Saturday, November 10, 2007

Web 2.0 is not dead

J. Angelo Racoma of Splashpress Media has asked an important question, something that all new media must be/should be asking themselves right now:

What is our Worth?

I am cross posting the comment I made on that article.

Disclosure: They are promising a prize of $1000 to the best answer to their question but I have decided to take a broad generalist route to answering that and so winning 1000 dollars is why I am reposting it here. On to my answer:

Before we start discussing the worth of Splashpress Media, it is important to remember this:

2. There will be no bloodbath. Most of are all mostly budget-conscious people and we don't hope to be Google one day.
3. The Web 2.0 hype is fed by clueless, out-of-touch VCs and Big Corporations like Microsoft and Google who are paying huge sums for properties just to piss on each other.
4. Steve Rubel started this ‘Web 2.0 is dead’ meme because no one was reading his blog like they did in 2005.
5. Then a VC reported that blue chip investors Kleiner Perkins were not gung ho about Web 2.0, but if you look at their portfolio, you will find they have mostly been blind towards User Generated Content.

Coming back to Splashpress Media, I think we should always remember what Jaff Jarvis said about the future of newspapers:


The message for Splashpress Media and all other New Media is clear:

There is a shiny, big field ahead and so the effort must be not to slip:
1. Keeping Costs down
2. Doing original, often entertaining journalism.
3. That means rising above merely rewriting that many Blog Networks/New Media startups do.
4. Established News houses are taking to blogs in a big way and many of them are indeed better written.

The Bottomline:

if Splashpress Media manages to stand above the crowd and aims for the long term, and conveys this message to investors as well (building media properties takes money, although not in Mass Media amounts), it will indeed be very valuable to its founders and readers alike.


Splashpress Media, like may other networks has been hit by Google's recent Pagerank Update. i understand their concern but I like to think that New Media startups must not get scared and moreover, we shall not let our plans be dictated by a bunch of overrated analysts. We shall keep doing the good stuff.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

How Mark Zuckerberg went from Cool to Uncool in a Day

When Mark Zuckerberg got up to announce Facebook's 'User spams User' aka the Beacon Social Ads System, he did two things he wouldn't normally have done, but I guess the flush of easy Microsoft money was too rich to blow off quickly.

He starts with saying an idiotic pronouncement:
"Once every hundred years, media changes".
Yeah right, next thing, the bright one will say is that he invented the "pamphlet".

But more importantly, Mark forgot to wear his talismanic sandals.
If success is a show then Mark's Sandal ethic was the thing that may have attracted all those things into that giant ad system.

As technology started playing an increasingly important role in our lifestyle, Charisma has become a popular term during the two decades of 90s and 2001-till date.

This also corresponded with an unprecedented rise in business and technology journalism, blogging being the latest extension, coupled with growing hype of business schools, business book writers, motivational spekaers and so-called gurus and pundits.

More than any other industry, it comes to pass that it is in the technology industry, that the 'Charisma/Founder/Visonary' drama is played out most often.

Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, Microsoft vs. Google (and everything else that came before), Google vs. everyone else...the technology industry is full of drama, and why not?

Nothing beats the promise of quick riches and the resultant Hero Worship.

Maybe, the newly-minted paper billionaire Mark Zuckerberg should have stuck with the Sandals that brought him all the luck in the first place.

For long Mark Zuckerberg has aped Steve Jobs.
So, it may be the case that, like Jobs, Zuckerberg will bounce back again.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How Facebook's Social Ads system is evil and what you can do about it

The Social Ads-Social Graph-Facebook nonsense rolls on and on. At the Facebook Social Advertising Event in New York City, Steve Jobs-wannabe Mark Zuckerberg again tried to justify absurdity with some rather suave statements.

We heard some real gems from the new Pied Piper of Social Media:

"Nothing influences a person more than the recommendation of a trusted friend,"

"Once every hundred years media changes."

Even the New York Times, which has become a Facebook Fan of late, has given objectivity a boot, and now parrots the “Any social innovation that only Facebook is fit to bring” party line.

The Times says this about the new Social Ads system:

"Facebook now will give advertisers the ability to create their own profile pages on its system that will let users identify themselves as fans of a product.

But, the User as Brand Fan is not new.
Google introduced a similar (and patented) user-led Ad Recommending system/user-to-user advertising system some time back.

In Mark Zuckerbeg’s world, and Nick Carr has noted this brilliantly, 'Media and advertising are synonymous.'

Nick explains,
‘Editorial is advertorial. The medium is the message from our sponsor.’

In Mark Zuckerbeg’s world, ‘Marketing is conversational... and advertising is social.’

But alas, Mark is not new to jump to this sort of idiotic phraseology.
Some months back, if you remember the Spokesbloggers scandal, John Battelle tried to pass the ‘Marketing is Conversation’ shtick when Microsoft paid many top bloggers to carry puff pieces about Microsoft product.

So, it comes to pass that Facebook the Pied Piper and the social rats have decided that today’s generation of 18 year old, who don’t know who Bob Dole was and who use the mobile like Engineers use drawing pencils are the stupidest ones around.

They know for sure that the kids are totally okay with trusting Facebbok with all their data, which Facebook will duly sell to advertisers, who in turn will bombard them with ads.

It sure is a swell deal, and instantly joins the ranks of 500 channels, customization, personalization, portals and assorted other fantasies of these 15-odd years of the web.

