steve Rubel – Amazon Launches Media Browser

Amazon's Your Media Library has the potential to become a killer social commerce application. If they simply allow users to optionally open their the tag metadata so it aggregates into a cloud, Amazon can help customers find others who share interests and build a mini social network of book, music and movie lovers. Keep an eye on Amazon. Something tells me this is just the beginning for them. They're a sleeping Web 2.0 giant.

Amazon are incredible. Really. When I think of Ajax I think about the Amazon Diamond Search. Sure it's an oldie, but it's a goodie.

Check out their stock graph: Amazon compared with the Down, Nasdaq and S&P.

New reBlogger.com layout – what do you think?

rb_thumb.gifI've posted a LOT of items previously about good looks and feels and I've researched how everyone else does it. Now it's our turn to face the music and put our money where our (my?) mouth is.

We've got the product, got a good feature set, a great vision, great team… we even already made some sales! Now all that is missing is… the actual branded website. But no more!

We're about to launch our reBlogger.com website and we're playing with the look, feel and functionality. If you read this blog (and I know you do!) then post me a comment and let me know what you think of the new reBlogger.com new front page layout (360kb file size). Be sure to zoom in on the picture if it shows up as a thumbnail. It's all Ajaxian (Microsoft Altas) goodness.

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

Social video? Video mashups… online

I've blogged some pretty intense (long and thoughtful… for me) posts recently:

So I'm going a bit light hearted just before the weekend.

You may have read my We’re coming for you post where I highlight Grouper and you may know of this post Comparing The Flickrs of Video.

Well now… check out the next gen of social video. Video mashups. Eyespot. Jumpcut (blog) check out their eeeerie eye logo animation with sound, sooo cool. (It gets tedious if you leave it open in the background for 15 mins though. hehehe)

eye.JPG

A tremendous new burst of creativity on the web

I am just stunned at what we're seeing these days. In my previous post (134 Ajax Frameworks and Counting) I wrote about just one of these changes. That piqued my interest and I did some research on the incredible and amazing Wikipedia:

Consider these dates

First, some context. Let's look at the 1800's (not 1900's).

  • 1800 Volta constructs the first device to produce a large electric current (battery)
  • 1886 First motorbike
  • 1886 First automobile designed and built — rather than a converted carriage, boat, or cart.
  • 1889 First vehicle with seats, brakes, and steering, and included a four-stroke engine

Now let's jump forward only 83 years:

  • 1971 the NASDAQ is launched – it operates entirely electronically (unlike the NYSE)
  • 1972 First Intel chip
  • 1977 First ATM (automatic teller machine)
  • 1977 First Apple II home computer (no graphical user interface)
  • 1981 First IBM PC
  • 1983 Apple Lisa home computer (including graphical user interface)
  • 1984 Apple Macintosh introduced
  • 1985 EFTPOS Introduced (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale)

Think about what happened in the first 14 years from the first Intel chip to 1985. Quite incredible how fast things moved.

Let's focus on one of two of those dates: the first Apple computer was available in 1977 and IBM PC in 1981. Now fast forward only 8 years later when Tim Berners-Lee writes a proposal for what we know as the web:

  • 1989, Berners-Lee wrote Information Management: A Proposal (it described an elaborate information management system)
  • 1990 With help from Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee published a more formal proposal for the World Wide Web
  • 1990 Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web
  • 1991 The first web browser (which was a web editor as well) announced
  • 1991 Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup
  • 1993 CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone, with no fees due
  • 1993 Release of the graphical Mosaic web browser by Marc Andreessen
  • 1994 Netscape Navigator launched

Think about what happened in the first 5 years! We go from proposal in 1989 to Mosaic in 1993 and Netscape in 1994.

So what happens that same year in 1994?

  • 1994 Justin Hall begins to blog (it wasn't called blogging then)
  • 1994 First wiki is created offline
  • 1994 Yahoo! incorporated
  • 1995 First wiki (WikiWikiWeb) is installed on the web by Ward Cunningham
  • 1996 Xanga launched (blog or diary site)
  • 1996 DoubleClick begins (advertising)
  • 1996 Blog site Xanga has 100 diaries
  • 1997 "weblog" term coined by Jorn Barger
  • 1998 Google incorporated

I find this interesting, in those 4 years blogging has already begun and all the major players (Google, DoubleClick etc.) have already become established.

