Anthony “gets” reBlogger and buys it

This is great unsolicited feedback from a customer who downloaded the 30-day reBlogger demo:

This looks like a really cool program. It addresses so many SEO issues in one neat package. I am really excited to see it work. I am going to run it through the paces and if everything works out I will definitely be buying the program.

I was pleased to see his feedback, so I asked him specifically what he liked about reBlogger. This was his feedback:

The biggest thing is fresh content specifically targeted to my keyword. It allows me to add pages to my site without giving up pagerank. It creates optimized pages specifically targeted to my keywords. These are not just spam pages. I have just started using it but I am pretty sure I can tweak the key words so reblogger can create tightly themed pages our visitors will find interesting and use as a resource. I see this section of our site as something to draw visitors back over and over again to our site. Reblogger also addresses sitemaps, and no-follow. But again I see the biggest thing as having the ability to provide timely useful content to our visitors. The hope is our site will become a hub for dog related sites.

At first Anthony seems to have been attracted by the SEO features but then rapidly realized reBlogger's incredible ability to create themes on anything. Anthony purchased reBlogger a day later. Cha-ching! Awesome.

Anthony at 5 Star Dog, we thank you! You've made our day. We hope you go on to grow the leading hub for dog related sites. 😀

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One site to rule them all

Something dawned on me last night. I began to see the confluence of some trends (or currents) in the current web. To understand this post, you may need to read several of my previous posts.

I see four strong trends intersecting. The software we build must sit at the fulcrum of these trends. The trends IMO are:

  1. writers of content
  2. builders of extensions to enable better consumption
  3. revenue sharing for both the writers of content and the builders of extensions. Writers earn when their content is viewed. Builders earn when their extension is used by a consumer to find content.
  4. consumers of information (build it and they will come!)

I'll expand a bit on this below. The numbering and headings below do not correspond to the items above. 😉

Strong and bold trends that I perceive:

1. user generated content

There is also an incredible growth in user-generated content – see the wikipedia foundation, or read this post on growth of the blogosphere or my related post: 50,000 posts an hour and a new blog each second. There seems to be no end to the potential growth going on, see my post 1 billion blogs by 2010… exploring the tree.

2. content based revenue encourages syndication

There is another huge change which is related to the rise and rise of content – the ownership and use and earnings from that content. It's very annoying for an author to see another site earning from their own hard work. However it's very rewarding and pleasant for an author to see their work being used in a respectful manner. Our product (reBlogger) reuses other people's content and our site (SEOData) tries to show respect for the owner of the information.

One of my friends has tons of ads around his reBlogger and we don't have ads on SEOData. He get emails all the time complaining about using their data, we have never yet had a complaint – in fact we've had the opposite, compliments. See my post A huge vote for us where I discuss how to respectfully use someone else's content and to see their fantastic response when he saw his content on our site.

So the real crux of the situation is unfairly earning from from someone else's information. A site that collects information in order to earn revenue is sometimes called a splog. But I suggest that there is another way to avoid this problem, and that is to share the revenue. Please read three of my posts which relate to this: FeedFlare – building longevity into blog posts, Blog content ownership and control, Content theft or revenue generation?.

My solution to this is to encourage the use of YPN, AdWords and related offerings within the feed or post.

3. website ad revenue sharing encourages syndication

In the point above, I explain that YPN encourages revenue earning within a post, therefore encouraging the author to syndicate their posts as far and wide as possible.

But there is another movement happening. Ad revenue sharing… not within posts, but on the sites which use the content. So a site that uses other people's content will share it's revenue with them (for example CrispyNews (blog), DotnetKicks). If YPN in a post is the bazaar (encouraging the vast proliferation of copies of the posts), then this approach (YPN on the site) is the cathedral (encouraging the centralization of posts and centralisation of eyeballs viewing the posts). Read my post The cathedral and bazar if you're interested in this topic.

4. Social interfaces replace search interfaces

Another trend happening is a new generation of user interfaces coming up. See my previous post about the Battle of the UI’s (search *or* meme/social).

It's possible that the social interface will not replace the search interface, but instead the "builder" interface might be social and the "user" interface is still search oriented.

Builders and users have different needs. Builders explore, tweak and kick tyres. Users want the answer to their question… Right! Now! They may explore or vote or kick a tyre after getting what they are looking for.

Google demonstrated that simplicity is the killer feature for users. Builders want access to raw materials (content) and easy one-click tools (ajax-based voting). One characteristic of the winner is that they will intersect both of these.

5. Mashups and extensions

Building on the point above, the intersection of builders and users is vital. The site that can make building new extensions very easy will go a long way. Firefox and OSS clearly shows the emergence of what Alvin Toffler called "prosumer" in his book The Third Wave way back in 1980!

I wrote a post called Semantic mashup artistes describing my primitive initial thoughts on this growth within the blogosphere. I now see that people (writers and builders) will actually begin to make a real living (income, a life) in this website we are building. Highly prolific writers will benefit, but highly successful builders will benefit the most because their contributions will be reused on so many pages. To imagine what this looks like, consider that real people make a real living in the virtual world Second Life. Although they buy and sell using "Linden $" they have an online marketplace, and there is a real exchange rate to the US$! Creators of things in that world come with intellectual property rights. Read about people who make a real living off Second Life (Wired).

Update: I found this post: The Widget Wars I think that is just a start of what I am referring to.
So, in summary:

There are three sets of needs to consider: builders, writer/authors and users/visitors/searchers.

