Saturday, December 02, 2006

Digg in Print?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could read all the Digg stories that go to the front page or get at least 10 Diggs, in print?

The print version can be sold at a around $1.95 per week and the money can be distributed to each source – something on the co-operative lines. The ad-supported PDF version may be free for all to download and read.

I think this is one aspect that Web 2.0 startups, desperate for revenue, can explore.

The .JPG magazine runs on the same principle. A community of photo enthusiasts decides what photos go in each issue. Photographers are flocking to the site in big numbers to get a shot at having their work rated and then pinted in the print version. The Pdf version is available here.

The .JPG magazine costs $5.99 per issue – 6 issues in a year. It already has the support of print advertisers, including Flickr.

On a related note, I think a print version of Flickr (choose a category with most views) would be cool as well.

Communities and magazines - it is an area worth exploring.
For example, the Myspace magazine has been often discussed. In fact, Flickr could have been a bigger version of .JPG and Yahoo willing, it could still be.

Related idea: Techmeme in Print (including syndicatd stuff from NYT and others) can be explored as an alternative business magazine.

Kevin Rose, Gabe Reveira, are you listening?

Creating a good health portal

Time for a quick weekened rumination.

Looking for online health information and advice is big. It was a premier activity, according to a recent PEW survey. However, what about an ideal health portal? There are many small players but this article will focus on efforts from Google and Yahoo.

I have seen Google’s and Yahoo’s health portals.

They are not up to the mark. Google people have been talking about quality health information for quite some time. At present, Google’s health app. is just a search application – and at best it will be a OneBox affair.

On the other hand, Yahoo health promotes Yahoo’s content, which would have indeed been great if it included Yahoo Answers on the home page instead of cluttering it with big calculators and directory boxes.

Yahoo has done well with its new Wii Portal.
It is simple. It aggregates information from Flickr,, MyWeb, Yahoo News etc. Adding more how tos would help.

Earlier, I suggested about creating Digg for health.

I suggest Youtube for health/fitness, Myspace for patients (disease-wise).


Friday, December 01, 2006

Why RSS will rule

The Peanut Butter Manifesto didn’t say anything about Yahoo abandoning RSS. Steve Rubel points out that Yahoo recently shipped three sites without feeds. He reasons Yahoo wants its pageviews back.

Perhaps Yahoo was worried about the reports that Google will become the #1 site, traffic wise anytime next year.

Yahoo prides itself on actually owning some content and it wants users to see that content locked on its site. It is a stupid variation on the Walled Garden philosophy.

Steve Rubel shouldn’t worry. It is no trend.

1. RSS is a free advertising tool. It is a token of pride for many bloggers when they claim to have so-so many subscribers. By displaying that old portal mentality, Yahoo shows perhaps that despite all that Web 2.0 buyouts (Flickr,, it is just a plain old media accompany.

2. If it was all about Page Views, meaning advertising money, RSS now has advertising built into it.

3. RSS acts a filter for users – by looking at the headlines, we decide whether to g and read the rest of story. Content quality matters over all. Yahoo wants to take the power of choice away.

Hell, even the Church of England has a prayer feed.

4. RSS is becoming a habit. The next year, we will see enhanced RSS integration with emails. Think newsletters in form of RSS feeds. Think alerts, time-sensitive information and more, integrated with your email and IM.

India Tanking Part 3: Where have the business ideas gone?

This will be a short rant.

The business story of this week probably was that the Bharati Group (owner of Airtel) was getting into retailing, in alliance with Walmart. Earlier, the Ambanis ( the two brothers, separately) started getting into areas like retailing. I can rattle up numerous other businesspeople’s names. Almost all our businesses are a collection of unrelated activities. Wipro sells coding services. Wipro also sells oil. Tata sell salt. Tata also sells coding services. The Reliance group was built out from the petrochemical cash cow. These got this big also because they use their coonection and avilable cash when the Indian economy opened up and the the long-suppressed demand for things like communication, houses, cars, education, healthcare, roads, power bloomed. Right people at the right time.

Wouldn’t it be great if the big companies started something new? Wouldn’t it be great if our media stopped fawning over these plans? What’s great about retailing? Sam Walton and my neighborhood Kirana wala perfected it long time ago. The margins are at 2-3%. All that Sunil Mittal has to do is to grab land in all the cities, employ grads as sales people, retired government servants as senior managers and voila, you are set.