Some note on the Social Ads nonsense:

1. Stop adding the ‘social’ prefix to every other word
(and while we are that, I hope we also stopped adding “Open” before every other word, Google, take note)

2. Social Ads System is just another name for a Behavioral Targeting System and is doing it for a while now.

3. Segmentation of audiences based on profile data can bring a too narrow data for advertisers and may not be worth all that trouble. Google Adsense does a better job with the long tail and will have a wider reach.

4. Is there such a beast called Brand Enthusiast?
When I could afford, I started wearing Levi’s because I wanted to be cool among my friends, none of whom wore Levi’s.

It may sound cussed but I did not want to be the same as everyone else and I am sure you would be thinking the same.

Maybe, a brand enthusiast is another name for ‘paid blogger/paid focus group member/give- me- money- to- watch- type -unemployed guy/PR intern’ and other variants.

5. Social Ads system will be the new spam:
it will clutter users’ profile pages and inboxes with ads - banners, buttons, advertiser communities, homepage takeovers, brand wraps, TV shows in form of advertorials and assorted other hoohahs.

6. Facebook’s Hotmail problem:
Also known as Ad Blindness Problem. Seth Godin writes, “When someone goes to FaceBook, they're not looking for stuff. They're looking for people. But people don't buy ads, stuff does.”

If you didn't know Seth wrote the book on Permission Marketing, and Facebook's Social Ads system blows the whole idea to bits.

7. There is no more Privacy on Facebook:
And by association on all sites that Facebook partners for its Social ads system.
For example, Facebook will monitor what you buy on Amazon and then spam you to death.

By the way, take it for granted that Facebook employees, right from the janitor up to Mark Zuckerberg is looking at your profile and your activity.

Unlike Google, Facebook is not heavy with faceless bots so far.

8. You can’t opt out of all the ensuing spam:
A least, Hotmail and all other free service providers had this facility. Is this a coding problem with an outfit that has its own developer platform?

So, What can the user do?
Early signs are that the new Social Ads system will make the same mistakes Google’s Adsense does, and mistargeted advertising will be a common excuse from advertisers caught spamming.

However the social networking addicts can use the Adblock plugin to block all ads coming from whatever domain Facebook uses.

If ads still filter through, the ‘new college generation’ of today can do what generations have done before with intrusive advertising: Ignore them.

Update: Umair has written a brilliant strategy note on Facebook's Social ads and has this ti say about Facebook's partner brands:

on the whole, not exactly brands consumers luv

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Blogger Abdul Kareem continues to be in Jail

Blogging for many around the world, especially in countries where Governments like to play FATHER, continues to be a dangerous game. It has been one year since Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, a 22 year law student in Egypt who blogged under the name Kareem Amer on his blog at (in Arabic) was charged with 'contempt of religion' and ‘defaming the President of Egypt,' and awarded a 4 year jailed term for his courage to practice free speech.

On Friday, November 9th, which also happens to be a Diwali, a festival of lights in India, supporters, partly under the banner of Free Kareem Coalition will hold demonstrations in 14 major cities around the world, including London and Mexico City, and try to bring light and justice to a brave person’s cause.

The List of Cities where rallies will be held are:
1- Brussels 2- Rome 3- Stockholm 4- Washington DC 5- New York City 6- Prague 7- Bucharest 8- Berlin 9- Amsterdam 10- London 11- Athens 12 - Mexico City 13 - São Paulo 14 - Rio de Janeiro

I hope more people blog about Abdul Kareem.
I also hope all the big gadget, web 2.0 and celebrity gossip sites give some space to Kareem’s cause.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Bighow beeps in

On October 21, I quietly launched my new startup is based on a simple premise: what if there was one web service where you could share links, like or and could also publish original items, like a blog post? And wouldn't it be sweet if you could do that in not only news, but 21 others topics as well?

I like to call an all-in-one Community Publishing System (COPS, anyone? :-))

With Bighow, I have tried to do something of a structured database. As a result, there are some preset categories and sub categories when you submit your items. However, we have also incorporated tagging, thus ensuring a two-level categorization - the best of structured data and folksonomy.

Last year, when I left a comfortable job to pursue my dreams, like most startups before me, I faced challenges and I even wrote about it back then in a post titled Startup is hard in New Delhi.

Much of what I wrote is still valid. But developing Bighow has been the most exciting educational journey in my professional life so far.

We have tried to do something FUN with the 'Craigslist+Google Base+Digg/' approach. Bighow is nothing great to look at and I think we have only archived 10% of what I hope to achieve with Interesting things are in the works - Microformats, APIs, XML/Republishing, Edgeio type deportalization...

I started with $8000 in my bank and in fact, Joydeep who developed Bighow learnt php while we started coding.

Here are the topics that Bighow covers:
News - news, reviews, events, announcements, forums, community, polls
Classifieds - jobs, wanted, services, for sale, products, travel, vehicles, housing, vacation rentals, matrimonials, business for sale, coupons and

Listings - resume, personals and business profiles

I am particularly excited about Bighow Polls ( and about we have tried to display information submitted information across Countries, cities, localities and groups. Bighow has RSS feeds for everything, including advanced search. Even the Classifieds section has detailed flagging and comments.

I am taking it slow with Bighow and partly the reason is that Bighow is hosted on a shared server, my busted bank account partly the reason.

Bighow is about a new news foundation and I hope we don't get caught up in the Web 2.0 is dying rant cycle. In fact, I agree with PR Guru Steve Rubel's suggestion to question conventional web wisdom and I am looking forward to building a small news team to bolster, moderate and seed Bighow and and do interesting things with Bighow on a local basis.

I hope Bighow plays an important role in the news business of tomorrow and while I work at raising some funds to promote Bighow, build a team, I would like to hear what you think about Bighow, what I should do with it and so on...

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