We’re calling our new interface ‘The Wisdom of Clouds’ as an ironic homage to James Surowiecki’s ‘The Wisdom of Crowds,’ which we happen to think is complete nonsense. And we’re referring to it as a ‘Web 3.0′ interface because we know it will really annoy all the alleged experts who talk pretentious twaddle about the Internet and its various iterations.
Man. I am glad I stopped writing there. I buy into the ‘twaddle’ about the wisdom of crowds, and I am an alleged expert, too. I am not angry about the Web 3.0 meme, because much better efforts have been mounted to make sense of that term.
The interface is pretty lame. Why not use a memetracker? That could be cool.
Competing for the creative class « Jon Udell "Is it elitist to focus on the needs of the creative class? I don’t think so. Every citizen cares about housing, transportation, safety, culture, and IT enablement. If cities do better in those areas in order to attract the creative class, everybody win (tags: jonudell)
I find this new model of having parties reprehensible. I guess it works like this: you invite 200 people expecting 150 to say yes. If 200 say, “Cool,” you send emails out to 50 of them saying sorry: the party was oversubscribed. Maybe better luck next year.
Newest example is the Yelp SF party:
SF Party to undisclosed-recipients, date Nov 29, 2007 7:57 PM subject Update on Yelp Holiday Party mailed-by yelp.com
hide details 7:57 PM (55 minutes ago)
Thanks for RSVPing for the Yelp Holiday Party and we apologize for the delay in getting back to you.
Unfortunately, we’ve reached capacity and therefore cannot add you to the final guest list. As you can imagine, we would have loved to have accommodated everyone that took the time to RSVP, but unfortunately due to space limitations and an overwhelming response, we filled up very quickly.
That said, we hope to see you in 2008, of course on Yelp, but perhaps even as a future member of our Yelp Elite Squad for whom we’ll have plenty of exclusive and more intimate events over the new year.
Jessica T. and the rest of the Yelp team.
Aw! Blow me. Don’t “invite me” if it’s not really an invite, dickheads.
The things people accumulated — old pictures and pewter, jade and carved ivory and ugly faced masks and books and tapestries and large yellow sperm-whale teeth scored with scrimshaw, silver platters and spoons and sugar tongs, the incidental and ill-assorted objects that were supposed to have value — all of it was merely borrowed from the vast store of the world’s artifacts and ultimately returned to it, sold, bequeathed, lost, stolen. These objects were protected, and found in another home, another thief or borrower, but in any case just an overburdened custodian, until they were returned again or destroyed. They had no meaning beyond their being handled or looked at.
Google’s existing dominance of the web rests directly upon the power of search. Most people honestly don’t know that Google’s search algorithm is based on a formula that includes text indexes (yes, the words on the pages matters), but also involves link count: the number of times people have ‘voted’ for the page by linking to it also matters.
In essence, the Google search machinery has always depended on the millions of individual links that people create in order to make sense of the Web. Now, they are involved in a new experimental project than might go much further in harnessing human grey matter directly into the architecture of search.
This experimental search project, a search page from which is displayed above, employs Digg-like voting on results, user reordering of results, and user recommendations for better pages. At this time, these actions have only local, user effects. However, one can extrapolate that in the future, individual results could be consolidated and analyzed, leading to a user-augmented search result.
As recently as a few weeks ago, working with a social search start-up, I suggested that their plans were dubious since it was inevitable that Google would incorporate more and more social information into search, and that no start-up could catch them. I more or less said the same thing to the folks at Hakia, when they were showing me their semantic search tool at the Web 2.0 Summit.
And I don’t think that this is out of left field, Duncan, since the fabric of the Web includes both the text analysis from indexing, and the links, which are purely social gestures left behind for Google’s spider to find. Also, Google Co-op has been around for a few years now, it is all about user customization of search.
Brian Solis, a guy who does get it, and who has transcended his PR roots, is laying it all out there. Although he doesn’t state it in these terms, he’s basically saying that for PR to be effective in the blogosphere, it not only has to be directed at the blogosphere, it not only has to look, taste and feel like blogging, it really has to be honest-to-god blogging. The Social Press Release is then just a way of saying, blog it.
The Social Media Releases I have experimented with look nothing like the original template [Tom Defren’s, I believe - Stowe], but they help tell a story in a BS-free format without all of the spintastic hype, usual leadership posturing, and self-congratulating comments.
If press releases weren’t so powerful, then we wouldn’t have that stat of over 50% of IT customers sourcing press releases as their main source of information. Nor would we have two-to three of the top wire distribution services listed as top sources in the Techmeme Top 100 Leaderboard.
And let me ask you this. How many times have you made the front page of digg?
I’m with Brian, although I wish he would spit it out. SMRs as originally dreamed up are dumb, and smart PR folks are adopting blogging as a means of getting the stories out.
What I wrote in January in the argument with Shel Holtz still holds:
1) The only fodder for conversation in the blogosphere is other blogs, and no other media are worth talking about.