It is sad when people say business houses (strange name, that’s what they call them in India) never think about starting something new. Smaller group have graduated from the earlier habit of diversifying into Pepsi/Coke bottling plants as well. All seem to follow the usual path – make your money in one field, use that to explore other fields.

If you are looking for Bill Gates or Steve Jobs type big startup successes here, you may come up short. There are many small level startup successes here. Eduaction and healthcare startups have found India a heaven.

Wouldn’t it be great if The Ambanis, the Mittals opened up universities and research institution? The Ambanis run a fancy institute of technology and a fancy school. The Birlas and Tatas also run some schools, throw an insititute or few.

It is time Indian Businessmen gave up their real-estate fetish and start something new. Brand new.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


The Internet is a promise. Just so, you will find endless articles and roudups on the 'How to make money from it' topic. This is a rather back-handed tribute to all the advice.

1. Don’t create content: Case in point: Digg, Google, Yahoo, etc. Create something similar. Find new ways to aggregate data and community.
2. Copy or rewrite other people’s content on a big scale. Do it as long as your conscience permits.
3. Be a copycat: Copy a successful business model. The VCs love that. For example, can you copy Techcruch (covering web 2.0 startups)?
4. Write a post listing number of ways of becoming rich.
5. Be lucky.
6. Be the right person at the right place at the right time.
7. Be the first in your field: Case in point – Second Life, Digg,, Flickr, etc.

BonusTip #1: Post such attention-grabbing headlines often.
Bonus Tip#2: Don't listen to all this and do your own thing.

Finally, Encyclopedia Britannica has a blog!

Encyclopedia Britannica launched its blog in October 2006. As a friend with a losse tongue puts it, it is like using a condom after sex.

The masthead on the blog says: ‘Where ideas Matter’, huh?

Bloggers, Wikipedia, Web 2.0 sites take note :-)

Found via Rebeccablood

Google’s Display Advertising Network: Hypocrisy unlimited?

John Chow writes about Google’s secret advertising network, The Google’s Display Advertising Network that Google created to cater to the lucrative Fortune 1000 companies.

Explaining the system, John Chow writes:

Google has been hand-selecting …that they want to put in front of Fortune 1000 companies. The goal being to sell these big companies display and video ads at a very high CPM – unlike the AdSense network, the display network is 100% CPM based.

Although it is praiseworthy that Google is diversifying – it wants to be an all-in-one Madison Avenue.

However, isn’t hypocritical on Google’s part to be the search provider, the pagerank owner, the context-sensitive ad network owner and now the media planner for Fortune 1000 companies?

I thought Pagerank and all that mumbo-jumbo was automatic, with no human interference. It is just coincidence that I have been writing about Digg’s automatic system versus moderation. How can we leave up to Google to decide which are the top online sources and then allow it run the Adsense business as well?

Something is not right, here. Or, may be we are all destined to live by Google’s term, under this large Google Camp, the Google OS, the Search-oriented Web.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Google Answer’s demise: End of paid answers websites?

Sometime later this week, Google Answer will stop accepting questions. No reason has been cited but I guess that the strong performance of Yahoo Answers, a free site unlike Google Answers, might be a reason.

I was surprised to learn that only 800 or so people participated in Google Answers. Therein lays the answer. A recent Oprah Winfrey session on Yahoo Answers got more than 20000 participants.

So is this the end of the road for similar paid answers sites such as, which claims to be human powered search engine? The jury is still out there?

It is also one of those cases where Google has stopped a service. This will give Google's critics more material that Google is perhaps a One Trick/Two-trick Pony.

Google Answers type websites

However, don't lose heart if Answers goes down. Here is a list of Answers-type sites.

Reason why content is still not the King

Content is not the king because content creators don’t own the content pipes and content Warehouses.

This is supposed to be good times for online user content creation, online video, bloggers as nanopublishers hoping to make it big, niche-content owners and the growing members of Content World.

They also take solace from the works Chris Anderson’s Long Tail Idea and James Suroweiki’s Wisdom of Crowds. They believe their time has come. Maybe not.

In a conference call to discuss the impact of new technology on creators of content, Bear Stearns has done a detailed presentation on ‘Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment.