Imagine a site that encourages both consumption of information and the building of extensions to help others around them consume the information – that site will be enormously successful. As the builders get better and better at their craft, then people can find good information more and more easily (or with better context, or… who knows?).

By injecting ad revenue sharing in at the level of a builder, there is an enormous incentive for builders to apply their skills to build even more useful widgets.

A site like this will collect masses of data, especially if people can contribute data directly into that system – adding value to the content that is already there.

I've written an abstract about the eventual end-point for this growth of prosumers. The post is quite long and abstract: Semantic web for real – ZACK but it might be useful in order to understand where things are going IMO.

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The cathedral and bazar

Read this to understand the cathedral and bazar metaphor. Raymond describes the cathedral as closed and proprietary, but I see it differently.

I think the cathedral is technorati and the bazar is the wild west of millions of competing tiny blogging websites. The only time I can think of when a cathedral lost was when the walled-in AOL lost to the sprawling web. (Their real failure was to try and milk their enclosure for far too much money.)

The cathedral always wins if it embraces the efforts and contributions of it's users. Centralization and grouping always occurs in society. Two political parties survive to compete. One or two software companies survive to compete. One Linux kernel survives as the core – if there were too many then Linux would be a bazar, but it's not, it's a cathedral. XBox Live (centralization of logins, subscription, notification – cathedral) is so successful that Playstation has decided against their "federation" approach (each software company does their own thing – bazar) and so there will be a centralized (cathedral) server for the PS too. (Pun intended).

I am 100% sure that the cathedral approach will always win – if they embrace their users. All the content may be created in millions of blogs, but it will be used (viewed) on the site that displays it in the most useful way. The users (viewers) always go to the place where all of their needs are met, this is why Yahoo (by buying del.ico.us, flikr and other social software) will win with their Yahoo 360 integration across so many useful systems. Google is also spreadng itself across many related topics. MS Office and BackOffice taught the world that the one who covers most of the needs of the users in an integrated package will win.

reBlogger does that well by covering so many content and SEO topics in one go. Take a look at my tongue-in-cheek post about how to make a free reBlogger to see the fairly long list of things we do well.Having greater revenue on one site means that site has more income to pay for innovations – which in turn encourages more users to come to them. This is the positive cycle that Technorati has going for them: reinvestment into more user-oriented and useful features. This centralization and reinvestment is one of the reasons why the cathedral always wins.

At the moment the competition between sites is focused on "coolness" (one word: Ajax) but as every site gradually gets the same coolness (voting etc.) there will be a shift to functional and useful and productive. Look and feel is low hanging fruit, everyone can get that relatively easily – but usefulness is fruit that is higher up the tree, it's harder to reach.

Google bowling (or… Eliminating The Competition!)

Finding it hard to beat your competition in rankings? Google bowling! (Link 1, Link 2 ,Link 3, Link 4). Here are some things they offer to "take down" the opposition (muhahahahaha):

  • Links from bad neighborhoods to ANY site you want
  • Java Scripts or “un”-sneaky Redirects to ANY site you want
  • Mass Automated Querying of their URL in Google

It reminds me of an assasination somehow.  I'd cry if it wasn't so funny. 😛

Battle of the UI’s (search *or* meme/social)

It seems to me that every service has one or two things that they do. No one does everything. reBlogger does a lot of basic "engine" things well (take a look at my tongue-in-cheek post about how to make a free reBlogger to see the fairly long list of things we do well). It's almost like we have innovated in the technology stack (the "engine") but now we have to innovate in the user-facing features area.

For our upcoming public version we need to build a whole bunch of user-facing software. In the same way that we tied up the various engine aspects we must tie up the various user aspects too.

So if we're going to build a user interface – what should it be? We have two choices. Search or social. But not both.

If we go with a search interface, then make searching very simple (Google-style) but then innovate with the results (like Flikr has done). But if we go with a meme (or social) interface then the layout itself has to be interactive (voting, ajax suggestions etc.) as well as innovating with the results.

Think about it. Why doesn't Google offer voting? They have chosen the search interface. Technorati, cloudee and the excellent chuquet have all chosen the meme (or social) interface.

Update: It's possible that the "builder" interface might be social and the "user" interface is still search oriented. The two types of users have different needs. The one wants to see the "raw material" (posts and feeds) and the other is passively searching.

In my previous post I commented on the enormous number of websites in this space. Well… while writing this post I've found yet another one! CrispyNews (blog, must see example). Interesting – they also do ad $ sharing. In terms of voting I love it that rojo calls it's vote "adding mojo". Heh. Cool. dotnetKicks calls it "kicking". DotnetKicks also does ad $ sharing.

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Squidoo and MySyndicaat

I am astounded at how fast this space is maturing. I found 6 potential competitors yesterday alone!

Back in November 2005 Robin Good did an interview with Giovanni Guardalben of MySyndicaat. Robin said over and over that MySyndicaat had the first usable newsmastering solution.

Now I am finding so many newcomers to this space it's astounding. For example Squidoo (blog) (article). Their primary goal is to help users create lenses. Here is a kayak fishing lense. The community clearly has a huge need to learn how to make lenses, so they have a uni and a MIRC chatroom.

Building subject collections

Apparently what reBlogger does is called "building subject collections" 🙂

By design, reBlogger is designed for:

  1. researching and tracking admin-specified content across unlimited feeds
  2. building collections based on admin-defined subjects
  3. it's also an offline installer for companies and not online
  4. and it's designed for use on a public-facing website

Here are some installations of reBlogger for technology websites:

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