I only said that people in the blogosphere were using blogs to have a conversation. They could be conversing about anything, including the New York Times, last night’s football game, or information received via press release. But the notion that companies are part of the conversation simply by pushing out press releases — of whatever flavor: social or anti-social — is just dumb. You don’t join a conversation by shouting what you want to say over and over and ignoring what people are talking about. Sorry.
2) An employee blogging about something pertinent to his organization needs to (a) include all the boring information most people don’t care about (but some do) in his post or (b) leave out information (that may be required by regulatory agencies) — information that fit very neatly into the “dead” tool called a press release.
People can put whatever they want — or are required by law to include — in anything they publish. My point is that people should drop much of the crap that defines press releases — third party voice, bullshit quotes that no one ever actually said, and so on. How come we continue to have this ongoing debate and none of the PR folks ever focus on these aspects of press releases? The basic tone and format is stupid, and no one will discuss it. Instead, they want to argue about my advocacy for blogs as being adequate to transmit information about companies to the world in a fast and simple (and perhaps better) manner, compared to news wire-oriented press releases.
3) The “press” — all those local weekly newspapers and trade publications and mid-market TV stations and websites from media outlets like the New York Times — can just find another way to get information despite the fact that the press release worked perfectly well for them because the press release has been declared “dead” by people who “get it” better than they do.
Newpapers are drastically diminishing in importance in the world. There are laying off people at a prodigious rate. Warren Buffett has declared that the industry is dead and just hasn’t realized it yet. The argument that the press release is the right mechanism to transmit important information to the world because it works so well for newspapers, is something like saying that oats are what we should put into the gas tanks of cars because it works so well for horses. The same can be said for conventional TV, which just had the lowest viewer numbers, proportional to population, in decades.
4) Companies requiring an official statement of record can just invent something new because the press release is “dead” but a blog post won’t satisfy that requirement.
I have made my argument in several earlier posts about the need for an identity broker service to validate comments made by company representatives. None of the PR folks have yet picked up that thread and discussed it. I guess they are simply stuck, and can’t move into a possible future without press releases, while the rest of us can envision it with no trouble.
5) One tool — a blog post — fulfills every need, even if it means jamming a round peg into a square hole. If it ain’t conversation, it ain’t acceptable. (Bad news indeed for fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)
I never said that blogs fulfill every need, but it is a group of PR folks that are trying to socialize press releases, and bring them into the blogosphere. Perhaps there are some people in corporations that would like to have bloggers write about what they are doing?
6) There is no reason an organization should ever broadcast anything. Ever.
My point about broadcast is that people don’t trust broadcasted messages anymore. Companies can do whatever they want, but I, and the rest of the world, now have the ability to get our information via other modes of communication: the power has shifted to the edge. They don’t control the means of our communications. Companies may feel that they have good reasons for broadcasting messages: economics, expediency, whatever. In general, however, people will tune out or simply discredit such communication as a cheap attempt to manipulate the recipients of the “message” — the “audience” — without fully attempting to engage them in dialog.
Also I know I’m worth something better and I don’t see a future with kids, dog, volvo and stuff together with Plazes. That’d just be sick.
Thanks for our time together, it’s not all bad memories. I’ll be collecting my stuff and removing the widgets from the blogs and staff pages now. Have a great life. Please don’t call me until you’ve sorted out your personal issues.
Also includes a description of where things went bad.
Seriously, Plazes redesign is a mess, They need to get back to basic stuff.
I know that there were way too many maps in the N-1 version, but now there are none! Isn’t have a map the point?
Yes, it was time to move past the association with Wifi routers, and allow folks to state where they are. But too much of what worked in the original is gone.
The direction that needs the most work — I think — is the social interactions of people around place. More of that, please. It’s not enough to try to become Twitter, with a stream of updates. We have that already! We need something else, something at the interface between place and identity.
Call me guys, I would be happy to work with you on it.
I am going to approach the nominations for the OpenWebAwards in an open, egalitarian, and lazy way: I am going to invite you — whoever is reading this post, and your cousin, Mike — to submit nominations.
I will also start doing a few, and over the next week, I will filter down to the top nominations, where top is loosely defined at ones with the most recommendations that I don’t think suck.
Man. The Blogtalk conference has the most convoluted application process that I have experienced in many years. And why do I need to provide an entire ‘paper’? Isn’t that just a bit old fashioned for a social media conference?
I favor the approach that the folks at Reboot took this past summer, where people proposed sessions — of their own or to be presented by others — and other Rebooters commented, attributed and fooled with them in general. A big sloppy social mess.
