Wednesday, January 31. 2007
Had to write this when I thought of the headline....Flickr, they of the Interestingness patent, have done something rather more interesting today and p*ssed of loads of their users - not only have they reduced the load on their metadatabase by limiting each users to the number of friends they have (only 3,000 - sheesh, pared down to my inner circle only ) and tags per picture - a mere 75 - but they have said that from now on users have to log on via a Yahoo ID.
Its this latter that is twisting everyone's knickr's off...see here and here (by a competitor, well he would )and here and here and why not even here or digg deeper here, on the Beeb here - though nothing as yet of its Fate here
And, more equinamously (is that a word?) here and here and nicely served mashed here
For those old enough to recall Web 1.0, the same happened with eGroups.....(in Web 1.0 we used email as our social network media don't y'know, and we even used to hyperlink on our websites ) and it got Yahooooo'd and...well, we survived. The sun kept on shining etc etc.
However, the interesting thing is this - one of the strong hypotheses about why Flickr beat Yahoo Photos, YouTube beat Google Video, and Mobile Internet continually fails to take off is that users like 1-click, simple, personalised services (iirc Yahoo even noted that when they bought Flickr)
So the change is (I assume) knowingly being done, not to serve the users but (probably) to increase the levels of user analysis possible, and mayhap therefore to increase Marketing and Ad Values. Yahoo argues non, its just good old back-end integration.
The Flickr Old Skool are the worst hit, with those early users who made Flickr (and get original Flickr ID's) now being broken by it - don't understand why though, when Yahoo and BT Internet merged we all kept our BT Internet addresses.
Whether that results in a better service that retains customers in the long term remains to be seen. The issue of Trust, I predicted, would be a Big Thing in 2007. This is one of those moments when one's trust in something one loved has been shown to be sadly in error.
(Disclosure....don't use Flickr, have a Yahoo ID, thus not bothered - but will watch fallout lessons with interest)
Postscript - good 10 pointer of What made Flickr Great is over at A VC.......bak to Skool I fink.
Postpostscript...a most genteel rant is here
Last night was New Media Knowledge's (NMK's) 7th Beer and Innovations event, billed "Can agencies innovate". We had 3 good speakers, an opinionated MC and lots of comments from the floor, and the net result was....(drum roll):
The Short answer was - Well, Yeees (ish).
The Long answer was more nuanced, in essence it ran along the lines of (summarising a lot of discussions and sprinkling on a dose of irreverence )
1. Our clients say they want innovation, but so often won't pay for any upfront innovation
2. There is seldom a real RoI for Innovation that you can get a client to put a budget against
3. If we show them innovation it is often a long (and thus expensive) process before they actually "get" it
4. Even if they do "get it" the 9 month cycle time of the project purchase means that by the time they want to buy "it" - a MySpace campaign or whatever - the game has moved on.
5. We can give them what we believe they need, but if its not what they asked for we may not get paid (lots of discussion on this one, as you can imagine)
6. We can make thus our money more easily, by giving them what they say they want and just taking the cheque now.
7. As we are cashflow based service businesses, we'd rather take the money now thank you very much
Now, no doubt this is doing a grievous injustice to some or all of the parties and I hope they take extreme umbrage and pillory me publicly, thus driving up our traffic in best Big Brother tradition After, all, you can never believe everything you read. (Actually though, the above cycle rings fairly true of consulting as well - I think its in the very nature of advice based businesses. In fact, there is a lot of documentation about the long latency of new ideas in enterprises, often for good reason!)
Some snippets from the speakers' talks on Innovation that lodged in my brain even after the Beers:
Nick Roope of Poke - noted that Innovation is more rife in closely defined spaces of the brief and/or processes of the "Classic Income Generation" (aka Bread and Butter) work than is often acknowledged. He also noted that Agencies sometimes don't sit close enough to the markets to really know what is going on.
(An aside here - defining Innovation as distinct from Creativity - I think the overall view was that Creativity is conjuring up new stuff, Innovation is putting existing stuff together in new ways - the "thats so obvious, why didn't I think of it" play being the zenith of Innovation)
James Riddell of Cheeze Ltd similarly noted that there was a lot of internal innovation in the line of business, so for example innovation in Search has been rife in the last 18 months or so - but that the business RoI of explicit innovation early in the curve is far harder to justify, for example putting an agency up in Second Life, even though user awareness is high.