Now comes a tremendous new burst of creativity:

  • 2000 RSS developed
  • 2000 Tristan Louis proposes a draft of what came to be known as PodCasting
  • 2001 Wikipedia begins
  • 2003 Dave Winer creates first MP3 podcast on his site
  • 2004 "Podcasting" word coined
  • 2004 DIGG website created
  • 2005 Xanga has 50 million blog diaries

Think about what has happened in the very first 11 years of the web!

As soon as the web became available people began to blog and communicate. (reBlogger was built in 2004 to collect and index web feeds by kewords and made public in 2006. heheheh.)

I want to highlight the speed of three developments

  • The Apple Mac brought the PC into the public arena in 1984 and by 1993 we had Mosaic
  • From Netscape in 1994 to now (2006) we have 80 million websites on the web
  • From the creation of RSS in 2000 to now (2006) we have 40 million blogs

I find it interesting that blogs have come up far faster than websites. But something else is bubbling up – and it's coming up MUCH faster than anything we have seen before:

In only 1 year we have seen the enormous growth of Ajax and social DIGG-style websites in particular. I know the basic technology had been there since 1997 in Netscape and 1996 in Microsoft IE and Microsoft used aspects of it in their 2000 web based software, but I am tracking the moment it entered the public consciousness and therefore began to be used and developed.

Some people might draw other conclusions from these dates. I'd like to hear from you.

Different kinds of social/meme/news sites

I have been thinking about what makes reBlogger different to the other sites. I've nosed around for an analysis of the various sites and strengths and weaknesses of each offering.

Much research is focused on Ajax and the look and feel of the sites. This post is about broader strengths and weaknesses of the sites.

I think there are three ways people commonly read the internet:

  • Passive news – you visit the sites you like (Yahoo, CNN) and read them. They inform you of what you need to know.
  • Searching news – You go to Google and find the information you know that that you want.
  • Notification of news - have a site that scans the enormous number of blogs out there and collects together the more interesting information for you.

Of the notification of news websites, I think there are four basic types:

 

  • Meme sites – tracking the hot (high profile, popular) conversations on the web
  • Social sites – user submitted content (sometimes highlighting esoteric past items)
  • Online news reader – read your web feeds online
  • News tracking sites – after submitting your keywords, view only the blog posts that interest you

 

Meme sites

Sites:

Overview:

They automatically scan the news and find the "cool" topics that are in vogue in blogs around the world.

Strengths:

They find and track "conversations" about the news and watch them for a limited time period as they develop and evolve. To track an evolving political story this is a great kind of site.

Weaknesses:

  • They track only a relatively small number of hot and active topics. They tend to ignore small threads, ideas or posts that are not popular enough to become memes.
  • They tend to only track blogs (or information available as a web feed).
  • By nature, they have a short attention span of a few days.
  • 99% of the posts that a visitor would also have found useful and interesting are completely missed because they were single posts (or short threads) and never attained "hot"ness – and therefore never surfaced and became a part of the herd consciousness.
  • All meme sites offer a search, but none ask me what keywords I want to see in every meme, so I am assaulted by many memes that are of no interest to me
  • The memes that are displayed do not correlate to my personal interests – unless I specifically choose to visit a tech meme site (see: techmeme) or a sports meme site – otherwise I am served what the meme algorithm has determined interesting – without being aware of my interests.
  • The cost of a server farm to track all 40 million blogs is very expensive – even with OSS software.

Competitive advantage:

The algorithm defining "interesting" or "hot" is the competitive advantage between these sites – the better the algorithm, the more compelling the site is.

Example of this post:

This post – although it is a useful for many people – is highly unlikely to become popular enough to become a "meme" and therefore won't enter into the herd's collective awareness as they forage for information.

 

Social sites

Sites:

Overview:

These sites rely on user submissions to identify stories and to vote on them. It also tracks coolness, but unlike meme sites, the visitors decide what is important, not a software algorithm.

Strengths:

  • Individual posts that might be missed by an algorithm looking for coolness are more likely to be highlighted by individual visitors.
  • The more users which interact with the site, the more useful the site is.
  • Easy to set up, lower hardware cost.

