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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3 Responses to “One site to rule them all”

  1. fanarama Says:

    Hi there,
    Just found your site in a late nite surfing session. I think you’re dead on about how injecting revenue at the builder level will create an inormous incentive to innovate and build useful widgets.

    The internet is now at a point where there are enough web-savvy folk that its much better to create an environment where people can be creative and do things that “companies” –regardless of how inventive they are– will never think about.

    On crispynews, we’ve literally given admins a few fields they can customize, but they’ve taken that and embedded all sorts of creative things. Frankly, I’ve always been a believer in the creativity of individuals, but what I’m seeing really blows my previous notions away.

    People amaze me. Their potential and their creativity is really impressive. The companies of the future who can harness this creativity and share the credit will see much more innovation than those that dictate from the top down.

    Thanks for the mention, and nice piece.

  2. Mark Wilson Says:

    Hiya fanarama (?)

    Thanks for the comment.

    Do you have a crispynews blog that I can read and link to? Did you see we linked to you here as well? I called your site a "must see".

    Crispynews and reBlogger (our product) compete, but not directly – I think that there is plenty of space for everyone. Yes I agree that people are TREMENDOUSLY inventive.

    However, I do think that companies have needs that individuals (no matter how many individuals there are) cannot anticipate – this is the reason that although Linux has more servers in general, it is Microsoft who has most of the ecommerce/business servers.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.

  3. fanarama Says:

    Hey thanks for your review. Actually I did miss that first link. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Our blog is http://blog.kenlet.com We don’t post very often, since our site admins keep us busy, but occasionally we do manage to put some stuff up.

    I agree totally that there is space for both of us, digg, reddit and many more companies. I actually expect this to be much like when online forums first became available. A novel concept (People used to use newsgroups before) that allowed all sorts of unique forums (hosted, open source, etc) to flourish. I expect the same thing to happen with online news.

    Ultimately however, I think the showdown will be between the automated (I think you mentioned this as well) and the hand-voted. Hand voted will always have the best results, but there are situations where automated may be more useful, particularly if the community is not always in place (for example, a particular town may not be a community until disaster strikes and brings them together online to help each other out) In these cases, the automated news engines may be better suited. So, in the end, it will be our paradigm vs theirs.

    I agree with your microsoft comment. As the old saying goes, no one ever got fired for picking IBM. Both have its strengths. However, its suprising to me how solid the open source movement continues to be. In the end, its quality software that will matter. Windows does well b/c Linux can’t match it in terms of ease of use yet. Linux beats windows for most server needs because its cheap and performs solidly.

    Thanks for the engaging discussion.


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