It explicitly warns that ‘value in the entertainment supply chain will shift from the creators of content to the aggregators/packagers of content’.

Here’s my analysis on why we won't be kings:

1. We don’t own the content pipes: The owners of internet infrastructure and the Telcos take a big chunk of all business.

2. We don’t own the pacakaging and distribution warehouses: Companies like Google, Yahoo, AOl, Youtube, and others get a big chunk of the content packaging and repackaging business. To add, Google adsense is making Google richer at a faster clip than content providers and advertisers.

So, what’s the way out?
IMHO, we will grind it out.

If we want to make t big online, we must keep our costs low, create good content, wait for the long run – for a time when it is possible to stream live, high quality, multi-channel, multimedia content to every household in the world. That is when hopefully, the power of the packagers, repackagers, and pipe owners will subside.

Related story at Paidcontent

Bypassing Internet censorship: A roundup

First, news about the latest anti-web censorship tool.

Psiphon is a new Web censorship 'bypass' tool developed by researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada. Psiphon is able to go around government censorship of the web, according to researchers. It will be released on 1 December.

Reporters Without Borders lists 13 countries that it accuses of suppressing freedom of expression on the net, including Syria, China and Vietnam.

Psiphon works on P2P networks. When a net user in an uncensored country downloads Psiphon, his/her computer then becomes an access point. Thus, users then give their friend circle a unique web address, login and password, using which restricted users can easily browse the web through an encrypted connection to the proxy server.

Problems with Psiphon's solution: A Digg user points out a loophole with Psiphon – he says:

by publicizing an SSL proxy as such, isn't this Canadian company just opening themselves up to backlash from the Chinese government? Sort of like what Napster did? Everyone and their brother was using IRC, and then Napster came along and made it simple for any doofus to go out there and download pirated music. This looks to be the same sort of concept - only instead of the **AA, they'll be pissing off the Chinese government.

Now let's do a roundup of resources for bypassing Internet censorship:

1. HOWTO bypass Internet Censorship
(last updated 2006-09-14)

2. How to disable censorware? (Parental controls, etc)

3. List of Anti-Censorship Proxies

4. Popular proxies

5. Downloadable software to bypass censorship (Like Psiphon)
Use Tor

6. Wikipedia’s detailed look at Internet Censorship

7. Wikpedia’s detailed look at Proxy Servers

8. Net censorship: How to bypass China's Great Firewall
Richard Clayton, a computer security researcher at the University of Cambridge, claims to have devised a way to penetrate " the Chinese wall" by ignoring the reset TCP packet returned by Chinese routers to maintain connection. Mr. Clayton says that if those packets are discarded instead of being returned as expected, then the firewall becomes utterly ineffective.

(Via Boing Boing)

Looking for the ideal Digital Executive

Ever since the internet revolution boomed in the 1990s, companies around the world have gone in search for people who are comfortable with all that new terminology, ‘paradigms’ (a much hated word ) and the relentless pace of change.

Earlier, the hunt for ‘digital savvy’ talent was the domain of all companies, but this time around the media companies feel most threatened by the Web 2.0 changes – the users getting charge, the rise of online news and online video and so forth.

The New York Times writes on the issue and posts a mock advertising:

Seeking Executive to Tame the Digital Future

WANTED Digital media genius to guide a nimble — or at least we like to think we are — media giant through transformation from analog to digital in all its gory glory.

JOB DESCRIPTION To take all the stuff we produce for other formats, like TV or print or film, and figure out how to shovel it onto the Internet in a way that makes money.

QUALIFICATIONS The ideal candidate might also have ideas for ways to make a few dollars online that don’t directly stem from our so-called traditional media businesses. (You know — like that whole user-generated thing that the kids are doing. P.S., loved the video clips about how Mentos and Diet Coke mixed together create a chemical reaction — maybe we can turn it into a prime-time special or a theme park ride financed by these brands?)

COMPENSATION Pretty sweet for as long as you last.

RETIREMENT BENEFITS Well, don’t plan on it.

I think talent is a trial and error thing.

Google does the talent thing the best, in view of many. The media companies may do well to follow example and practice the 80-20 rule (20% of time on digital media experiments), small teams, etc.

You learn best by doing it.