Weaknesses:

  • Too few visitors will result in too few submissions to the site. dotnetKicks has this problem, 1 submission today and 1 submission 6 days ago – nothing in between.
  • No focus on "hot conversations" – for example the top post on DIGG right now is called "What the font?" (Ever wanted to find a font just like the one used by certain websites or publications? Well now you can, using the WhatTheFont font recognition system.) with 62 diggs. This site is very likely being gamed for attracting visitors and making sales.
  • Social sites tend to encourage tagging by the submitter and searching for keywords, but again an enormous amount of information can be lost if the post is incorrectly tagged.

Competitive advantage:

Cheap startup costs, users submit the content (no need for an expensive server farm to automatically collect all 40 million blogs).

Example of this post:

This post, if read and valued by someone, may be highlighted as useful on such a site. But the readership of this blog is so small that it is unlikely that enough people will bookmark this post on any social site in order to raise it's profile, so it will also fail to be highlighted to the herd as suitable grazing material.

 

Online news reader

Sites:

Overview:

An online feed reader. You upload an OPML file or a list of blog feeds and the service collects those feeds regularly and you read them online.

Strengths:

Very inexpensive to run because the user submits their web feeds.

Weaknesses:

  • They don't collect all the news and track it, they rely on user to list their own blogs that they want tracked. Therefore they online have a subset of the news.
  • Even with this subset of blogs they may have too many off-topic posts, because they do not appear to offer keywords or filtering to track only the posts you want to track – and hide the posts that are off topic.

 

Competitive advantage:

This is probably the broadest active market containing the most people (not passive readers of sites) and these users have the simplest needs. The software is understood by the most number of people.

Example of this post:

This post is unlikely to show up on a news reader site because my RSS feed is unlikely to be in their list.

 

reBlogger sites (News tracking or news mastering)

Sites:

Overview:

reBlogger is a combination of social and online news readers. By using keywords this site only displays the information you want to read, regardless of the source of the information. User-voting also ensures that better content is more easily discovered.

 

 

Strengths:

  • A stronger emphasis on context (evolution over time exploring historical information)
  • The visitor can filter the news by specifying sets of keywords to track (such as climate change, PS3 or XBox) and the software watches for those keywords and notifies the visitor when the keywords are found, regardless of which blog it was found on
  • The sources can be more than blogs (such as newsgroups) and the methods of notification can be quite proactive (email etc.)

Weaknesses:

  • With 50,000 posts per hour, even with keyword usage, there is a potential problem of having far too many posts showing up to be read. To deal with this problem, we encourage voting where users assist each other by voting content up and protect each other from bad content by voting content down.
  • The site is useful as an online news reader for individuals users (and keywords make the reading even better), but for voting to be effective many users must use the site (the more the site is used, the better it is)
  • No focus on conversations and "hot" topics (unless voted for by users)
  • Because of the focus on historical data to provide context, the effectiveness is limited to the age and completeness of the archive of data

Competitive advantage:

A strong emphasis on historical context. A focus on encouraging the user to buy their own copy of the software, hopefully off-loading the demand to other people's servers.

Example of this post:

This post will automatically be collected by a reBlogger. If the user has indicated an interest in the keywords which are used in it (such as "social" or "meme") then it will show up for the users who have said they want to track these keywords.

Revenue streams?

In all cases the revenue stream is advertising, except for reBlogger, Chuquet and Megite:

License Megite Software: Email us for more info if you are interested in licensing Megite software to create Megite like web2.0 service.

The end

If you have read to the bottom, you're probably a very committed person… committed to building the perfect social/meme/news site. This post from a VC firm makes an interesting point that I hope will broaden your thinking beyond the very small number of people that you may now be targeting. Dave has a thought on it.

Get the 30 day demo of reBlogger (Windows only, requires .NET and SQL)

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

 

We’re coming for you

grouper_fighter.JPGA company called Grouper has made an ad and put it up for viewing.

It features a Bruce Lee fighting scene, but Bruce is labelled with the purple "G" Grouper icon and the baddies (and there are lots of them) are labelled with competitor logos.

The video ends with a threat to all video websites. Hillarious.

