Friday, January 19, 2007

14 most important things to know about Web 2.0

Christopher Koch at CIO has written perhaps the best web 2.0 critique I have read so far. His article, titled “Web 2.0: A Community in Denial” is a must read in a year that has started with news about failing Web 2.0 startups coming in at a fast clip.

I have summarized key points from his article and ensuing comments:
(the emphasis, italics, numbering, para heads are all that I contributed here. :-) )

Why would I want to join something I don't even understand?

The 90s bubble
2. (B2B) exchanges couldn't magically erase years of mistrust and enmity between suppliers and manufacturers simply by building a sandbox for them.

Note: Asking whether Web 2.0= B2B, Nicholas Carr is not sure that the social networks' success depends on creating community value.

Further, Nick says that "social network" is ...
a bullshit term made up by eggheads outside the networks who want to see in them more than is actually there. As Fred Stutzman once pointed out, only a tiny, tiny portion of the members of social networks actually do any "social networking.

Virtual learning in 3D worlds
3. "Virtual environments (for example, World of Warcraft) are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate."

(Quoting John Seely Brown)

Where is the value?

4. What's the perceived value of sites like Second Life, MySpace and YouTube? MySpace calls itself "a place for friends." Whose friends? My friends? Your friends? Why would I go on here to look for my friends when I can call them or e-mail them anytime I want in relative privacy and safety?

5. There is no community in Web 2.0, unless it eventually becomes so realistic that we can experience the satisfactions and fears of looking others in their (real) eyes and interacting with them as we would in our homes, offices and communities.

6. The real value of social networking comes to us in the form of shared knowledge, no matter how near or far someone is.

7. Why do we have a gold rush mentality every time there are more than a handful of startup businesses on the Internet that do roughly the same thing?

8. It's like the old message boards--you're drawn there because you need a problem solved and perhaps you'll find someone you enjoy conversing with, or not. Why are we suddenly seeing this as something bigger than it really is?

9. Right now (Second Life) is like the Sims with a discussion board (which already exists).

Business impact

10. Evidence says people know value when they see it, regardless of the medium through which it is presented.

11. You do have a real community--it's called a business.

12. And if your boss asks you to build avatars for the executive staff, you probably need to look for a new job.

Generation Gap?

13. Our (Generation Mom & Dad) social networks are already defined and we just don't use the Internet for it. I tried, it didn't work. But …a college senior and I had a chance to check out his facebook page over Christmas. To put it simply, it is how he lives. He uses it instead of email, it's how he finds parties and other events…

14. Let's see the really value of web 2.0 when they enter the workforce.

Widgets: Good or bad?

First up, a short definition of widgets:

Widgets are small pieces of software that can be ported easily. This would include plugins for blog software such as WordPress or Drupal, modules that can be plugged into popular "start pages" such as Netvibes, PageFlakes or, desktop widgets such as Yahoo Widgets or Mac dashboard widgets and, as demonstrated above, browser extensions.

There are some who are fidgety about widgets.

Reasoning that widgets will make web pages load slowly and will confuse readers, most of whom come to a page just to read, Valleywag defines Widgets as,

A widget is an affiliate marketing program, no more, no less.

Then there are some who are bullish.

Nick Wilson claims to have coined the idea of linkbaiting in 2005.

Now a contributing writer at Searchengineland, Nick Wilson says that 2007 will be the year of Widget bait, where you build fancy Firefox extensions to keep the reader in the fold.

Nick Wilson was at the Performancing Blog Ad Network, which was one of the first to get into the Widget Act , with the Performancing Blog Editor Firefox extension.

As of now, Nick Wilson’s writeup on Widget being the trend of 2007 is a good linkbait (writing articles to attract links – for example, controversial stuff), nothing else.

We keep moving around in circles.

Imagine a world where 100 million blogs have 100 million widgets.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

iPhone's prospects

Seeking Alpha goes through a report from Toni Sacconanghi, hardware analyst at Bernstein Research and lists out important pieces of information, which might decide iPhone’s prospects in the market.

A selection:

- Number of phones from the four major U.S. wireless carriers which are now priced above $400: none.

- Percentage of phones in 2006 which sold for more than $300 at wholesale: 5%.

- Estimated number of phones Cingular sold last year that cost more than $300 at retail: about 500,000.

- Total estimated cost of operating an iPhone for the first two years: $2,500.

- Number of iPhones Apple thinks it can sell in fiscal 2008: 10 million.

- Cost to buy the LG Chocolate music phone: about $100 through Verizon.

5 analogies about what bloggers say

Hugh Mcleod has posted this great illustration depicting the most prevalent style of discussion among bloggers, namely, regurgitation.

This style is especially popular among link bloggers, ‘filler’ bloggers who love to keep their blog active and do that using snippets from their RSS reader.

