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Archive for February, 2008


Google Open Social seems to open suck

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

OK, that was an intentionally provocative title and overstates the case, but still, I haven’t had a lot of fun with this!

If I was Uncov, I would have to figure out a way to say, “FAIL”.

Google has gotten a ton of coverage for rolling out their Social Graph API. (No link to the original Google post because blogger trackbacks are incomprehensible and I protest them.)

Theoretically, the Social Graph API is a slam dunk for Cogmap.  For each person in charts, I can show their Social Graph, allowing you to explore how you may know people at a company, how they know each other, etc..

Anyway, here are my issues:

  1. It appears inserting URLs with query strings doesn’t work right in the API?  I tried escaping special characters and it continued to puke.  For example, I wanted to set the query string to a Cogmap profile, of the format:  Unfortunately, the Google documentation doesn’t explain what you should do in such a situation.
  2. I know URIs are convenient because they are keys, but I want to be able to query the Social Graph with whatever information I have (in this case, ideally, name, company, title, maybe email) and get results, but Social Graph only accepts URIs and emails.

The result is that Social Graph is kind of weak!  It neither accepts my URIs nor takes other information I have that could be used to generate a Social Graph.


Anyway, I am at FOWA today, maybe I will look for Kevin Marks.

— brent

Critique of’s new Behavior Match product

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 launched a new product called Behavior Match that I read about in an advertisement cloaked as data driven article in Seeking Alpha.  (Reprinted (or originally) on their blog)
This comes dangerously close to my day job, so I want to be clear that I am just reacting to what I read in that article.  The product might be great.  Compete is certainly great.  Etc…..

Anyway, I have to say that I feel like they kind of miss the boat.  I have always felt like looking at the size of the target market and looking at the composition index can be misleading (less so if the composition index is off the charts).  So in the first example, indicates that “Among this list, is the best advertising opportunity for Johnson and Johnson to reach young and expecting mothers”.

Is it really?  Probably, relative to a site like Yahoo, this is true.  The CPMs are likely comparable and the fact that AOL indexes higher implies that fewer impressions are wasted on poor fit.  However, if sites on the list like Myspace and Youtube have CPMs that are much lower (likely), the cost per relevant impression may be lower.

Let’s move on to the second chart.

Here, one of the stated conclusions is: “A campaign focused across many torso domains has the same reach opportunity as a larger internet property”.  (A torso domain being neither head nor tail of the Internet.)

Once again, that is a broad statement.  But what if all the people visiting also visit  Then you are not expanding reach, you are just uncontrollably increasing frequency.  You may run a campaign on all these torso sites and only reach 50,000 people.  Furthermore, you probably paid a premium price.

What is interesting about this is that much of this new product is seemingly available in comScore today.  In fact, comScore offers reach penetration reports that will show how many of the people also visited  Where comScore falls down, and a service that would have huge value to advertisers, is that their tool is overly simplistic.  I want to create bundles of sites and compare their reach in certain demographics and the aggregate composition index.

A tool like this would allow advertisers to make smarter buys and enhance our understanding of how a target market uses the network.

What are the factors driving Digg submissions

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I was intrigued by a post on Read/Write Web (based on a post by Center Networks) where they implied that they were being slighted by Digg. I immediately wondered: Isn’t that just a function of where the news is?  So I went and looked at the posts from today on a bunch of the blogs he cites. I also looked up the traffic data in comScore. Check it out:

Jan 08 comScore Uniques Feb 19 post volume Frontpage Diggs in last 30 days
Gizmodo 1688 57 84
TechCrunch 556 10 12
Mashable 543 23 4
ARSTechnica 436 12 87
ReadWrite Web 51 6 6

So here were the components of my theory:

  • I figured traffic probably correlates to Diggs. If no one reads it, it never gets dugg.
  • I figured post volume maybe correlates. The more posts, the more chances there are to get dugg. (this is some proxy for the volume of news getting broken on a site)
  • There is probably some “rapidity of posts” metric that I didn’t look at.

What does the data tell us:

  • Gizmodo gets a lot of Diggs because it breaks a ton of news and is read by everybody. Gizmodo should get a lot of frontpage Diggs.
  • Originally, I had just looked at ARSTechnica and RWW (as those had been the two called out in the RWW post) and seeing that made me think “surely the numbers are out of whack, but not super out of whack.” ARSTechnica gets 8x the traffic and posts 2x as frequently. That kind of lines up!
  • Unfortunately, Mashable and TechCrunch both have more traffic and similar post frequency (Mashable much higher) and get far fewer posts. Mashable appears to be the site most getting the short end of the Digg stick.
  • Centernetworks didn’t show up in comScore. That will definitely imply limited traffic so limited Diggs.

So, maybe there is something here. But also consider this: Is RWW where I go to get my breaking news? Not really. TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and ARSTechnica are the kind of sites where I might expect to get that stuff. I look to RWW for more indepth analysis of trends. Maybe that is just me. I complained in an earlier post about the rising frequency of RWW posts.