New Interface – going stealth to protect the IP

After poking our head up a bit in the Coding reBlogger blog (and on Flikr) we've decided to go stealth. I'll keep blogging, but Ivan's work will no longer be public.

We've always thought we were onto something big and we began building it. As we built it, we refined it and discovered we were onto something even bigger.

We've begun to see that it has the potential to significantly shake the web. It should change the nature of:

  • hyperlinking
  • tagging
  • commenting
  • user generated content

It's an evolutionary shift in the nature of the web. Evolutionary, not revolutionary… but it will be so pervasive that it will be rapildy included into more and more products. As it's use becomes widespread, it will force new extensions to the HTTP spec.

Some would think that developing this stuff in public will create buzz and that's good for our company, but I've realized that we need to be a bit more strategic and protect what we have invented.

We are now approaching what we're building in two parts:

  1. the products – reBlogger, reNNTP, various websites – which will use the new interface
  2. the IP – which has tremendous potential in itself as intellectual property/patents.

I have no doubt our IP will be bought out and I am planning for it. Possible buyers of the IP/patent include Microsoft, Technorati, WordPress and any other cashed-up blog-related IP company.

Why take this approach? It's simply because we don't have the ability to shepherd the idea, shape the IP and help with implementations.

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

Google APIs, RoR and mashups!

You might have seen my post on Why Google is extending RSS and GData. I often comment on mashups and APIs, so I thought it would be good form to include a link to a list of Google APIs. Google is mashing up their own applications.

The experimenters and early adopters have already built mashups and the real growth will now come as pragmatists begin to mash things up. The importance of mashups in the next generation of the web will be incredible and will only reach the mass market when programming languages have been extended to provide easy tools to do the work.

I think Ruby on Rails or RoR is already going in this direction. Most people think RoR is just generative programming

Generative programming is a style of computer programming that uses automated source code creation

It's great that RoR enables such easy programming which in turn generates more code. But when I was watching some videos about coding in RoR, I noticed that RoR was not only generating, but it was consuming APIs with the greatest of ease.

The Ruby programming language allows for extensive metaprogramming

What is metaprogramming?

Metaprogramming is the writing of programs that write or manipulate other programs (or themselves) as their data

This ability to consume an application (or it's API) as a data source is old hat. DLLs, COM, AciveX all does that. But with Ajax (and the ability for RoR to generate all the client side stuff) the power to create complex systems (that mashup up APIs that were previously kept separate) has moved into the hands of the common programmer.

This is the thin edge of a very thick wedge. We live in interesting times!

Tracking the mood(s) of the blogosphere

Want to know the current moood of the blogosphere?

blog mood analysis

Ok, here are the details: it's updated every 10 minutes and it's not the whole blogosphere, it's only the 10 million LiveJournal bloggers. But still it's cool! Well done to MoodViews – Tools for Blog Mood Analysis.

Read more about it. An excerpt:

Software that tracks mood swings across the 'blogosphere' and pinpoints the events behind them could provide more insightful ways to search and analyse the web, researchers say. The software, called MoodViews, was created by Gilad Mishne and colleagues at Amsterdam University, The Netherlands. It tracks about 10 million blogs hosted by the US service LiveJournal. "I noticed that blog posts on LiveJournal have mood labels attached," Mishne says. "We started to collect this information and noticed trends in different moods over time."

Hmmm… but in the interview I recently did, I described something similar to Moodsignals. Before I get to that, let's first read a bit about Moodsignals:

On Valentine's Day, there is spike in the numbers of bloggers who use the labels "loved" or "flirty", but also an increase in the number who report feeling "lonely". The latest addition to Moodviews, a program called Moodsignals, tries to explain match these blogospheric mood swings to current events. It identifies emotional peaks by comparing recent label usage with records of previous use. When it finds a spike, the program picks out less commonly used words from relevant blog posts in an effort to identify the cause of the emotional change.