Anyway, the proposal solution — something called Easy Chair? — was set up to require a paper to be uploaded, which I am just not going to do. However, here’s the abstract for the talk I would like to give at BlogTalk, which I guess was lost in the submission process:
The Missing Touch Points In Social Media: Fragments And Conjectures
There are a lot of social touch points in the social media experiences, and most of them are not served by tools, or to the extent that they are, it is a fragmentary and disjoint experience. In my presentation, I plan to examine these touch points, and consider how today’s tools do — and don’t — cover the fabric of social interaction around social media. I plan to look at blogging tools themselves, as well as point solutions like Flock, me.dium, del.icio.us, and many others.
A conference like blogtalk should be more open and loose that it feels like to me. If the reviewers are inclined toward a proposal, they could invite the author to expand on it. Writing a two page document is a lot of work to throw into the sausage machine.
According to my mother, at the hospital, my dad is resting after his lung surgery, and all looks as well as we had hoped. Two lobes on one lung were removed, but — at this point — it looks like the cancer had not spread. We will know more after more tests are run. But things are looking pretty good.
I was alerted to the release of a new version of Zoho Writer that supports offline capabilities, via Google Gears. They had a version until today that only allowed read-only access to documents offline; today’s release supports offline editing and sync. But I couldn’t install the Google Gears add-on for Firefox, and it is incompatible with Safari.
So I guess it works…. Have to wait for someone in this value chain to fix things. Maybe I will have to go back to an earlier release of Firefox, and drop the beta 3.0b1.
Sigh. Demonstrates the issues with many moving parts, where Zoho relies on Google Gears: Zoho can’t just release a new version of Gears, since it’s out of their control, and Google could care less, really, about Zoho, who is a competitor.
Now lend me your ears. Here is Creative Writing 101:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
There is apparently no way to get Netflix to send you a mailer. My cleaning woman (or someone) threw my mailers out, and I can’t get any mailed from Netflix. That’s stupid. I even called customer support. Nope.
There are a variety of other reports, including a Mac Pro becoming completely inoperative after a Leopard upgrade. One user asked, Is it me, or is Leopard just a mess?. Apple locked the topic, preventing replies. Another user echoed my sentiments at the start of this article by asking Is ANY part of Leopard ready for release? Worst product from Apple so far. Here’s a shock, the entire thread was censored. And amazingly, despite all of the above, and everything else we’ve seen go wrong since Leopard debuted 3 weeks ago, at apple.com/mac/, an Apple ad on the left side of the page says “Leopard just works”.
Ugh. Even at a seemingly enlightened company, people are afraid of open dialogue, and push marketing hype instead of interacting with users.
I had decided some time ago that I wanted to write up the Dopplr case study from the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin, which I finally completed yesterday (see here). What a pain it turned out to be!
I thought it would be straightforward: convert the 20 or so slides into graphics, upload them, write down more-or-less the words that I said at the workshop.
The conversion was easy. Everything else was a hassle.
First, uploading the graphics. I like to keep all my graphics on Flickr, so I have a single repository, and one that is independent of blogging platform, so I could move in the future if I want to. Flickr has a really nice Flash-based batch upload capability, which I can’t get to work in Safari. So I uploaded the files using Firefox.
Flickr also supports posting an image to your blog, but not a batch of images. And cutting and pasting the URLs of a long series of images seemed like a drag. Principally because Flickr does not sequentially number the images being uploaded: they are randomly (for all intents and purposes) named.
Instead I bailed on the Flickr images, and manually uploaded the file in Typepad. I copied and pasted a single “img” link to one of the files and changed the number manually: they ranged from slide21 to slide42.
Anyway: one of the most obvious things to do on a blog, I would think, would be to embed a series of images (a vacation, a powerpoint, pictures of your flower bed, whatever) and comment on them. It turned out to be a pain in the neck.
The blog companies have a long way to go. Companies like Flickr have a long way to go supporting indigenous content like mine being distributed in some way aside from the basic models they now support.
Hugh’s story about his recent years is similar to mine. So I hear the echo in my head when he says that he wants to get back to the basic core, and refocus on his blog.
I have been rededicating myself to /Message in recent months. Like Gaping Void, it doesn’t directly pay the bills, but it is the wellspring of everything else.
I will be continuing on with my various projects — the Open University’s Social:Learn project, where I have been leading the design effort for the past months , a new start-up in NYC, building another product of my design (about which I plan to start making real disclosures in 2008), and working with other interesting folks — but I am going to make sure that I leave enough time in the mix to pursue my ‘line of inquiry’ here, at /Message. At several points in the past year I just took on too much, and my writing trailed off.
It’s not a burden: it’s constantly rewarding give-and-take. A wrestling match with my own devils, a friendly debate with friends, a marathon chase.
I was interviewed by some journalism student earlier this year, and when asked what was the single most important business decision that I had ever taken I responded “blogging.” It has trumped every other action I have ever taken, including getting my master’s in computer science, which I now consider second biggest.
My dad, Thomas Boyd, is going in for lung surgery on Monday. Yikes. We’ve known for some time that he has had lung cancer — several weeks — and the surgery is expected, but it’s very wearing. I am at a low ebb, worrying about him, old Thomas.