Desiree Coller of Marsteller was the 3rd speaker, she was more looking at it from a PR rather than Ad Agency point of view and gave a different message (well, it is PR)- in essence she felt that the emerging Ad/marketing game fell more naturally to PR's skills - comms, conversations, monitoring media, calculating responses - and their business is often more on a retainer (now that caused my ears to prick up) than a project basis because of that, so cost justifying innovation is easier.
Frank Boyd, the MC, made the point about the Media industry being better at understanding that it needs to pay for upfront innovation, eg the BBC Innovation Labs paying £5k for the chosen projects ( but is the choosing process then innovative, I wonder...separate question - is an innovation process oxymoronic?). However, a comment from a the floor re the needs of industrial clients made me realise that the client's own industry dynamics largely determine the processes required. For hit based businesses like much of the Media, that extra yard in creativity can have an extraordinary payoff. In FMCG businesses the swing between good and OK campaigns may not be nearly as dramatic.
Finally, some comments from the room:
- Often innovation is stifled because of disagreements over IP ownership between client and agency - if client wants all the IP, little incentive for agency to innovate unless they can get a piece of the action
- Internal restrictions can hinder innovation - the example was the CEO who wanted to Blog, (sounds like a parable for our times) and the company's Legal, Comms,and Marketing functions were horrified.
- Innovation requires getting many players together - Technical, Creative, PR - to put together the blocks in a new way
- Right Place and Time matters - the point was made re Web 2.0 or Second Live not being new - stuff like this was around 10 years ago - its just that there are now so many people on broadband "discovering" it for the first time. (Frank also made a similar point re SRI inventing the modern computer industry and giving it away to Apple et al for a bucket of beans)
And the last comment I thought was pertinent, Nick noting that a key thing about innovation was to be able to "fail fast, fail cheap". Easier said than done in large corporates, but very relevant for Innovation to work.
And two parting shots -
Firstly, we've been doing a lot of research into the evolution of online advertising including a major survey of Telco advertisers along with STL Partners (our report is out soon) and one of the things we get over and over again is "where are the metrics" - what gets measured gets done. I did wonder all night if this wasn't a part of the issue here - Advertisers need to construct business cases with real RoIs, they are businesses after all. Anyway, I asked the question about metrics last night and felt a bit like I had asked the "classic dumb question" judging by the reaction I got.....metrics? who wants metrics? To give Desiree her due she answered, noting that it was necessary to take clients through new metrics, and only once clients had seen and understood them could one progress.
Secondly, there has been a lot of discussion elsewhere about the impact of pull based advertising from search engines etc. disintermediating traditional "creative" agencies as Advertisers can increasingly see which half of their advertising actually works. This didn't really come up last night (though Desiree was implying this in her talk imho), but if it is a real trend - and it seems to me it is very likely - then I am sure we will see a whole lot of innovation around Agencies' business models - necessity et al being a fertile mother.
Anyway, good learning, this event is well worth it for the networking afterwards alone*, but these discussion sessions are in my view some of the best information one can get in these emerging areas, as by the time its properly written down often things have moved on.
* (Conversations last night for e.g - the metadata needs for Web 3.0. do Second Life avatars consume more energy than our First Life personae, when is a Blog just another mainstream media magazine)
Postscript....Ian Delaney of NMK wrote up the event here, and another blog of the event from Ivanka Majic is here
Tuesday, January 30. 2007
Last Friday eBay looked like it was going to ban all trading of virtual market stuff for World of Warcraft etc - thus either strangling the virtual GoldMines in China or, more likely, allowing a major competitor to itself to emerge - but lo, now it looks as if Second Life is to be spared?
Is this because eBay's founder Pierre Omidyar is an investor in Second Life
Of course not, it is because - on Second Life the user has control of their own IP and thus can buy and sell it on eBay.
Glad that thats cleared up then......from now on its only Second Life that the Tax authorities will want to know about as World of Warcraft trde goes underground with its dwarves and goblins.....
(Postscript...just seen this is also covered quite well here on GigaOm...makes point that open IP will be used by competitors to Second Life )
Oh...and Clay Shirky has a pop at Second Life again today...article calls Jaron Lanier the Babbage of Web 3.D and compares 2nd Life voluptresses to prehistoric clay models among other things....good read)
Contrast two converging media megaliths, mobile and broadcasting....shortly on the heels of the BBC getting into Web 3.D (see here or last week in broadstuff for articles), I find this post on the 15 values of Web 2.0 from said favourite Auntie's BBC2.0 project.
