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.


Web 2.0 Summit – where do we go from here?

Various technological shenanigans kept me from live-blogging last week’s Web 2.0 Summit as planned so here’s my run down of the highlights from my notes. Don Tapscott’s workshop and the popular Launchpad session are covered in earlier posts.

The conference has already been covered in depth so I’ll try and add my own personal observations that are hopefully somewhat unique.

At the keynote, Tim O’Reilly mentioned that some 5,000 people were turned away from attending the conference. The standard admission was north of $3,000 so doing the math on that you can imagine why the organizers have announced a sister show, The Web 2.0 Expo in April 2007, which they hope will catch the folks wanting to attend just to see what all the fuss is about. Tickets will be more reasonable and the sessions will be more like the workshop format that you see at something like MacWorld or PubCon.

My prediction is that next year’s Web 2.0 Summit will be much more a deal-making platform for the VCs and tickets will be in the neighborhood of $5k – $10k and will feature a select group of startups and executives invited in by the organizers to talk about the latest trends. Tim said himself that “disruption has happend” and that consolidation was already underway. The Web 2.0 Summit will facilitate this consolidation by bringing the biggest players in behind closed doors to map out the future.

If this is really the case, it’s a double-edged sword. I think pretty much everyone in attendence had pretty much already grokked what Web 2.0 is about and are thinking less about opportunites on the edges and more about how to take over the center. Back in May it was about reaching the 53,651 readers of Techcrunch to launch your product. Today Techcrunch’s Feedburner chicklet is showing 125k readers and what was once a watering hole for early adopters has gravitated towards the center. Getting covered by TC is now a ticket to the adult’s table so it’ll be harder and harder to just play around with something and float it out there to the Web 2.0 watchers to see what happens. The need to scale quickly to keep your audience will require access to funding and the VCs and large internet companies (including Yahoo) are only too happy to step in and help out.

Despite this white hot spotlight on the community, I hope that the easy access to inexpensive hosting, open source software, apis, and rss give startups the right mix to be able to fend off acquisition or funding until they can take it on terms that are right for their business and their audience.

There were a few events during the week that point to a healthy community that exists beyond the glow of chocolate fountain parties. Monday’s Widgetslive conference, Web 2.2, and the Citizen Summit workshop were all enjoyable because they were smaller and more focused on sharing operational best practices than on grander trends. I hope these events can continue to keep the flame alive but I fear the temptation of fame and fortune just around the corner is going to make it hard unless this group can pull themselves together around a new meme that defines a new approach or business model – one we haven’t discovered yet.


I’ve been Wagged!

It wasn’t exactly the debut on Valleywag I was looking for but I’m on a roster of folks scheduled to be booted from Yahoo next week:

Senior Product Manager in Corporate Development Ian Kennedy [here for another ride (maybe the tilt-a-whirl)]

Heh.  They’ve got me in the wrong group, I’m a Product Manager of putting some of my ideas around Social Media into action. The wifi on my laptop is on the fritz which kept me from live-blogging the Web 2.0 as I planned. I’ll let you know if my ID card stops working!

If you have nothing better to do, I’m sure there’s a betting pool going on somewhere.


Web 2.0 Summit – Launchpad

The Launchpad session last year was one of the more exciting sessions at the Web 2.0 show. This year they had a panel filter through hundreds of candidates to arrive at the “baker’s dozen” below: – music practice as a video game. Play along to background music and get realtime feedback on how you’re doing. Like Guitar Hero but you play with real instruments. – like Make Magazine for the web (O’Reilly, publisher of Make, is an investor). A collection of rainy day projects with community features built in. 30k members.

Klostu – Their other product,, tracks 300 million bbs members posting 50 billion posts/day. Klostu ties all of this together and works like a Trillian that manages your identity across all the systems. Simplifies signing up for an account, let’s you cross post messages and search across bulletin boards easily.

Sharpcast – their product, Hummingbird, syncs files across mac, pc, web, and cell phone.

Stikkit – Rael Dornfest’s first product, universal input for short notes that parses unstructured data and tries to make sense of it and organize it for you. Type something in manually into their post-it like interface or email your notes off to a stikkit-specific email address tied to your account. “Simple, not simplistic. Clever, not smart. As close to paper as you can get without involving trees.”