And now Pops shares other bad news in the family, too private to disclose, not my news to share. Yet another bone-breaking series of events.
My son, Keenan is home for the Thanksgiving vacation, and his first semester at college in Chicago is not all sunshine and flowers. We’ve been fighting about the mess from late night pizzas, glasses, spaghetti, wine. I had gotten used to peace and quiet with him away. But I miss the music, the conversation, his serpentine and elegant thinking, his charisma. So it’s a mixed bag, a bagatelle, when he returns.
Turning out to be a dark and rainy November.
So much has been going well on a professional basis: great projects, good money, good partners. I guess I should have expected some kind of Murphy’s Law to show up, demanding its cut.
Dopplr Case Study From Building Social Applications Workshop
At the recent Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin I presented a revamped version of the Building Social Applications workshop that I had previously given at Lift in Geneva and the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. I have touched on parts of the workshop in other posts (here and here), but this post focusses specifically on the case study and group exercise.
[I guess I have been flapping my mouth too much in Europe… starting to be strange when I am used as the example of what a conference is not going to be:
ETT is not meant to be leWeb3. Or LIFT. You won’t meet Stowe Boyd doing a podcast about lifestreaming :-). It is a venture focused conference designed to put venture capitalists and local entrepreneurs in touch, and it did that extremely well.
The Case Study
So, the case study walks through Dopplr, a social travel web application. Dopplr is the perfect sort of beast for this kind of dissection, because it doesn’t do very much — at least not yet. It’s like a microbe with only 27 genes.
We walked through the entire app, and then — applying the tools that we discussed earlier in the workshop (see Theory And Practice Of Conceptual Design) — we broke into groups, acting more or less like design consultants, and formulating recommendations for Dopplr.
I love the pixelated picture that Dopplr uses when someone who doesn’t have access to your info (or hasn’t logged in) looks at your Dopplr page.
Once you login to Dopplr, you see your ‘trips’ page. This is shown in the figure below in the right hand side. Because the page has so much on it, I have zoomed in on just the top part in this slide.
Note that the page doesn’t have a title on it, so it is possible get fall into a ‘where am I?’ mode in the app once you wander around a bit. There is no obvious navigational cue that you are even on the ‘trips’ page.
The top of the page has a number of major navigational titles, which we will return to. Then there is a list of upcoming trips in the ‘Where Next?’ section, which has an ‘add a trip’ controller. Just below that is a search area, that displays its purpose only by the “Type the name of a city or a traveller” text.
Below these areas is the profile area, with photo, home city, and other information. My feeling is that this information would be more senibly displayed at the top of the page, above the ‘Where Next?’ and search box.
This region of the page seems a bit confused:
Why are upcoming trips not part of the other profile information, like home city or where I am scheduled to be today?
I would make search more obviously a navigational tool, like ‘manage connections’ or ‘your trips’.
The middle section of the ‘trips’ page has the actual list of upcoming trips, displayed in list (here) or map (not shown). The various trips can be edited or deleted. Adding a new trip is (strangely) buried at the bottom of the list, and this is also a duplicate of the ‘add a trip’ functionality of the “Where’s Next’ list at the top. On reflection the ‘Where’s Next?’ and the trips list are actually two views on the same thing, which is perhaps how they should be set up, instead of two things on the same page that do the same thing.
There is a ‘subscribe to your trips in iCal’ lurking at the bottom of the bottom of the list, too.
At the bottom of the ‘trips’ page they is a mosaic with the avatars of all my friends. This should be on the ‘trips’ page? There is a ‘Where Next for them?’ (badly capitalized) controller with associated RSS feed: note that there is no corresponding RSS feed for the ‘Where Next?’ capability.
The bottom of the page also has a number of navigators to various Dopplr related pages, like FAQ, Terms of Service, and About.
When you add a trip, the ‘add a trip’ window opens. Pretty straightforward, although the ‘add a note’ falls short of writing blog entries. And it’s not at all evident, here, that the notes are accessible through the ‘journal’ tab. Shouldn’t it be ‘add a journal entry’?
When you click on a trip, you see the controllers at the upper right that allow you to ‘edit this trip’ and ‘delete trip’ [shouldn’t it be ‘delete this trip’ to be symmetrical?]
What you quickly realize is that a ‘trip’ is actually a pastiche of your trip and the city where you are going. You see who else will be there (Berlin, in this case, during the Web 2.0 Expo a few weeks ago). I love the term ‘coincidences’ to represnt who you overlap with. And the little seismograph that indicates ‘coincidensity’ — a term that Matt Biddulph of Dopplr coined.
At the top under the name of the city you see the ‘notes’ that you have associated with the trip. Are they linked to the trip or the city? Both, I guess, but it still seems a bit confusing.
There is a place where — if you set it up — pictures you take and post (to Flickr and other sites) will be pulled automatically, which is cool. But they are not part of the journal entries?
The socialistic ‘fellow travelers’ tab opens the travels (if any) of your various friends.