Because we apparently all have shortening attention spans, I thought I'd copy them here:
All good stuff, and as you can see I am plastering this wall of our e-abode with it (though I'm dubious about No 14...I like my discussion in one virtual room rather than flipping from link to link - brings me back to a discussion with Hugh MacLeod about whether not allowing comments on blogsites makes them un-blogs - I think it does....)
So, broadcasting is "getting" Web 2.0 concepts at a strategic rather than individual level....in fact, even the US miltary seems to be getting it, albeit in its own way
In parallel with this a bunch of us who worked on the Mobile Web 2.0 book had dinner the other night - thanks Tony - and we were discussing what Planet Mobile has to do to get to this sort of take-off point. And here I am far less hopeful. The above stuff all works because a number of axiomatic conditions apply:
(i) The "PC Net" is largely Open
(ii) The economics of trying stuff out are good - you don't pay a lot to access YouTube, Google Earth etc
(iii) The User Interface is (largely) standard, and Easy to Use
(iv) Ditto the development path - write once, use many times
(v) Broadband - broad bandwidth, broad penetration, broad usage.
Contrast this with Planet Mobile:
- Closed - limited range on portal, often hard to get off portal
- Costly - high cost of data traffic, especially if going off-portal. he cost of say 10 minutes of YouTube watching is extortionate
- Constrained - 384 kb/sec was awesome in 2001. Its not 2001 anymore.
- Clunky UI and form factor (Y d u thnk txt ws invntd?). The breakthrough mobile devices are being built by Nintendo, Apple and (I am told) Chinese manufacturers building for 3rd world users of mobile internet
- Cr*p development economics - write many, use once (OK, I'm exaggerating, but each phone works differently on each network - ok for txt but lousy for big bandwidth interactive apps)
(OK, OK, there are steps forward such as 3 UK...but to all except the most fervent mobilehead its not as good)
So, how long has Planet Mobile got to terreform itself? Two trends one should never bet against:
(i) The 80/20 principle - the 'Net will grab the "80" - The 'Net hates an obstruction, and with WiFi, 3G card (different data deal) and VoIP my laptop is getting pretty mobile (I reckon about 80% of my being "mobile" is just sitting somewhere "else" - and if I have connectivity at that "else", I don't need really more than a cheap phone for calls in the other 20% of the time). Plus, dealing with voicemail is a real faff compared to email - much better to divert it to my PC and see it there when I want to, in the sequence I want.
(ii) Mo' Moore's Law - Yeah, yeah, I know - 1 billion more people have mobiles than PC's, and more people will access the Internet via mobiles than PCs by 2008 or whatever (what "access" means in this context is less clear) - but the reason for this is not that they prefer mobiles - its because they can afford them. The only thing keeping the current mobile internet going is that Moore's Law hasn't got laptop devices to that price point yet. I have noticed that kids drop their mobiles like hot potatoes when a PC is available. Look at the Blackberry - its just an email client, yet its stolen a whole market away. Ditto the iPod and music.
Timing - next few years - iPhone and the $100 Clockwork Computer are the first swallows of a new dawn (mixing metaphors magnificently)
(by the way, the Grok meme is interesting - it stems from Robert Heinlein's 1970's book "Stranger in a Strange Land" and means to know something truly deeply, but it seems to be resurgent in Web 2.0, I guess it dates all the main proponents - like a linguistic tree ring. Ain't that a Groovy* thought ?)
*"Cool", however, is always cool
Monday, January 29. 2007
Seems to be a surfeit of posts on the Joys of Failure in Entrepreneurship....first GigaOm, commenting on posts by a US VC and a successful Website owner (HotorNot). Vecosys asked about attitude to failure in the UK, and here in Germany.
Well, might as well weigh in with my 2p worth as I am working on my 2nd $ million...my first is now a few pieces of paper worth more than the shares .
I blogged a few months ago that the Founders Discount (what entrepreneurs lose on average by starting up rather than a being a corporate number) is tangible - everyone on your gig - your VC's, employees etc - do better than you. It is a very tangible $30k on average less than doing the same job for someone else.
The entrepreneur is also the only one in the game with all their eggs in that one basket - your backers are playing the odds with a portfolio (and scraping your share every time the odds trip you up), your employees can move far faster (out) than you can, and the market is ever fickle.