Here is the "loved" Moodsignal in the month of February (valentines day):

loved_valentine_moodsignals.png

Check out their various services:

In my interview about reBlogger I described the usefulness of tracking the employee blogs for a competing company:

Mark Wilson: For example, the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, he has a problem at the moment: he's got 27.000 employees and I don't know what percentage of them blog, but the OPML file for Microsoft is HUGE. So they have an enormous number of people blogging. Now the CTO of Microsoft cannot possibly read all of those blogs everyday, so he needs something which is smart enough to capture into themes, perhaps positive comments or negative comments, and in this way he could follow what is happening in terms of the bloggers inside the company. Somebody else, like Bill Gates, might want to track graphically, with a graph, the growing number of interest in Ajax; he might want to track what people are saying about Live.com, or Microsoft Office, the Windows version vs. the web version. If you've got a script being used on any day you'd find a 100 different opinions, and there is somebody out there who wants to track those opinions, and watch them rise or fall.

That isn't my the Moodsignal idea, here it is…

Mark Wilson: Well my idea is this, let's say that you're doing market research and you're trying to figure out what your competitor's doing. So for example let's say Microsoft is trying to understand what any competitor is doing, if you were to collect all their blogs, and you were to analyze them for upcoming themes…so say Microsoft wanted to follow the performance of a product such as Flex, a new product from Macromedia. Now, I'm just guessing this, but because companies try to encourage employees to blog in advance of a product coming up, I'm willing to bet that if you mapped out the number of posts in a particular team, say the Flex team, there would be a spike in the number of posts while they're developing their new version, and then there would be a spike just before launch the new version. So I'm guessing we haven't built the software to test this, but I'm guessing that if we mapped against product launches, and if we mapped the number of posts that that team, if we could figure out who was on that team, if we could map the two we would see a correlation. So, it's a possibility for market research all sorts of things.

Check out the rest of the interview with me.

It would be pretty cool to see some kind of Technorati style overview of the blogosphere containing moods or something useful, kinda like Technorati makes their graphs public every few months… like this one:

Technorati April 2006

I'm just day dreaming here… but if they had an API and encouraged mashups and mashing of their data… wooo! My mind boggles with possibilities. I could extend reBlogger to include their API and overlay their data on top of the stuff we generate for customers.

BUT they would need to extend beyond just tracking LiveJournal. And they can't just collect the moods that LiveJournal generate, they will have to evaluate the mood of blog posts themselves. That's a fair amount of work.

I'm convinced that corporates will find this useful.

built_with_reblogger2006.gif

GCalendar + GMail + Search = new functionality!

So you've seen GMail and Google Talk (IM) being integrated which resulted in Google Talk being placed right there in your GMail. That was ok. Nothing terribly new or innovative though.

Now try this:

  1. sign up for GCalendar and wait a few days (for the new menu bar to pop up in the top left of your GMail window). The two are now connected.
  2. Now send yourself an email (to GMail) in which you invite yourself to dinner tomorrow night. Read that email in GMail.
  3. Notice the "Add to calendar" offer on the right to automatically add an event to your GCalendar based on the invitation in the email? Notice that it has "read" your email and correctly identified your details, the date and time. Cool huh?

GMail and Calendar

It's thanks to GMail being integrated with GCalendar.

Think about that for a moment. How did it know that the email contained an invitation to dinner, the day and the time? The natural language ability of the Google search engine is being integrated into the other apps.

They appear to have a remarkable ability to understand commonly spoken language, if they can "read" that the email is an invitation and can correctly pick the event, the day and time and offer to add it to GCalendar.

What if they keep doing this right across all their applications? I just blogged about Office 2.0 in prepration for this post, because this is where the action really happens. Those Office 2.0 applications all stand alone and don't integrate (think MS Office or Open Office). But further than that, they have no hope of replicating Google's ability to understand natural language either, so they won't be able to compete with the functionality that Google provides.

I'm suggesting that Google will integrate their technologies in really useful ways BECAUSE they can understand natural language so well. The upcoming WinFS wanted us users to "mark up" our documents so computers can understand the contents of the documents, but Google Desktop forged ahead and learned to understand our documents – not needing us to mark them up. Natural language came to market first – and WinFS got canned.

The only remaining two questions are:

  1. When will GOffice arrive and what will the integration be like?
  2. Will Microsoft be able to integrate their natural language stuff (if they have any) into their Office Live stuff?

I'd like to hear your thoughts and ideas.