One of the fuzzy areas in Dopplr is that travels do not have hard start or end times, so you don’t know if your buddy will be available for lunch on his first day in town, or if she is leaving too early to get a last breakfast.
I find the map view useless, because (I think) it shows where they live, not where they are, which is contrary to the whole point of Dopplr.
Here’s a ‘note’ (better would be ‘entry’) in my journal. A lot of areas for improvement here.
If you click on the ‘Your Account’ navigator at the top of the page, you get this page which lists all sorts of things you can do. Let’s touch on some of them.
I dislike the notion that you can only have one home city. I have two. This is just like the same stupid restriction in Facebook, where you can only belong to one local network.
There are a number of notification options.
Adding trips by text message? Maybe, especially if you are on the run. Haven’t used it myself. Might be better to set it up to get notified when new coincidences occur, like a friend decided to come to town today.
There is a way to associate an OpenID with your account. Haven’t tried it.
Managing the visibility within Dopplr is interesting. There is an interesting asymmetry allowed. If I let you see my trips, that does not necessarily mean that I get access to your trips. You could decide to reciprocate, or not. This asymmetry is just like that we find in streaming applications like Twitter, where you could be followed by many more than those you follow. There is an upstream and downstream asymmetry. However, with the exception of RSS, iCal, and various email and SMS notifications there isn’t anything that feels like a stream in Dopplr.
Here we see the list of travelers whose trips I can see. The title might be a bit misleading, because you don’t really have control on the visibility of individual trips, as the tab might suggest.
There is a corresponding ‘who can see your trips’.
New people are joining Dopplr all the time, and you might know them (or the friend that invited them), so the ‘New travellers’ tab displayes them, so you can hook up.
I really like the ‘Who you might know’ tab, which guessed correctly that I might know Jyri Engestrom, Dave Sifry, Tim O’Reilly and Catarina Fake.
I can invite people to join Dopplr; in fact, I have infinite invitations.
Dopplr has a pretty neat integration with Facebook. This shows the main canvas there.
This shows the Friends canvas. Basically these allow me to access all the most critical info from Dopplr without leaving Facebook.
I subscribe to my Dopplr in iCal on my Mac. I had already been using a single iCal (and Google) calendar for the cities I was going to be in, so now I just enter that info in Dopplr, once, and subscribe to it in iCal. (I use Spanning Sync to sync between Google Calendar and iCal.) At any rate, as long as I am willing to open Dopplr to create and edit trips, all works in a reasonable fashion, although it would be nice to be able to make changes in iCal and sync back to Dopplr.
RSS sort of works, although the dates aren’t shown, which makes it useless. Why don’t they order by date? Shouldn’t the ‘notes’ be included?
Here’s the interface to get pictures from Flickr pulled into trips.
And a recent trip — Tel Aviv — with some photos from Flickr.
[At that point, I broke the group into something like 8 or 10 groups, and suggested that they try to use some of the techniques we discussed in the earlier part of the workshop (see Theory And Practice Of Conceptual Design), and try to apply those ideas to the next hypothetical version of Dopplr. It was interesting that approximately 30% of group just opted to read email, surf the web, or wander out of the room. A cultural difference?
Each of the groups dubbed someone to be the spokesperson, and to make recommendations. There were a lot of good ones.]
My first observations are based on making Dopplr a preeminent place to get high quality advice and recommendations form heavy-duty travelers. To this they need to beef up and rethink the entire ‘notes’ and ‘journal’ angle. In particular it should be more like a blog, and probably should supplant what is currently being displayed on each person’s profile. They also need to incorporate tagging, and perhaps some sort of karma system, so that people can determine whose advice is worth taking.
Given a real focus here, there is a path to money: advice and recommendations on restaurants, hotels, and so on would lead to possible revenue from reservations and/or advertising. Remember, the whole point is to have an application that makes money.
The nest observation has to do with the basic purpose of Dopplr: hooking up with friends once you are in the same place. Except that Doppl does not actually allow you to invite people to have dinner: in fact, there is no messaging in the system at all. No events.
The thrust here would be to compete (or integrate) with existing invitation/event services. My suggestion would be to implement something very basic, which might be sufficient to accelerate interest in Dopplr, and then see if Yahoo or Google wants to buy.
The traveler is traveling, and needs to get acommodations. Air travel, train, hotels. Integration or competition with existing services is an obvious need and/or direction.
Where’s the streams? I would like to see more of a streaming model, where I would be getting updates on my fellow travelers, their notes, their recommendations, and so on.
I have mentioned the notion of a common service for applications — a shared stream architecture — and perhaps Dopplr could get together with folks like Twitter and Facebook on that?
I would really like to see a finer grained geography in Dopplr. I am not just staying in London, I am in Shoreditch; I am not in San Francisco, I am in SOMA.
Also, when I am visiting Geneva, I am interested who is in Lausanne, with is only 30 minutes away by train. So, larger and finer grained notions of ‘locale’ are needed.