So, in order to drive Entrepreneurship the benefits have to be greater than these costs. I think in the US there are 2 major benefits vs the UK:
1. UK vs US law - Bankruptcy means different things, the risks of failure in the UK are higher
In the UK, bankruptcy law is primarily about letting the creditors get their hands on the company assets first (after the Insolvency Practitioners have had their fill, of course). In the US, total bankruptcy - Chapter 7 - has a less onerous "halfway house" - Chapter 11 - that is more concerned about keeping a company (and its officers) viable by allowing it to shake off creditors etc. Hence the dip in and out by large US corporates every so often (the US airlines seem to take it in turn to go through it, for example).
2. The Financial Risk / Reward tradeoff for Entrepreneurs is better in the USA
It is my empirical observation (i.e. based on my own experience and people I know) that it is in general easier to get something new and interesting and risky funded, and with more money, in the US than the UK. And if you hit paydirt - Skype excluded - the rewards are usually higher in the USA. In addition I believe there is much less onerous bureaucracy in the US for small companies, and I understand you can write more off to expenses there as well, thus reducing the cost side for entrepreneurs. (And UK take note - countries like Ireland are giving major benefits to entrepreneurial startups now)
Simply put, I think the higher probability of success x higher reward if successful x lower probability of serious problems if you fail yields a more viable "story" in the US, and I think this impacts the social status of entrepreneurs, and thus the perceived lower stigma (ie lower risks) of failure.
But this is surely not enough...I think Entrepreneurs everywhere basically do it for Fun, Fun, Fun
Doing your own thing is Fun, and if - as in the US - the Risk / Reward is not too onerous, then why not?
Also, I think in the US there is more Recognition for entrepreneurs - media attention (even the deadpool) contributes to this, there are famous Role Models - and this means recognition, validation and status, which is also part of the Fun. And the (mainly Silicon Valley) ecosystem recycles, regenerates and reproduces their succesful model year in year out. Older entrepreneurs pump their cash, memes and genes back into the system.
And speaking of reproduction, a higher probability of more reward plus a greater amount of status makes you more sexy - thus fulfilling that fundamental Maslowian driver of human activity - and Fun - too
(An aside there - I understand that in the USA a bankrupt will in general find it easier to keep other Maslowian basics like house, goods and chattels after bankruptcy too)
Is it just me who can't stand these Preview popups like Snap et al when you pass the cursor over other websites?
And its not as if you can turn it off easily.....you go onto the popup, it says "options", so you go to the option that says "Disable", you click it and lo and behold nothing happens.
So, off to the FAQ, and it says:
Q: Can I disable Snap Preview Anyhwere?
Eh? I want to disable, not enable the damn thing!
This is like those porn sites that essentially just do not want you to go away.
Let me be clear, from my point of view, it really is not very nice to intrude and them make yourself difficult to get rid of.
But what is sad is the increasing number of sites using them....Anyone want to join my movement - S.P.A.M - (Snap Popups Are Mega-irritating). We just post comments on all sites saying "Take off the bluddy popup spam"
Or maybe its just me that can't stand these things?
(Aha, there is at least one other grumpy - here)
Postscript....seems even illuminati such as Dave Winer are not that keen either. And here is another!
Sunday, January 28. 2007
Excellent table of all the Blogging packages out there is over here on Asymptomatic (we use Serendipity).
I'm going to use this page to log other reviews of blogware, for my own as much as anyone else's benefit. Any hints n tips gratefully received as well.
Saturday, January 27. 2007
Following on from yesterday's post, was musing on the MetaGoogleverse and what would really be required to run Web 3.D, and I decided that as well as a webservice you would probably need powerful virtual reality processing devices in the home. Ten years ago that would have been very expensive, but two newly released games devices are very interesting for doing this from a low cost/ease of use standpoint.
Firstly, the user device...the Wii is winning friends and influencing people, but the real lesson to me is that VR end user gear is now do-able at reasonable price and considered commercially interesting - see here for e.g. I don't know how easy the Wii will be to repurpose yet, but I'm sure time and the hackforums will tell.
Secondly, the processor - people have been talking about this since the PS3 architecture became clear, here for example, and the NCSA did put together a cluster of PS2s as well (see here)
I blogged on this awhile back, the architecture of the PS3 for its price (in US dollars anyway, it looks like a rip-off in the UK right now) gives it formidable power, and it will support Linux so its an interesting opportunity to get a really powerful machine up and running with not too much effort.