I wonder if this is the kind of thing that will win me the comment contest! Go me.

Amateur bloggers and more gnashing of journalistic teeth

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Huge blow-up in the blogosphere as Fred Wilson criticizes some bloggers that were previously Main Stream Media (MSM) reporters and now work for blogs as professional bloggers.  Michael Arrington then twitters that Fred is the guy with his facts wrong, followed by a blast of TechCrunch vitriole.  Then Fred says, “aren’t blogs great” and dismisses the argument.

In my mind, the real question here is when do you set varying standards for fact checking.  One good comment in Fred’s blog that I liked a lot hinted at this simple distinction: “Amateur bloggers blog about what they do, Professional bloggers blog for their job.”

This is a critical distinction from some other implied definitions.  Fred implied that people whose blog ranks highly on things like TechMeme have an obligation to get their facts straight.  That is like saying that if lots of people are listening then you should make sure you aren’t lying.  While not bad in principle, that would put people like Perez Hilton, Rush Limbaugh, or George Bush potentially out of business.

If everyone reads Fred Wilson’s blog, does he have an obligation to fact-check?  Does he have an obligation to run his material by an editor?  Not a chance.  If 30458730457 people read this blog tomorrow, do I have an obligation to temper my instincts to “flame on” when I read something I don’t like?

My day is too short and I don’t get paid enough to fact-check my incorrect and potentially libelous flame war material (as indicated by numerous comments on my blog in the past, doh).

As a commenter pointed out, I think the far more dicey operations are sites like TechCrunch where they have paid editors and tons of conflicts of interest, only sometimes disclosed.  Do they have a real editorial infrastructure?  It seems to me like sites like these are in some ways a throwback to the original Hearst publications era where all of the editorial and news was slanted by the views of the ownership.  Few look back on those days as journalistic moments of pride or as a time of particularly accurate reporting.

Unfortunately, the amateurs vs professionals distinction has shades of gray unrecognized by the simple interpretation above.

Did Arrington ask us to read TechCrunch?  Nope.  So while it is a money-making operation, can it be held to the same standard as a publication that charges us to read it like a magazine or newspaper?   Is Arrington supposed to be held to a higher standard because so many of us read his rants that he hired people to write rants for him full-time (… and we kept reading!)?  Is he supposed to be held to a higher standard because he doesn’t donate his revenue to charity?  Is he supposed to be held to a higher standard because he is a better writer or has a background as a professional writer?

To me, none of these things seem like they create an obligation.  We can go read other news sources.  The commitment to maintaining a certain level of journalistic integrity is something that blogs can use to differentiate themselves in the market.

Hmmm, one takeaway from all this is that I am no journalistic ethics guy.  Funny how that works.

Does paying for comments work?

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Or: Building community via check-writing (redux)

After my post earlier questioning whether giving $30 to a poster would fuel comment activity and bring a site to life, I thought today that doing a little follow-up would be great.

I went back and grabbed just the tip of the iceberg of summary data to throw up hear and think about. Here are some numbers from Read/Write Web:

  posts comments comment/post

This is where WordPress ate my awesome data chart of posts and comments by day on RWW for the month of February. Unbelieveable.

Keep in mind, as you look at these numbers, that RWW rolled out their promotional offer for more comments as the last post of the day on February 10th. So what conclusions can we draw from this data?

  1. Much to my RSS-reading chagrin, RWW is posting a lot more frequently.
  2. On face, comments are down. They are averaging 6.3 comments per post after the launch and were averaging 7.4 comments prior to it.
  3. Despite what I think is actually a good job of high-lighting every day the comment of the day program, the promotion appears to have driven a one-time comment burst.

This analysis is far too simplistic to draw any earth-shaking conclusions from, so let me point out a bunch of caveats I wish I had time to analyze, etc., before someone wanders onto this blog and flames the crap out of me.