One of the most direct competitors to Dopplr is TripIt (see TripIt), which does a great job of importing email itineraries from the various airlines and travel services, and automatically generating travel portfolios. Dopplr could at least allow me to capture the time of my flights.
I have already mentioned the need for finer grained notions of time: what time someone is landing at Heathrow or Oakland, for example.
There is also the need for larger grained notions of time relative to travel: when I plan a trip to Europe, for example, I might visit three or four cities. In my mind, it’s all one big trip, with various segments.
Dopplr has a lot of potential, and many potential paths. It’s obvious that they can’t stay where they are: they have to do something that makes money, and they need to stay away from services that will become commodities in the near term.
I don’t think they have exploited all the touch points surround people’s interactions around travel. In particular, the coordination of travel — what days are good, based on the schedules of the people you are trying to visit — is a thorny, fuzzy area. At the very least, exploring the many unexplored touchpoints, like inviting people to dinner, would be smart, and most likely necessary for long-term success.
My guess is that the notion of premium intelligence from the business travel elite is a winning plan, and could lead to a clear and defendable niche, supported by advertising and perhaps various premium (for fee) services.
We’ll have to see.
I enjoyed the workshop. Now that I have written it up, though, I guess I will have to use a different guinea pig the next time I do it.
Just the newest headache to arise from Flickr’s approach to entering tags.
Flickr allows you to upload batches of pictures, and you can use the (better) approach of comma-separated tags when entering the tags for the pictures. You can also enter tags that will be applied to the entire batch. However, Flickr simply takes the batch tags, and adds them to the end of the list of tags for each picture… without commas between the multiple tags being added in a batchwise fashion.
So, I had uploaded six or seven pictures, and tagged the batch reston thanksgiving, then tagged the various photos with specific tags, like luigi bosca, wine, malbec. The result? The last tag applied to each photo was treated as if it was one multiword tag, and you see the result in the image.
I had to go through the series of pictures and fix the tags, manually.
The answer is simple: don’t slam the batch tags on the last tag. Add them one by one as new tags. Lazy programming.
The big answer is to shift to comma-separated tags consistently throughout, and drop the bad convention of blank separated tags.
The uploading of pictures to Flickr also involves another headache: Firefox is so unstable that I have stopped using it, except for uploading photos to Flickr. Safari doesn’t support the nifty-cool batch uploader — a Flash bug? — but Firefox keeps seizing up whenever I have used it for 30 minutes or so. I am ping-ponging back and forth. Man, I am in browser hell.
Thanksgiving is one of those weird times when I am surrounded with family — people I have all sorts of blood and marriage relationships with — and none of them has the faintest idea what I do, or reads anything I write. Such a surreal experience. A kind of dislocation from my sense of self. I often retreat into a sort of bemused reverie, in between the times when people want me to debug their cameras, cell phones, or PCs. I am a known techie, so of course I become a technician.
"So, Stowe… What is it that you do again?" "How do you make money from blogging?" "What did you do in Tel Aviv, again?"
Strangest of all is talking to relatives working in high tech — programmers, even — who have never heard of Facebook, or Twitter, or the Kindle. Too busy watching television and arguing about sports to know about the social revolution.
Why is Facebook different? I don’t quite know, but it is. Stuff like MySpace and Bebo are overtly narcissistic, it’s all about how you express yourself. Facebook, on the other hand, is about relationships and conversations. I guess you can say that about LinkedIn as well, but it’s not the same thing. LinkedIn is a very narrow one-dimensional conversation. If you’re not looking to hire or be hired, it’s not a place to go. I may have a few hundred connections on LinkedIn, but the reality is that it becomes a useful virtual address book for me, one that gets kept up to date by the person who owns the address.
So that’s my guess, that Facebook is a multidimensional conversation. Why is that important to the enterprise? Why is it important to work-life balance? These are questions I will seek to answer over the next two days. If you’re interested, keep an eye out.
I will be watching.
I also have discovered that Facebook is different, on many levels. A year ago, I was involved in a experiential marketing project for Xing — then called OpenBC — and the notion was that I would try to generate some consulting in Europe by using the network. I tried every trick in the OpenBC playbook and got zero leads. Literally: zero. Not a single nibble over a three month period. As a lark, I created a group in Facebook on Social Tools, and I got three leads in the first few days. The Social Tools group has now grown to over 3000 people, without any real work.
There is some dynamic at play in Facebook that has more juice than what is going on at Xing and LinkedIn. I will be interested in hearing JP’s thoughts on where it is going for business.
The future of the desktop is not an online desktop. It’s getting rid of the desktop metaphor altogether. The future of an office suite is to dump the office and focus where people spend their time: email, IM, SMS, blogs, etc. We increasingly collaborate as we create rather than create so that we can then collaborate on what we’ve already done.
