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Archive for June, 2008


An Event Apart – Boston

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

I am in Boston at An Event Apart today and tomorrow.

In Boston? Want to hang out? Email me pronto!

Regardless, this is great stuff for thinking about some of the problems of the Internet, although I have to admit this is a different crowd for me. It has been weeks since I attended a conference (I attended EconAds, Advertising 2.0, Graphing Social Patterns, and WebWidgetExpo in the last month) that didn’t kick off with “There are our Flickr tags, this is our twitter hashtag”. This is, for all of the roll-up-sleeves of the event, a slightly less geeky crowd in that respect.

It is also interesting because it is a rare event where I tolerate people talking for an hour and a half. However, because this is a series of deep dive presentations, it is working so far.

Jason Santa Maria with a great presentation on design completely outside my comfort zone. But it did make me think about something he didn’t directly mention but is correlated: Every web site starts with what is essentially a table of contents. How many people navigate magazines using the table of contents? Some. Not many. The New York Times doesn’t lead with a list of articles and authors.

SEO wants tables of contents. This is tension.

Technorati Executes a YAAN Strategy that WILL NOT WORK

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

So everybody knows that Technorati has been flailing around looking for a business model.

Unfortunately, the business model du jour is Yet Another Ad Network.  So of course, Technorati announces they are starting an ad network.  The only thing that could have been more depressing in terms of expressing strategic genius would have been announcing a bidded text link marketplace.  Frankly, this announcement has all the same problems.

What makes business models like Glam have a prayer of success relative to ad networks such as and Yahoo! are that they have a very focused group of inventory and advertisers that they are matching up.  This allows them to have a smaller sales force and publisher services team and still have good coverage in their target market.

Technorati launches an all things to all people strategy and says they will be able to overcome Google/Yahoo/ due to their awesome contextual search technology?  To be able to pay publisher more, I think it is a function of two things: Optimization technology and a strong marketplace of advertisers to bid up inventory opportunities.  Contextual targeting is a tiny part of overall optimization and without the marketplace of advertisers, great optimization doesn’t create huge value because if you are decisioning off of one advertiser, there is only one possible outcome, regardless of how much you optimize.

I can’t see how Technorati overcomes the marketplace building barrier.  For that matter, virtually any company executing a YAAN strategy today puts themselves behind the eight-ball.  To get access to inventory, you have to pay higher than Google and  They are setting the marketplace floor because they have a strong enough market to buy every impression and offer something.  To pay more than Google and, that implies that you have to have some level of optimization and the marketplace.  Glam did this by taking their tens of millions in venture capital and using it as a loss leader to overpay for inventory relative to the value of that inventory to Glam.  Technorati doesn’t have that capital runway, despite the $7.5m in new capital they just raised.

Odds that Technorati can focus on non-premium inventory and build a marketplace fast enough to reach escape velocity: FAIL.

I say all of this in a nice way.  I love Technorati.  Use it all the time.

Chris Messina forces shipment of Cogmap 2.1.4

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

A boring update long-overdue gets pushed live prompted by Chris Messina finding bugs in our OpenID implementation.

On the one hand, I tout our OpenID stuff as being interesting because we do a lot more handling pops and being Ajax-y than other implementations I have seen.  On the other, the result is a lot more edge cases and code.

The highlight of this update is the new changelog page where I will attempt to document all of the things that get broken.

After talking with Chris at the Graphing Social Patterns East conference, I am reconsidering another run at better and more interesting data dumps.  Chris was advocating introducing some custom rel tags.  I have avoided getting into the “creating standards” business, but, as a guy that seems to crank out a new standard every day, Chris was much more optimistic about the pending widespread adoption of the Cogstandard for modeling organizations.

He also thought I needed to incorporate uid stuff into my hcards and generally take advantage of the microformat marketing engine.  Not that many places make 50,000 hcards of data available to people!