The Future of learning is collaboration and co-exploration

This page on social bookmarking site Blinklist is running a collaborative learning experiment for students of BUS301 who contribute readings and resources for their class on Sustainable Business.

There are many more similar examples on the web. This is also good for people who want to teach themselves to get together and create similar ‘Learning Rooms’.

How Youtube is good for brand managers

The Ogilvey PR blog has this to say about ad people and brand managers still struggling with getting value out advertising on Online video sites like Youtube:

3. Video is canned and therefore reasonably controllable. Brands can report to internal executives that they are involved with 'social media' without having to actually enter a two-way conversation.


Textually asks whether the cellphone is misnomer. The coming trend is that of multipurpose handsets that can effortlessly switch between all of wireless networks - cellular networks, Wi-Fi, and WiMax, a longer-range broadband network.

Why don’t we get a new name for cellphones? I doubt whether people will go for a new name as we are used to cellphones.

Nevertheless, I suggest WellPhone. I know it is lame, but ‘W’ stand for all things Wireless.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Three ways how Digg and Google are similar

1. Google is champion of the search cum online advertising world, without spending a dime on content creation. Digg is champion of the ‘new’ online news without spending a dime on content creation.

2. A typical Google search shows lot of trash, some part due to manic SEO guys. Digg shows up lost of useless stories because on manic cabals.

3. Google often disappoints content providers and advertisers who have spent time and effort into producing content but who don’t get the desired results from the weird auctioning system of adsense. Digg doesn’t benefit any site from the resulting traffic spikes. The server gets down and there is no adsense click, adding to the misery.

Monday, November 27, 2006

India Tanking Part 2: The Education Chronicles

Did you know that India is one of those ‘rare’ (we Indians love this word) countries where our ability to get a job diminishes by the degree we get?

A primer on the state of higher education gives us some priceless nuggets of data :

- College graduates suffer from higher unemployment rates - 17 percent in the 2001 census - than high school graduates.

- A Mckinsey report says that only 10 percent of Indian graduates with generalist degrees were considered employable by MNCs, compared with 25 percent of engineers.

- There is vast gulf between the education quality of elite colleges and all others. Parents will attest that not getting into one of India's most elite educational institutions can be a crime. While MNCs and other big firms take the crème for 6 figure salaries, rest of us have to struggle to make ends meet. It doesn’t help that major institutions like the IITs and IIMs also take heavy government funding. Critics say our government is funding the talent for MNCs.

- The Elite institutions teach leadership and communication skills, which is not done at most other places. They also give students better exposure – meeting prominent people, lectures from experts and so on. At most, the local goon/politician will speak at your regular college. Elite colleges get their students to read books, find clubs, go backpacking, stage plays, make a movie and stuff. More on books, later.

- 50% of all Indian college students are taught in non- English languages, which bars these students from the high-end labor market, unless they have paid extra for English and Soft-skills classes.

- We don’t teach our students the ability to solve complex problems, to negotiate and to look for creative solutions.

- Most of our teaching stock lack world-class pedagogical training. Our teachers want us to meek and obedient. They want us to be parrots. They don’t want us to discuss things, to debate stuff. They want us to be good at learning things by rote.

They go by Peter Drucker’s maxim: The ass is the biggest organ of learning. The more you sit, the more you learn.

- Did you know that curricula at most of our colleges haven’t changed since Nehruvian times? If someone says, ‘Nehru, who?’, I don’t blame you. We have 24 hour call centers (and those damn Call Center Cabs), Infosys and what not, but we don’t have a liberal, evolved curricula yet.

- Most of the higher education institutions have funding crunches. Nehru’s socialist legacy is hurting our education. Many colleges are also bankrupt because they can’t charge students higher tuition fees. Libraries are neglected. Compare the photographs of MIT’s library and a regular Indian College library, and see what I mean. In Delhi, students will eat at MacDonald’s and spend on parties; students are so spoilt that they won’t move without their bus passes. Well, that’s another aspect of our education – no one teaches accountability and responsibility here.

- We still believe in big government. We will only allow private education institutions if they are (1) funded by a politician, (2) Pay the babus on the side.

No wonder, Television has become a big teacher. It teaches us how to speak English; it is our only source of literature; it is our Emily Post; it is our college, our escape.

[Declaration: The writer comes from one of the ‘non-elite’ colleges.]

The India Tanking Series Part 1: What's wrong with our economy?