Look at Microsoft’s idea of office collaboration. It’s mired in the era of Flock of Seagulls and The Buggles. Microsoft is desperately trying to upgrade this vision with Sharepoint because its Exchange technology is so old and creaky that it can’t support the innovation that would other ensure Microsoft’s next two decades of dominance.
I completely agree. Microsoft is fighting the last war all over again. Stuck in a past success, like the CEO who said to me “We don’t need to do the right thing, because we do the wrong thing so well.”
The term social graph is a catchy meme. The most recent manifestation of the spread of this viral term is Tim Berners-Lee who writes (in an absurdly disorganized and incoherent post) that he believes that the meaning of social graph somehow overlaps with his semantic web:
Its [sic: it’s] not the Social Network Sites that are interesting — it is the Social Network itself. The Social Graph. The way I am connected, not the way my Web pages are connected.
We can use the word Graph, now, to distinguish from Web.
I called this graph the Semantic Web, but maybe it should have been Giant Global Graph! Any worse than WWWW? ;-) Not the “Semantic Web” term has been established for a long time, I’m not proposing to change it. But let’s think about the graph which it is. (Footnote: “Graph” also happens to be the word the RDF specifications use, but that is by the way. While an XML parser creates a DOM tree, an RDF parser creates an RDF graph in memory.)
So, if only we could express these relationships, such as my social graph, in a way that is above the level of documents, then we would get re-use. That’s just what the graph does for us. We have the technology — it is Semantic Web technology, starting with RDF OWL and SPARQL. Not magic bullets, but the tools which allow us to break free of the document layer. If a social network site uses a common format for expressing that I know Dan Brickley, then any other site or program (when access is allowed) can use that information to give me a better service. Un-manacled to specific documents.
So Berners-Lee is trying to appropriate the social graph term to buttress up FOAF-ish notions embedded in the Semantic Web discourse. However, those concepts have not caught on in any serious fashion. Not like the premises of social networks, which is where the social graph concept has emanated. So, I don’t think his attempt to muddy the social graph conversation with semantic web concepts will lead to a hybrid with any vigor. Tim, social graph has not been coined to rethink the web, but to try to refine the discussion around social applications.
I am not an advocate for the term social graph, but I am coming to understand the intent of those wielding it. They are trying to make a break with the term social network, which has become too broad, and too contaminated with the usage as ‘an online, web-based service that links you to an explicit collection of other users of the service.’ The rationale for a new term is — as I believe Mark Zuckerberg was channeling, when he began to use it broadly — that we have to consider the fact that people’s actual social networks in the larger world — offline and online — include all sorts of subtleties about relationships; not the least being that some of our contacts do not use the web, and most are not all signed up to the same services. Or, stated more simply, every person has a social graph, and parts of their social graph may be represented within various online social networking applications, but the social graph in its entirety cannot be encompassed in any tool: it is too rich, broad, and open for that.
So… I have grudgingly come to understand the motivation for the social graph term. But I maintain that this decision to coin a new term is really not necessary, since the original social network has exactly the same meaning. But I guess I am just being an old curmudgeon, waving my walking stick at the young people, glaring at them through bifocals.
It’s clear that the old term has become so tightly linked to the implementation of solutions like MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Friendster that it is increasingly impossible to use the term social network as originally envisioned by Granovetter, Milgram, Watts, and the other academics that have been doing important research on the subject for decades before we came along and appropriated the term. So be it.
I give. I yield to the inevitable. I will start to use the term as I have defined it above, which I believe was the motivation for it.
However, I also predict that the term will rapidly lose its delicious novelty and subtle distinctions, and will become synonymous with social network as people will apply it just as promiscuously as we have been with social network for the past five years.
I change time zones a lot. It is very easy to mess up calendar entries: I am in New York, thinking about a dinner in London, and my calendar is still set to SF time.
One thing that helps is to actually have the desired time embedded in the appointment title text. Then, even if the screwed time zone stuff puts your dinner down as starting at 4am, you can still salvage the original data.
The problem is that Google Calendar will take the ‘7pm’ you stick into the text and use it to set the time and then delete it from the text. Helpful to set the time, unhelpful to delete the text.
I discovered a hack: you type the time as text in the ‘what:’ box (the text), and then, instead of typing the rest of the info in the ‘what:’ box, you click on ‘edit event details’. Because the 7pm is the only word in the ‘what:’, Google does not delete it, and it still sets the time. I then add the other info to the ‘what’ field in the calendar details. Note that I generally have to open the ‘edit event details’ anyway, since I want to note where the meeting is.
The jury is split on the Kindle, Amazon’s big foray into the digital media world.
At face value, Amazon looks to be in the perfect place to create an iPod/iTunes revolution in the digital print media world, where so much failure has come before.
To me, the design looks pretty cool, but I haven’t yet fooled with an actual device to get a sense of the software and display.
