Current Events

The Value of Editorial

In this world of automated aggregation engines we can really appreciate the value of someone taking the time to pick through a selection of material, dust off what’s forgotten, and otherwise hold up to the light something to be celebrated.

I listen to’s Weekly Download podcasts and while I enjoy the selections, the adverb and simile-rich descriptions by Thomas Bartlett are just as entertaining. Here’s his intro to Brittle Britches by Quien es, BOOM!

Austin band Quien es, BOOM! (the name references Billy the Kid’s purported last words before being shot, “Quien es?”) makes music centered around lovely interlocking guitar parts and intricate — sometimes too intricate — drumming. They clearly put so much thought into the instrumental lines, the discreet but delicious bits of electronic ear candy and the way they interact that it’s a surprise when, two minutes into this song, they bother adding a vocalist (although the vocals are, in fact, quite nice, and in a fittingly fastidiously phrased style).

Brittle Britches by Quien es, BOOM!



5 things you didn’t know about me

Dave McClure tapped me (and Steve Goldstein) in this season’s Blog Tag meme. The whole round started off with a post from Jeff Pulver who wanted to see if he could get everyone to reveal a little bit about themselves and bring some color to their online personalities. I’m game so I’ll oblige:

Five things you may not know about Ian Kennedy:

  1. I lived in Japan for 10 years (I am half-Japanese). In a classic case of poor timing, I showed up in Tokyo just as the Nikkei was crashing and then moved back to the US right before the .com bubble popped. I think I’ll stay put for awhile.
  2. While in Japan, one of my jobs was wiring up the Fixed Income trading floor for Lehman Brothers. It was during the late-night rollouts on the end of a T-1 to NYC that I discovered Usenet, Mosaic, and the rest was history.
  3. I love to snowboard and once spent 10 days carving turns up in Niseko, a resort in Hokkaido, where it snowed 1-2 feet of powder each night.
  4. I have over 1,000 hours of bootleg cassettes of the Grateful Dead in my garage. One of these days I’ll get around to digitizing them. A reeeeally loooong rainy day.
  5. I was captain of my Cross-Country running squad in high school. My wife’s cooking has slowed down my times considerably.

Ok, that’s me. I now it my turn to tag. Let’s see how long it takes for them to discover they’ve been tagged:

Susan Mernit

Dav Yaginuma

David Beach

Daniela Barbosa

Cody Simms


How to Wisdom a Crowd

predictionmarketconfab.jpgPrediction Markets is a relatively new field of study which embraces using speculative markets to make better decisions. The idea is that if you can abstract a complex decision into a commodity which can be traded, and thus priced, the signal that you get back from the market will cut through the noise and lead you to better decision-making.

Wednesday evening Yahoo held a confab on Prediction Markets on the main Sunnyvale campus. We heard from James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, a hugely influential book for me, and Robin Hanson, infamous for his idea that a prediction market could be used to accurately determine the next terrorist attack. We also heard from folks from HP, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo who described how prediction markets are used within their companies. Finally, we heard from a couple of vendors of prediction market software including inklingmarkets which offers a hosted solution for companies interested in setting up their own prediction markets and used the event to announce their beta site, worthio, which applies digg-like voting mechanism to the US stock market.

answersparty.jpgIn a fortunate coincidence of timing, the very same moment 200-odd people were debating the value of running markets to gleen information and the importance of making participation simple in order to get maximum participation, Yahoo Answers was hosting an event for 40-50 of their top moderators right downstairs.

In terms of harnessing collective intelligence, Answers has been a huge success and it was fascinating to see the emotional attachment members of the service have to the site. I was lucky to catch part of the awards ceremony and saw one of the users (I didn’t catch her name or handle) actually hug one of the product managers as she came up to receive her award.

I only wish I had the foresight to invite attendees of the prediction markets confab downstairs to see what was going on. With a basic framework, a few simple rules, and the wonderful platform known as the internet, the 60 million users of Answers had created an incredibly powerful, human-powered Oracle of Knowledge that anyone with a web browser could tap into.

This was the power of community. The emotion and support of those at the party downstairs showed me more than any presentation, metrics report, or banner ad the power that you can tap into if you let people, not algorithms, define your product.

“Connect people to their passions” yeah, that pretty much sums up what we do.


Predictive Markets Seminar at Yahoo

Back in June I worked with a team that hacked together an interface for a simple predictive market in which Yahoo employees with trade shares in projects that would pay out when the project IPO’d by getting released to the public. The idea was that value would go towards projects that the Yahoo engineers thought had the greatest merit. With a quick glance at the top "stocks," executives could see which projects were worth allocation of resources and budget.

The hack was a proof-of-concept and while the project has been noodled on by that hack day team, the concept of leveraging the "wisdom of crowds" to drive decision making has spread out to other areas at Yahoo.

Most recently, Yahoo Autos has released a user-driven version of it’s feedback center that allows anyone to vote on comments. It’s like Digg for the help center and is available for any Yahoo property to adopt for their own site.