Looking for the next big Web 2.0 thing?

The Observer does a gushing piece on Web 2.0; how easy it is today to start a business; and so forth. It goes on to predict the winners of tomorrow, but I would rather guess that this is at best a good PR piece for the companies touted as the future.

They have picked promising startups from the usual fields - Video, Music, Search, Classifieds, Social Networking.

Blue Dot: The new MySpace
Where you click on a blue dot on their screen when you find something you like on the web, storing it and sharing it with your friends.

A lot like StumbleUpon.

Loopt: The new YouTube
The big idea is being able to see where everyone is by looking down at a phone. Phone owners can share this information with friends' phones or computers for $2.99 per month in the US.

Huh? Why would I want that?

Pandora: The new iTunes
You type in a favorite song or artist, then find songs with a 'genetic match' and play them like a radio station. The free service is supported by advertising, and has four million listeners.

This can be good. Let’s see who buys this one.

Powerset: The new Google?
A Semantic Web idea based on pursuing the Holy Grail: 'natural language' search engine. They haven’t even launched the search engine but already is being compared to Google. That is unfortunate. Hype can kill.

It will have to be careful and come up with the goods, otherwise….

Yelp: The new Craigslist
Volunteer reviewers, or Yelpers, write about their local restaurants, shops, doctors - anything worth reviewing.

Let’s see how it scales up, like Craigslist has.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

India tanking: Why didn’t anyone tell me all this before?

Trust The Economist to bring us ‘Happy Go Ignoring’ Indians back to ground. There a plenty of danger signs with our economy and the way we have been living on borrowed money.

For a while we have been getting punch drunk with media reports about how ‘great’ our country was becoming (?); how our GDP beat the U.S.; how everyone wants our ‘for cheap’ coders, our minerals, and our unlimited supply of all-aspiring, all-consuming middle class. Happy with our $1000 a month salaries and brand new shopping malls, we forgot all this is perhaps a mirage, or a wet dream of us Oasis Dwellers.

Mahatma Gandhi reportedly recommended reading The Economist.

I doubt any of our planners; politicians or PR people do that, except showing it off on the center table.

Detailing the problems with the Indian economy, The Economist says that the current boom is just cyclical, nothing extraordinary. The Magazine points out the following warning signs:

- Consumer-price inflation has risen to almost 7% well above Asia's average rate of 2.5%.
- In a survey of 600 firms by the National Council of Applied Economics Research … 96% of firms reported that they were operating close to or above their optimal levels of capacity utilisation—the highest number ever recorded.
- Indian companies are also experiencing a serious shortage of skilled labour.
- Wages are rocketing. Companies' total wage costs in the six months to September were 22% higher than a year earlier, compared with an average increase of around 12% in the previous four years.
- India's current account has shifted to a forecast deficit of 3% of GDP this year from a surplus of 1.5% in 2003—a classic sign of excess demand.
- Total bank lending has expanded by 30% over the past year, close to the fastest growth on record.
- Share prices are almost four times their level in early 2003. India's price/earnings ratio of 20 is well above the average of 14 for all Asian emerging markets.
- House prices have also gone through the roof: …prices in big cities have more than doubled in the past two years. Housing loans jumped by 54% in the year to June and loans for commercial property were up by 102%.
- India vs. China: In China, Inflation is only 1.4% and it has a widening current-account surplus, which implies excess supply rather than excess demand. Moreover, average house prices have risen by less than 6% in the past 12 months. And share prices have gained only 42% in the past four years. Even the expansion of bank credit has slowed to an annual pace of 15%, not much faster than nominal GDP growth.

All this is enough motivation for all of us with jobs to keep our bosses in good humor. Now, why didn’t I knew all this before. Blame it on the media and its celebrity and sensation-fixation, perhaps?

Bizfriends: Myspace for entrepreneurs

Bizfriends is a social networking site for entrepreneurs. I ran across the site by chance and I know that you will say: what’s special about yet another social networking site? There are more than 300 Social Networking sites out there.

I will point out two things:
1. Get a good site designer: too much data packed on the homepage. It is a tall homepage.
2. Highlight good content and regular events on ‘above fold’ space. I am sure the site must have plenty of great content, which many say is a must for a community. Why hide that form users? Look at Skype’s site for inspiration.