Turn – applies searchlike technology to advertising. No keywords, bidded cost-per-action (CPA). Turn is network neutral and can optimize across graphical and text ads. 1000 advertisers, 5M ads, 21M unique page views.

Sphere – launching contextually related features. Added as a footer to articles on Marketwatch, TechCrunch, GigaOm and others. The results page is a pop-up (that somehow gets by my popup blocker) which brings together results from Sphere, the publisher’s site, and contextually matched advertising. Downplays links for matching looking at content on page. Installs with just one line of javascript on your template.

Omnidrive – a “storage aggregator” that pulls together all your online storage capacity. Drag & drop simplicity.

Adify – a platform for publishers to self-organize. Matchbin is aggregating small town newspapers who group together to land national advertising accounts. Ready to Rare, a comic book collection network. Washington Post is using adify for it’s sponsored blogs initiative. Has a community element because ad networks are, to an extent, communities. – 3d browsing and chat, browsing becomes like walking through a mall or trade show. Works great for flickr and shopping sites.

oDesk – free to post jobs, free tests for certification, profile histories of potential contractors look like World of Warcraft profiles (number of missions, levels, talents, etc). Includes teamroom software to help you manage your relationship with your remote team. Work Diary is a way to track your provider with real time snapshots (at the interval of your choosing) of your remote contractor’s desktop. The snapshot feature was met with groans from the crowd but it’s important to overcome very real problem of trust.

Venyo – solves problem of “lack of trust” of blogs. Developed universal reputation management tool . Once registerd, adds little rating chicklet to your blog – users can than tag and rate a blogger. In some ways it’s like a mybloglog for reputation.

Timebridge – syncs calendars across systems – allows you to peer into people’s schedules to find out when they are free – get’s rid of the back and forth of trying to schedule meetings.

Don Tapscott – The Digital Generation

Don Tapscott wrote Growing up Digital and the Digital Economy

We’re going through an echo of the baby boom but the echo is actually louder because there are more kids than there are boomer. 80 million. No wonder we have a crises in the school system. This generation is the first to grow up “bathed in digital” and the first one to know more about something important than their parents. It’s not a generation gap, it’s a generation “lap” where the kids are lapping their parents.

He then went through several major characteristics of what Don call’s the NGen.

Freedom of choice – choice is important, “like oxygen”

Freedom to customize – 52% say that they change or modify things they buy. Pimp my Ride is teh #3 show for this generation.

The New Scrutinizers – 42% of those at the top of the adoption pyramid write reviews online.

Search for Integrity – the bullshit detectors are actively scanning.

Relationships/Collaboration – no concept of a barrier to sharing. 65% want a two-way interaction with brands they buy. Consumers are now producers.

Experiences/Entertainment/Fun/Playfulness – everything all becomes the same thing. 74% believe “fun” is a vital ingredient in any product.

Speed – immediate gratification allows you to better multi-task and get more done.

Other quotes:

“MySpace is not a social network,” that’s just the technology, “it’s a new form of production and distribution of music.” (and culture).

Christmas Shopping 2.0 and Riya

A little tidbit I picked up from a fellow at Riya. They will be announcing Riya 2.0 in the next few days which will take their face-recognition know how and apply to finding similar things when out shopping. He pointed to the rather ornate carpet on which we were standing and said that Riya would be able to recognize the pattern and find matching objects that have similar patterns. Apply this to things you see in the store and you have a nice little comparison shopping device.

I asked if I could blog about it and he said that it’s already being written about by one of the founders so no beans are being spilled:

Riya 2.0 would help most in hard to describe items for which searching inside photos was most important. Objects that had this property tended to be soft goods like clothing, jewelry, handbags, shoes, home and garden, etc. Looking at Hitwise we realized that while there were $15-$30B worth of these items sold on the Web, almost 65% of the buyers for these items were women.

We knew we need to reach more women. We would talk to the fashion bloggers who were had the largest audience online, but in addition, I wanted to talk to the traditional fashion magazines like Instyle, People, Lucky, Jane, etc. Millions of women each day read their articles. The reporters at these magazines were not reading Techcrunch or my blog and had never heard of Riya.

Use case: You spot a kitchen appliance you like at the local Williams-Sonoma. Take a photo of it with your camera phone and search for the same product online or from other retailers. For more on the impact of such a device, see John Battelle’s post, The Transparent (shopping) Society.

Just in time for Christmas. Tie that into the Jellyfish Smack reverse auction and you really have something!