Bix (recently acquired by Yahoo) also fits nicely into the predictive markets suite and can basically be looked at as a predictive markets engine for talent. Lip-sync karoke smackdown with user voting.

Finally, Yahoo’s hosting a conference about Predictive Markets and to kick it off, James Surowiecki, the author of The Wisdom of Crowds, will be speaking. There will be other speakers as well during this seminar which runs from 5:30 – 8pm on December 13th here at Yahoo in Sunnyvale, CA. Admission is free so mark yourself down as attending on the link and come on down!

Current Events

My New Start Page for the Next 25 Days

Leslie Harpold will be counting down the days of Christmas with a new daily entry for her online Advent Calendar. Taking advantage of the medium, she will post a carefully selected graphic and link to pair with a Christmas memory from her community. She’s been at for five years so she’s developed quite a following and today solicits her audience for stories of their own.

Merry Christmas everyone!

[thanks for the tip Michael]

UPDATE : I’m sad to hear that Leslie Harpold passed away. As a sad reminder of this, her Advent Calendar is stuck on the 7th of December.

Current Events

Google Maps in your Pants?


Oh my God – this is so bad it’s funny. Dave Cassel of 10 Zen Monkeys deconstructs a radio spot on the GPS-enabled Helio that features a jingle refrain that’s going to stick with me a long time. I don’t think this was what Google was thinking when they set out to “organize the world’s information.”

A Lazy Man’s Hack

Back in September I wrote about a quick and dirty hack which showed how you could use a service called to build a badge which would show a visual representation of your blogroll.

I never got around to finishing up the rest of the story. Basically, the 20-minute hack post made the front page of Digg and covered by Lifehacker so the downstream links & signups to favoritethingz blipped and they got in touch with me. Better than that, they basically took a look at my post and automated the whole thing so now when you go to their Blogz Badge page all you need to do is paste in a URL and they’ll do the rest.

Feeling real lazy? Head over to their badge page and give them your ID and they’ll create an image blogroll from your bookmarked pages. Small feature request on this one though – you should be able to feed it a tag so it limits itself to slurping down just a subset of your saved pages. I have hundreds (and I know people that have thousands) of saved links and a slideshow of all in thumbnail view is not that useful. On the contrary, a slideshow of my excellenceinadvertising tags would be useful.

Ah well, roll another snowball and let’s see what happens. 


When Ad Sense Misbehaves

Jay Allen of Six Apart points to Ad Sense showing up in his Vox comment box. It’s a bug of course (limited to Safari) but with all the talk about marketers "inserting themselves into the conversation" this made me laugh.

Ad Sense in Comments

UPDATE : Whiz kids over at 6A kicked the tires and now all is well – there’s nothing to see here – move along. 


Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google now all support the same sitemap protocol. If you are concerned about the way the search engines crawl and index your site, create a sitemap and make it available. More information at

Also be sure to check out Yahoo! Site Explorer for more tools on how to manage your site including when Yahoo last crawled your site.



Web 2.0 Summit – Highlights

Eric Schmidt

Denied earlier rumors that funds were distributed to studios that have them “look the other way” while Google/YouTube put a licensing scheme in place.

Would like to support the exporting of user’s search history out of Google. This is the “ultimate pressure valve” to keeping them honest.

Positioned online (and free) word processing and spreadsheet products for “casual sharing” and not something for enterprise rollout. During this I was thinking of the product manager from the Search Appliance team who said that someone who uses Google at home is most likely to want to use Google at work. Hard to imagine this isn’t on their mind as they roll out Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Reminded us that 20 years ago we were a “disk-centric” culture. Most data was stored on your disks which you carried around with you everywhere. We are now in transition to a “network-centric” culture but the fact that we still fret about an offline instance of an application shows that we’re not quite there yet.

Joi Ito

Quick demo of World of Warcraft which was an eye-opener for most people in the crowd. I’ve read about how he has configured his world so he’s never too far removed from his guild and is alerted whenever there’s in world activity that requires his attention. Joi’s comment is that the concept of “going online” is fading away. There is no such thing as a virtual and non-virtual world when you have sms alerts, flickr streams, and IM messages piercing your offline world. For Joi, we have already reached convergence.

Ben Trott

Quick demo of Vox, a beautiful new blogging platform from Six Apart. Ben did a great job running through the thinking behind the product and what makes it different from other blogging platforms. At it’s core, Vox takes advantage of stores of Open Data to pull in content from other services such as Flickr and YouTube to make them “first class assets” on Vox which can be uniquely manipulated and permissioned once they are on Vox. In the meantime, everyone around me was looking at the blog import tabs (can’t find them on Vox today, must be a for a future release?) for Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal and hearing a big sucking sound. Anil Dash later assured me that Vox content is fully exportable as well so the door will go both ways.