(Or would be if we could get our hands on them in Europe, they are not officially on sale for a while yet.)
It looks like one can run Linux machines as virtual parallel computers (see here), even over GB ethernet, so if one had a few of them at home....
Now, for processing power what can Amazon's Web Services do for Web 3.D entrepreneurs?
In addition, the Vancouver based International association of Virtual Reality Technologies says it will launch an initial phase of its Neuronet, optimised for linking online virtual worlds and big media users.
This is turning into a space to watch for all the broadband virtual mediaheads out there.....
Friday, January 26. 2007
Is this the beginning of Web 3.D? No sooner does the BBC announce its plans for a Virtual World, then this note on GigaOm seems to imply that things are hotting up for Google's plans too. This has been talked about on and off for a while of course, but adding this article to the purchase this week of AdScape, an in-game advertising house, things start to look very interesting.
We have noted before that Second Life in our view requires too much user investment (as it currently stands) for a real mainstream play. (It hurts to say that, I do like it, but I think as it currently works it is high end rather than mass market). Added to that, although it has started to show the way for in-game advertising in a 3D world, it wasn't really constructed with that purpose in mind.
Now I don't know this for sure, but I would suspect that the simpler games like Habbo Hotel have a lower total costs of sale per $ sold. It seems to me anyway that the costs of store setup, store finding, time required to make a sale and the overall infrastructure support costs are higher in 2nd Life than in the simpler metaverses. When we come to serious 3D commerce, this will start to matter.
But, again as we have noted before, the Habbo sort of environments are too simple to really have the flexibility and potential of a full 3D environment - what is needed for the mass market is something somewhere between the two in complexity and capability.
And if it was built for advertising and e-commerce from the get-go......and was easily searchable.....
If one looks at the other assets that can be mashed up in the Googleworld, like Google Earth for example, it gets very interesting indeed - imagine a Second Life virtual world made on our First Life world.
And if anyone recalls Michael Crichton's book Disclosure, and the film, there were some fascinating scenes where the use of Avatars and the representation of data in a 3D dataworld is described.
Enter the Virtual Googleverse........
So, is this the beginning of Web 3.D?
Postscript - found this article later on at Eirepreneur, who had the same thought as I did - but 5 days earlier. Pipped again
Thursday, January 25. 2007
It seems we are now a Terabyte household....more than 1,000 GB of storage on the various PC's, external storage disks etc on the home network plus the DVR.
So, what does that mean?
A Terabyte stores very approximately (for comparison purposes)
- 1 million novels (c 1 MB / book)
- 1 million fairly high resolution photos ( c 1 MB/photo) - so a picture is worth about a hundred thousand words.
- About 4-6 years of fairly high quality IP voice conversation (audio quality that is, not content) - so assuming you chatter for about 6 minutes every waking hour of your life on average that's nearly everything you have ever said, and the replies you got. Hours of fun for the whole family.....
- About 250,000 pop songs of c 4 MB each at fairly standard mp3 quality- thats over 4 years of continuous (24x7x365) pop music - without the DJ drivel (see above for that...)
- For the truly sad, 40,000 hours of Mobile size movies (thats about 27,000 movies), or about 3,000 movies for a Nintendo DS or PDA.
- About 1,000 hours of VHS quality video (c 600 movies), or 200 hours of good DVD quality video at c 5 GB/ hour (c 120 movies).
- At VHS quality thats 120,000 30 sec pre-roll Ads....why have prisons when you could sentence felons to hours of Ad watching?
- A mere one third to one fifth of that for HDTV video movie - so only about 30 movies for that supercinema the basement has been converted to - choices eh?
But at the price of Terabits these days, you will so do all the above and then more for a few thousand bucks ( less than 50p ($1) per Gb, ie about £500 / $ 1,000 all in per Terabit). Two years ago the price was double that.
However, sorting out the metadata and search for all that will be quite a challenge...maybe in a few years Googe's video search (article here) will be localised for every Teraformed home??
How long before the Ten Terabyte Household is common? The Hundred? What will we do with it?
Looking at a representative sample of One (me), we were a 10 MB Household 20 years ago, a 10GB household 10 years ago - and we are now only a 1 Terabyte Household, so clearly 10 Terabytes is imminent.
As to what to do with it....thats about the length of my life on low res CCTV footage, so maybe we will all have P2P 24x7 "this is your life" by then? Or all of Paris Hilton's life? Or maybe life itself will be one big Big Brother.
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