The fiftieth blog in a spam blog network also displays this same habit.

Other images that come to mind about the nature of discussion among bloggers are:

1. Little Miss Red Riding Hood: you right one innocent post and gets tones of rants and abuses.
2. Little Miss Red Riding Hood goes to Digg: you post a link or a comment and witness the madness of the crowd in action.
3. Eight blind men and the elephant: Different people have a different take on a particular issue.
4. The Courtiers: Paid and unpaid followers of big name brands who troll the web looking for any one who dares to call their master’s bluff.
5. The Pied Piper: One blogger hypes up things and others follow him to their doom.

I am sure there are more.

(found this via Valleywag)

How to promote your local site

Back in the 1990s, I read a book “Road Warriors” by Daniel Berstein and David Kline where they also wrote about creating wholesome online city halls for every locality. The City Halls would provide a range of services – news, electronic governance services, citizen activism, communities and help centers, and more, all on one site.

If you can build an accessible local site based on the above lines, you are making people come to your site for one reason or another.

We promote our sites so that more people may use these on a regular basis. I think that on a local scale, all-in-one two-way service sites that also aggregate all local sites and data (different from one-way portals) will work far better than a VC-funded review site here and a Yellow pages site there.

Copying big company styles of promotion is best left aside. How long do you think you can go on giving out free T-shirts and Coffee mugs? Gigaom has a story that.

Not all companies are VC-funded. Besides looking at ways to market your site on the cheap, remember that it all starts with creating a useful and easy-to-use service works more than anything else. If you are a local news startup, you may also want to consider hosting low-cost events such as consumer complaints drive, alternative energy awareness campaigns, local activism campaigns, contests etc.

Printing out all local classified listings and distributing cheap copies of them might help raise awareness and build an important part of business.

To end, do not look for funds just so that you can spend all the money on expensive, non-grassroots promotion campaigns.

Be creative. Be cheap.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What do you need to do to compete with Google?

While others say great content holds the key, I think the trick lies in having a great Index.

On the content side, citing Wikipedia’s rapid rise, Steve Rubel thinks that if Wikipedia develops a search engine, it can give serious competition to Google, which accounts for more than 47% of all web searches, according to Comscore. He also points to the rising number of people who have edited 10 or more stories on Wikipedia, around 158,000 people as of October 2006.

- Will all that content be enough?
- Will Wikipedia and its contributors be able to build an ideal Gateway to the Internet?
- While Wikipedia may be doing good things on the text part of the internet, what about video (Youtube), Audio (Odeo) and shopping (Become)?

On the search side, talks of a Wikipedia search engine are vaporware at best. Many say that the new search engine for Wikipedia is ‘spammy’.

There are so many search engines around but people go to Google to make sure they don’t miss out on anything. That’s the power of Google and its awesome index.

A reason for Wikipedia’s rise, apart from all that user-generated content has been Google’s support, listing results from Wikipedia on top.

What will it take for Google to shift to other sources like,,, and many other Wikipedia type sites?

Google also bought for content purposes.

One of today’s main stories is that Google has stopped linking to Yahoo and Mapquest maps on its searches.

Problems with the pay-per-view model in Journalism

I agree when Nicholas Carr says ‘Pay-per-view journalism’ is inevitable. However, I have been thinking about the deep effects ‘Pay-per-view journalism' may have on the whole news publishing business.

Blog Networks, led by Gawker and WebslogsInc have long used this model to compensate their bloggers. However, I am still not sure whether bloggers are not paid an assured sum at the end of the month.

Now, mainstream news sites such as are following suit.

I also agree when Nick says that ‘Pay-per-view journalism’ brings the compensation model in line with the online content model where every story has the power to have a life of its own – ratings, comments, trackbacks, updates, comments on comments, so on and so forth.

‘Pay-per-view journalism’ may be okay when established media names follow it. Zdnet is an established name. I would be surprised if my friend’s brand new technology blog network followed this model.

Although one is attracted to the idea of ' one who gets most clicks, gets to write', still, you can’t expect to start a brand new news site and pay writers on ‘pay-per-view/trackbacks/links earned/or, whatever’ basis.

One good story does not build stickiness. For repeat visits, you need consistency. For consistency, writers must post good stories over a long period for the Google effect, Pagerank and others to push the product along. That takes time and money.

Agreed that online media startup costs are less than 1/10 of print startup cost but costs are costs and new fancy models such as ‘pay-per-view’ may be implemented only when the business is settled.

Then there is the ethics issue.
When you tell a journalist that her job is also to bring in traffic, what’s there to stop her from treading a Grey line? For example, she may write a puff piece on a new product launch, disillusioned that she has become.