  • Comments are acquired over time, so older posts will, on average, tend to have more comments than new posts, assuming the readership is relatively stable.The best way to test for how this would impact the calculation would be to graph all the comments and build a function that represents how quickly comments accumulated before and after the new comment thing was introduced. I did not have the time to do this, so to approximate it I went and looked at a really popular blog post from February 1st and hoped that it would provide a suitable model. One post acquired 25 comments. Of the 25 comments, 19 appeared the 1st day, 2 on the second, 1 on the third, 1 on the fifth, and 1 on the 13th. From this, I figured we could approximate that 80% of posts arrive in the first day and 90% within the first two days. Given this, it is reasonable to imagine that the “post-promotion” posts might accumulate an additional 25 or so comments (although, given the nature of the promotion, one might think that people with something to say will say it quickly and people that come late to the party go find a more recent post to post on.). Even giving new days this extra lift does not get them to more average comments than the “pre-promotion” posts.
  • Would love to go back and analyze this data by topic or author and determine if comment frequency correlates with either of these. Could a change in writing mix have impacted commenting? Certainly. The most popular post on RWW from a comment perspective in February was the “Web 3.0: What is it?” post, which drew 49 comments.
  • It would be great if I gave this more time, but I fear I would forget about it completely. Today, February 14th, as of this moment, there are 7 posts and 4 comments (which prompted me to do this post). Does Silicon Valley need to get off work before comments roll in? This data might reveal itself in a more intensive comment analysis.
  • It would be awesome to compare data using a comment system like this versus using a system like Intense Debate or Disqus. Does a more threaded approach to discussion create more/better comments? More flamewars?
  • Another line of analysis that went unanalyzed by my crude technique is the quality of the comment. Maybe a proxy for that would be length? Are the comments they are getting now more thoughtful as people try to win the contest? I hope so.
  • How is traffic changing over time and how does that impact comment activity? A better metric than comments per post is probably comments per unique visitor, which is information I am lacking. If traffic has declined precipitously of late (unlikely), then maybe they are actually seeing more comments.
  • Maybe my whole metric approach is flawed. If you strictly measured by absolute comment volume, maybe it is up. The problem is that this could be attributed to the contest or it could be attributed to the high volume of posts. What is interesting about this is that conventional wisdom indicates that a good volume of posts helps build community, yet comments per post are down. This is why I choose to look at the comments per post as a better metric of comment activity.

I am astounded that the volume of comments per post has declined. Has “making it a contest” taken the joy out of commenting? I wish RWW the best of luck in figuring out how to grow their community.

Building community via check writing

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Randomly have seen a lot of posts about people trying to build blog community by writing checks of varying sizes. Specifically:

Couple of thoughts:

  • I really hope someone wins for commenting “first!!!!!!” because that is the king of comments.
  • How much is community worth? RWW has decided to invest ~$1000 in hopes of building some community this way. Valleywag has to provide laptops and/or office space or something to a bunch of interns. Maybe that is $5,000 in laptops for endless comments on every post? And RWW found a sponsor, AdaptiveBlue, to foot the bill.
  • I think we all imagine that a vibrant community is worth a lot more than that. So obviously the real question is “is this the right way to build community?” RWW is taking a shot. That seems like a good idea. For $30, you probably aren’t getting thoughtful comments.
  • RWW needs to keep awareness up to maximize the benefit of the promotion. They will probably get a lot of comments on the first day but fewer comments the third week unless they refresh people about the contests existence. Should the contests be around weekly or daily thematic things? Should the contests look at specific topics they want to build community around?

It would be interesting if there were more thoughts by true professionals on ways to actually force community in this manner. Maybe Tara Hunt has ideas?

Ever had your business duplicated?

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

For some time, I have been informally advising a small start-up called 8coupons that is doing SMS coupons in lower Manhattan.

Amusingly, a request to duplicate their entire web site for $700 was posted on Scriptlance today.

Clearly, 8coupons is doing something right.  Run in terror dubious third parties infringing on our soon-to-be business process patents!

It does make me a little sad that Cogmap’s niche is so small no one has tried to pay $50 for someone to duplicate it.

Travel Notes

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Getting the word out, lots of travel coming up.  Shoot me an email if we should talk:

  • Boston February 7-10
  • NYC February 13?
  • FOWA in Miami – February 28-March 1
  • SxSW Interactive – March 7-March 11
  • PcampSiliconValley – March 15

Not all of this is locked and loaded, but it is interesting.  Will you be there?

PR Thoughts

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

We here at Cogmap have been hard at work on the next generation of Cog-ness.  It will be a fearsome release with a wave of features guaranteed to rock the org charting universe.

With this in mind, we have been wanting to figure out how to make a little PR splash.

I went on the Internet to hear some good council on how to get awesome PR without spending any money.  There were many, many articles about how to not upset bloggers.  Let’s assume that you are like me: Familiar with bloggers that cover my industry, know how to send emails, etc.  The real question is what is the best thing to do with this little knowledge.

I found two articles that I felt like were very illuminating and I wanted to give them a little link juice love:

Alex is very focused on “hire a PR firm” and “launch at an event”, which I won’t do for these reasons:

  • We do not give away equity in the mighty Cogmap nor do we have any money, which limits our scope of innovation.  More importantly, the reasons that we have these policies limit the interest a PR firm would have in partnering.
  • Launching at an event is the kind of thing that may compromise other things I do.  While I might like to demo the new, pimped out Cogmap, I am not sure it is appropriate.

Regardless, great tips and interesting reading if you are trying to figure out how to get the word out for your Web 2.0 site.

Recent Yahoo Internal Memo

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

I just want to point out that the latest meme all over the Internet is to re-write Jerry Yang’s recent internal memo and try to make it funny.

Example 1

Example 2

I could probably make it funnier, but I lack the time or inclination!

Daring Fireball (Example 2) is the funnier, imho.