As a guy that confessed on the panel he sat on that his internet consumption starts with ego-surfing, I am sure Chris will comment shortly with even more standards-based ideas.  He’s already debugging my other stuff, so that can’t be beat!

Facebook at Graphing Social Patterns East

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Just saw Facebook talk at Graphing Social Patterns.  It was basically a 45-minute ad for Facebook ads!  Drill down on their hyper targeting mechanisms, performance, etc..  As the speaker said, Facebook is an advertising driven business, so they walked us through their focus.

I think Facebook completely missed the boat here.  First, this is a geek conference.  They should have given this presentation at Advertising 2.0.

Second, I think this is not actually the optimal strategy.  What are they doing to help people using the platform make money!  Developers, developers, developers.  To justify a $15b valuation, what they need is an ecosystem.  They need multiple billion dollar companies using their infrastructure and then a tithing system to take a slice of the revenue.  To really scale, rather than focusing on selling their ads, they should focus on enabling people to sell their ads.

I love Google’s announcement that people can sell their own Youtube inventory.  Obviously, they are headed in the completely opposite direction by engaging the masses to make Google money.  Conceptually, they have the right strategy.  Tactically, they could still blow this – the minimum deal size of $10k seems to fly in the face of the validation Google has gotten around building a long tail of advertisers and publishers.  The smartest thing about this deal is that the concern with selling Youtube inventory has always been dicey content.  If people sell it themselves, then they represent their own content and ensure quality.  That essentially gets Google out of the quality discussion by having the inventory manage its own quality.  A slick solution to the problem.

Social Network Platforms: Less Interesting Every Day

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I was talking to some friends the other day and I said, “You know, nobody talks about quitting their job to build Facebook applications like they used to. The clamp-down on virality has taken the fun out of it.”

What I meant by that was that they key to the Facebook platforms attractiveness was that people leveraging Facebook’s installed base and the viral capabilities of the original Facebook application platform could rapidly build multi-million user bases for their application. You can’t get that just building an average web site. That offered a tremendous value to people that had “ideas”.

Now that Facebook has clamped down and MySpace took its lessons from Facebook and never allowed applications to get significant traction, the value in application development for these platforms has declined significantly.

Several things I saw recently made me think even more about this:

  • I will be at Graphing Social Patterns East this week and I saw David Genzel’s bio where he describes himself thusly: “I make viral apps“. My understanding is that SocialMedia is kind of out of the application business. Regardless, I have to wonder what apps he has made viral lately without heavy marketing through the SocialMedia network. He got in at the right time and reaped the benefits. Now, no one would say he is not a smart guy, but I think his smart-ness in this particular instance was probably as much recognizing opportunity and seizing it as it was building a better widget (that’s a tongue in cheek comment if ever there was one).
  • Slide recently announced that they will not be launching any new applications, just enhancing old applications. A cynic’s view would be that they have recognized that launching new applications is simply too hard with the new restrictions and there is no need when they could simply add the new applications functionality to existing applications instantly provides the same target distribution and potential page views. I anticipate that they will actually take their huge successes like Funwall and turn them into “platforms on top of platforms”. Funwall will become the new Microsoft Office suite of the Internet, with everything but the kitchen sink available right from your wall!

The platforms on top of platforms direction is not in Facebooks best interest – they are best served by atomization of applications allowing microfunctionality additions – and increasing disinterest among small developers will probably force Facebook to reconsider some of the decisions they have made to throttle application growth.

How is Mahalo different than a closed source Wikipedia?

Friday, June 6th, 2008

When I say it like that, doesn’t Mahalo sound doomed?

The Guarantee

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Offering an unconditional guarantee is a great mechanism for engaging clients. I first read about this strategy in a book by David Maister. Cogmap has never offered these in site licenses before and frankly, it is because I never thought of it.

Now that problem is fixed!

If you aren’t unconditionally guaranteeing your work, do you have so little faith in the quality of your work?