More mashup madness – Flikr spelling

From Spell with Flikr comes…

What is this? Spell with Flickr is a small program that lets you type in whatever you want, then goes to flickr and grabs pictures for each an every letter! It also allows you to change the images that you see, so you can find better images for your word or phrase!

Here is our product name reBlogger

RENOLA alphabet BLlOglowercaseGER

My name (Mark):

untitledARBarely legal

This is really fun, give it a try! 

A “web 2.0″ slideshow. No, really.

What if you want to visit all 1,400 web 2.0 sites – but you just can't be bothered with opening so many windows? Well then… Web 2 slides is for you. (No it's no April 1st, this is for real). Their quote:

A self running slide show of over 1,400 of the top web 2.0 applications – alphabetically sorted.

Just open this page and on the left at the top click "Start web 2 slides" and watch the parade of 1,400 websites as they display on the right hand side.

LMAO :D

Get all the 2.0 lists in OPML!

Do you want a list of all the links on a page in OPML so you can pop it into your fav readinglist reader?

Using this URL http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/pagelinks2opml.php?url=http://reblogger.wordpress.com
you can get exactly that. Remember to insert your own HTML page after the querystring. It will display inOPML in your browser like this:

<opml>
<head>
<title>Links from http://reblogger.wordpress.com</title&gt;
</head>
<body>
<outline text="Semantic thoughts" type="link" url="http://reblogger.wordpress.com"/&gt;
<outline text="Coding reBlogger" type="link" url="http://codingreblogger.wordpress.com"/&gt;

and so on.

Just in case you want to, you can validate all the URLs as well by using this Web 2.0 Validator that spiders the site and checks it for 2.0 compatibility. Our upcoming reBlogger Football World Cup website clearly needs extensive work done on it, it only scores 7 our of 49. Sigh.

So you've got a HTML links to OPML converter, now all you need is a list of Web 2.0 links and there are tons of those. So I'll provide a list of the lists and then you can extract all the links and OPML-ize them using the link above.

Web20list.com

The following links are all from Dion Hinchcliffe

Web 2.0 Sites Enormous list! Donate to charity and get the full list as an Excel spreadsheet

Everything 2.0 Holy cow. What else can I say?

Web 2.0 Navigation Menus Nice, tight focus.

Sometimes the first is still the best. Yuri's pages are placed in themed categories:

Pligg – an opensource DIGG

Am I giving Pligg a plug? I guess so! :)

Pligg (blog) is an opensource contender to what we're doing – in terms of having built in user feedback. Take a look at all the pligg-like site. Here is an article "To pligg or not to pligg". I like the way they have tabbed the "tags/options/comments" – that another great way to hide complexity until you actually need it.

On the topic of opensource. Opensource will always duplicate the really popular software (DIGG is quite popular!) and that's a bummer for a company employing people who have spent bunches of money building something. Opensource eventually moves software from "for sale" across into "for free". Microsoft did it to Netscape ("you can't beat free" Gates crowed as he bundled IE with Windows and Netscape crashed and burned). I bet Gates regrets saying that now, because he was right… you can't beat free. Sigh.

But it's how things are these days. Our only response can be to use the revenue we earn from reBlogger to build better and better things, to stay out in front.

Social bookmarks – the lowdown

The excellent 3 spots is at it again! 30 social bookmarks that you can add to the footer of a blog post – including the javascript for them!

Keotag has a social bookmark generator and a tag generator but both require manual human involvement.

Socializer (see image below) takes it one step further and will provide the links on behalf of you. (Lovely little logo!)

Great!

I think this is a great tour of the way this social website TalkDigger works (blog). Clear. Easy.

Collections of 2.0 posts

Just in case you missed it (I did!) and to record it for when I need it, check out these links at spot spot spot (3spots)

ALL Social that CAN bookmark

His index is this:

Another excellent list of digg-style applications can be found here:

All the digg-style applications: The list !!!

His index is this:

From the same site (spot, spot, spot) a list of sites with Ajax front pages.
In all cases, check out the comments for updates, wrong links and missing items.

All things 2.0 

This is a list of web 2.0 company logos. 2.0 fonts.

This is fabulous use of orange. This is NOT fabulous use of orange.

FWIW: Here is how to create a killer web 2.0 strategy in minutes :D (Is it April 1?)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.