For those who point out that Gawker utilized the ‘pay-per-view’ model, May I remind you to take a look at the topics that Gawker covers? Scandal, DIY, Gadgets – that’s where pay-per-view thrives. My article on the Burma issue will not even send a blip on the ‘pay-per-view’ screen.

I hear that porn and sports are the champions in the ‘pay-per-view’ video business. Viva journalism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Attention Economy is an A-listers' Economy

That's the hard truth behind all that hype around web 2.0.

Case in point: Findory, a service that enabled personalization and recommendations of information. Think of Findory as your personal Digg or Techmeme.

The Web 2.0 slowdown is for real. Findory is folding up.

The main reason for Findory's demise:
Lack of advertising support. People won't pay for personal aggregator/recommender software and the market for web sites that are just collections of links is a tough one, ruled by the likes of Digg and to a lesser extent, Techmeme.

Findory made it easy for easy to create personal memetrackers/aggregators but where is the advertising? Besides, unless you are covering a micro-niche, people find it better to go to the big aggregators such as Techmeme.

Now, let's come to the A-lister part of the argument:
Techmeme is also successful because it covers mainly the A-list web sites and blogs. Gabe Reviera reportedly started with manually entering 1000 chosen web sites into the Techmeme search engine. Readers know that on any given day, they can access the TOP stories from the TOP sources.

Techmeme has followed the successful example of Celebrity magazines. In the process, It has become a celebrity destination itself. When one of this writer's stories gets mentioned on Techmeme, that is a big high, for sure.

Digg is successful because it has a big user base and many submit stories to justify their egos - how many rate; how many visits; how are the comments? Etc.

Digg does not benefit the site owner directly because most Diggers don't click on ads, but a history of consistent digging gets you a loyal readership that might come to your site directly. Digg succeeds because of its social function, however skewed it may be.

If there was a bunch of great niches that users developed using Findory and shared these niche sites/.pages, then Findory might have had a better chance.

Creating an A-list property is a must for commercial success in the Attention Economy. What do you think?

Are news ratings over-hyped?

Usability Guru Jacob Nielsen, in his annual report on 10 best Intranets of 2006 writes that,

Star ratings and user comments have long been found on public websites -- from to weblogs -- but they become much more useful on intranets, where they're not degraded by the Bozo effect.

He says,
Employees of the same company have shared goals and interests, they have passed the quality filter of getting hired, and they have their reputations to protect. For all these reasons, ratings and comments from colleagues are likely to be much more useful than those of random blog readers.

Let's take this argument forward and put this in context of News rating services such as Digg.

You might say that putting up a story in front of a different focus group will give widely swinging results.

A story on Saddam hanging might provoker sharp ratings and comments in front a middle East audience; anti-death sentence sentiments in liberal parts of India; and shouts of 'right done' in conservative America.

I think Jacob Nielsen has raised an interesting idea which needs to taken further in 2007 when we continue our search for better social news experience.

Let me start with 2 questions:

1. Why do political stories on Digg have much less ratings and commenting than the Tech stories?

2. Would it help all the good opinion and analysis pieces were served in front of a discerning, well-read audience?


Monday, January 15, 2007

News 2.0 = Newspapers + local + SEO

Many newspapers suffer today because their online content does not get much prominence in the Google-dominated search operating system.

Greg Linden says,
Newspapers have remarkable content on businesses and events in their communities. They should be the authoritative source for local. They should be the experts on their communities and reap the traffic from searchers seeking that expertise.

Advising Local newspapers to go one up on the bloggers, Greg says in another article,

Newspapers should be the broker for local content. Newspapers should be the master of news and advertising content for their communities. Newspapers should be the experts of local.

There is no doubt that newspapers possess great content. But is that content search friendly?

I agree with Rich and Greg. Rather than blame Google news and others aggregators for their problems, newspapers must take on the search engines at their own game.

While sites such as The New York Times hide most of their content behind a pay wall, many others like The Guardian have everything free and yet their content is regularly trumped by content from bloggers and properly SEOed content in SERPs.

Maybe Bloggers are better writers, or it may be that they use better tools.

There is money to be made. If newspapers do basic SEO stuff, Rich Skrenta says,

These would be very valuable pageviews to be getting. Adsense could do $10-30 CPM on these landings. Not to mention the value to the newspaper to hold on to a claim of authority for restaurant reviews in their area.

What can Newspapers do?

1. Train reporters and web teams to do SEO for all news content online, including the archive.

2. Social Media Marketing: Posting good stories immediately to social news sites and bokkmarking sites:,, Reddit, and so on...

3. Take a good look at your CMS. Does it provide basic features like Google-friendly page names, etc? I think the new news CMS must have the best features provided by blogging platforms.

4. Allow reporters to have blogs.