Barry Diller

The concept of a #1 & #2 dominating the marketplace doesn’t hold true in the media business. You can’t run a media property like GE and exit any business where you are not dominating. Markets have historically supported multiple points of view with the leadership positions changing regularly. He’s in it for the longrun. In answer to an entrepreneur’s question of how best to build equity value in his startup, Barry answered, “Equity is built by hanging on [to control].”

Jack Ma

User-Generated Content is vital to success. He asks that each product at Alibaba have at least 80% user-generated content. Asked about eBay he said that while eBay China is “half-dead” eBay the company is far from dead “yet.” When asked when Alibaba will “invade” the United States, he laughed and said that he has no plans to “invade” only “to help.”

Jeff Bezos

The most intriguing talk for me. Jeff spoke about Amazon’s Web Services initiative:

  • Amazon S3 – on-demand storage, basic “get, put, delete” used by Linden Labs to meet demand for updates to Second Life software.
  • Amazon EC2 – elastic computing cloud, flexible pricing, same price for one server/month or 700 servers for one hour
  • Fulfillment by Amazon – ship products to Amazon and have your orders filled by the Amazon fulfillment infrastructure. The center essentially becomes a huge peripheral device.
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk – distributed labor force

Tie these together and you have a platform basically waiting for good ideas to empower it. Everyone I spoke with feel it’s important that we support Jeff’s experiment so that shareholders, worried about the short term bottom line, don’t shut down access to this valuable resource.

My idea? Use Mechanical Turk to write a book and get it sold on Amazon. By distributing authorship across thousands of participants, you already have a large, invested readership!

Bruce Chizen

Adobe is clearly a company to watch in 2007 with the rollout of Apollo, a fat client that will combine the best of online browsing with the formatting controls of Adobe Reader and Flash. Not only will the experience be richer than what HTML & CSS bring us today, it will also work offline and take full advantage of client local disk & processor power. Combine this with recent news that they are bundling in the Flash interpreter into Firefox and the Firefox/Apollo combination looks like a serious contender for the browser market. While Adobe may be in Microsoft’s crosshairs, Bruce is thankful he has Google as a “heat shield”

High Order Bits

Cyworld – $300k in daily digital sales. Participatory, rich media advertising marketplace is called “happy click”

Fox Interactive – 320k new profiles created on MySpace each day, that’s the population of Buffalo, NY.

Don Tapscott – the Chinese motorcycle industry is basically an open source manufacturing community. Parts manufacturers swarm together on projects that rip off Japanese motorcycle designs.

MSN & Ask on Google – both agree that Google is vulnerable at the edgees. As they grow to acquire new audiences, they will have to build services which will be outside the core of what they do and essentially compete with the simplicity of thier search page. The Google search page is essentially the “Model T Ford” of the internet. (you can have any color, so long as it’s white).

Jonathan Miller

Two things are going on at the same time. Web 2.0 startups are splitting audiences into smaller and smaller niche interests while the monetization players are consolidating into larger and larger networks. Jonathan said that the accidental release of 5 million search statements was an honest mistake by a researcher who made a “bad call.” I couldn’t help thinking that this poor guy had embraced the open collaboration of the academic world and thought it would apply to the broader internet wikipedia style. A valuable lesson for the rest of us. Rafat Ali asked an interesting question on the possibility of a major portal endorsing a presidential candidate (it wasn’t really answered).

Ray Ozzie

The concept of installing software off a CD, hitting setup.exe, is dead. Everything should install off the web. Ray sees unpaid users of pirated software as “prospects.”

Lou Reed

Some thought he was pissed at all the chatter in the back of the room but I think he was just being classic Brooklyn Lou Reed when he said, “You want me to turn it up? I can hurt you!” Highlight was seeing the Web 2.0 crowd dancing up a storm to “Gravity, Gravity, always pulling us down, pulling us down.” Bubble? What Bubble? Check out a video clip of the concert here. Thanks AOL for bringing some perspective to things!

Youth Panel

This year the panel was joined by their parents which some though may have restricted what the kids felt comfortable saying. On the contrary, it gave me the opportunity to see what tools the average Bay Area user uses and knows about

Yahoo – almost everyone uses Yahoo Mail and others use services such as Horoscopes, Photos, Games. One mother said that she occaisionaly uses Yahoo Search when she enters a search by mistake in her Yahoo toolbar. Mothers identify with Yahoo as a “trusted brand,” another said that for finding people or Local listings and reviews Yahoo was a better search engine.

Google – clearly the search engine of choice with some kids also saying that GMail has a coolness factor they like. One teenager said Google was “more like a friend.” Another mother said when she’s looking for something she “likes to use the Googles”

Microsoft – no one knew MSFT had a search engine. When asked what they like about Microsoft, one kid said, XBox.

AOL – the IM leader which is significant because most teenagers use IM as their primary method of one-to-one communication

MySpace – most teenagers average 2-3 hours/day on MySpace keeping it minimized throughout the day and refreshing to see if anything new has come in. One teenager said that logging into MySpace in the morning was like going downstairs and seeing what was under the Christmas tree.