The biggest hurdle for digital book devices has been the need for a computer, which Bezos has neatly sidestepped by building in cellular connectivity, like the EVDO cards people use (like me) in their laptops. This means that books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs (yes blogs) can be downloaded to the device at basically any point in time. The wireless capability can also be turned off to conserve battery life, which seems pretty robust.
Others argue that the device is badly designed, and others that the effort to charge for blogs — $0.99 per month per blog — is a step back from web norms:
Bottom line: Although Amazon’s been working on this for awhile, this is very much a first-generation product. It’s not going to revolutionize the industry overnight, though it sounds like Amazon is going to take this business seriously and continue to invest in it. It seems safe to guess that in a couple years, the top-of-the-line Kindle will be a much-improved product. The concept is definitely sound. Bezos’ speech had most of the audience pretty enthusiastic about the device—the problem is the gap between the description and the device itself. With some improvements to the display and a more intuitive navigation system, it could become an attractive product, even at the price.
The fact that it has a functioning Web browser, though, means that you can follow links in the feeds you subscribe to. More importantly, it opens up the world of linking to book authors. Now books can have links, and not just for citations. Authors who take advantage of the electronic book format will start to include hyperlinks for curious readers to follow, and books could become more tightly interwoven with the culture of the Web in general. Reading a book will no longer need to end with the final chapter. Rather, it could literally open up a whole world of information on the Web, just as blog posts or online news article do today.
A remaining hurdle in the business model is the finances:
“The big challenge, of course, is that it is still relatively expensive,” he added. “You have to be a very committed book person to get a repay on that investment.”
The publishers themselves are concerned about return on investment; most have been spending a great deal to digitize their libraries for electronic readers, with little to show for it so far.
“If it does contribute to the many millions of dollars we have invested as an industry, that’s great,” Mr. Young said.
Amazon and the publishers declined to discuss the specifics of their financial arrangements. But several publishing executives said the industry practice was to sell an electronic version of a hardcover with a list price of $27 for about $20. While deals vary, the wholesale price of a $20 e-book is about $10, and most retailers have been selling them for about $16. The publishers said Amazon was paying about the same wholesale price as Sony and other e-book vendors.
By offering best sellers for $9.99, Amazon is leaving no profit margin, and it will have the expense of paying Sprint for the data transmission. Amazon says it hopes to make money on older titles that have better profit margins.
A truly grand experiment. I wish I had been able to attend the press conference, so I could have made off with a Kindle to fool with.
I did travel off to the Kindle site at Amazon, after being alerted by the nice folks at Federated Media Publishing that /Message is included in the list of 308 now available for download there:
I personally don’t expect that blogs will make any money on the device, especially since the Kindle can browse the web directly. But, unlike Hugh, I don’t think Bezos is an asshole for trying to make a nickel out of easily downloading blogs onto the device. On the other hand, its a different story if he starts trying to block access to the blogs he’s selling.
No one is blowing the green, green, green trumpet here, but at least with regard to newspapers and magazines the Kindle could lead to very significant ecological impacts, if and when Kindles become as ubiquitous as iPods are. And if not this device, then someone’s. We should be eager for such an advance to work, if only for the sake of Mother Earth.
On a purely personal note: I am tired of waiting for the damn New York Times to be delivered, anyway, since I get up a lot earlier than the newspaper delivery guys do in either of my neighborhoods. So for the sake of the planet and to avoid having to wait for my delivery guy to get to my place at 7:30am here in Reston VA, I should probably get one. Maybe I can weasel one from Amazon: I am one of their authors, after all.
AT&T, a company that once was a poster child for telecommuting, is downsizing its long-running telework program and requiring thousands of employees who work from their homes and other virtual offices to return to traditional AT&T office environments, according to sources.
Apparently, various control freaks in the executive suite are more interested in facetime than commute time.
I actually don’t know how I stumbled on the BusinessClass.net site, but I did, earlier this week. BCN (as it is also known) started in Berlin, and I could have meet with Manu Kumar, the founder, if I had discovered it a few weeks ago while I was there.
BCN is a network of short-term workspaces. Currently, there are only two: HQ, in Berlin, and another just outside LA. There is a sort-of-fledgling social network in the site — the various nomads that use the offices and retreats — but aside from a general listing of profiles, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do there, yet. (Maybe I can help, there, Manu.) Should be interfacing with Dopplr, I guess, too.
I hope to explore the LA facility in a few weeks, and will write more about that. Today, I am just blogging about the ‘fairchise’ concept that underlies the business model of BCN:
no license fees (which we believe amounts to financing the franchise offerer)
no expensive ‘management courses’
no inventory or equipment that must be bought from the franchise offerer
no fixed monthly fees (for royalties, marketing, etc.)
short franchise contracts (3 years)
instant start-up (open a BCN-port within four weeks)
Manu hopes to have seven or more ‘Ports’ in the network by 2008. His organization provides the online presence (in various languages), some marketing, and the basic financial services (accounting, credit card processing, reservations, etc.).
Anyone want to help me start the BCN-Port for San Francisco?