Archive for the 'Social Bookmarking' Category

Let the “targeted advertisement” race begin

August 13, 2007

I have been anxiously awaiting this day. My Space has begun a “targeted ad” campaign which if successful, I think will revolutionize the advertising world. The benefits of targeted advertisements is simple:

Deliver more meaningful advertisements

It is a fact of life that quality content must either be paid for (Cable channels) or supplemented through advertisements (Network). We have been living with advertisements on television since it’s inception. Although TV/Cable content providers have become more intelligent about their ad placements (My wife does not understand half of the humor displayed in the advertisements during a Football game on Sunday), there was no real way to determine who was watching television.

Enter “Cookies” – no not your mom’s chocolate chip cookie. Imagine the Nielsen Ratings group – only in EVERY household. Essentially every visitor to a web site can be tracked. And with sites like Facebook and MySpace your content retrieval habits can also be tracked. Imagine watching television and getting an advertisement that said: “Goes great with the new pair of brown pants you just bought last week from the store”. Freaky yes, but I would rather have this ad then a bunch of ads completely unrelated to what I am looking for.

Targeted advertisements hold the key to increased click-through rates and even higher completion rates (someone actually purchases). I know this topic represents a mixed bag – but I think that this is the best thing to happen to the Internet. Among its benefits:

  • Potential for less advertisements – key concept here is that the websites sprinkle a ton of advertisements in hopes that one of them is clicked
  • Advertisements are more successful – no more campaigns with unknown return value
  • Freak the hell out of your Mom – ha- no seriously, though, remember the Minority Report? Imagine an ad directed towards your mom? I know mine would freak out. “How’d they know that I just remodeled my kitchen”?

There are certainly some challenges and I think that the general privacy community will certainly have problems with statements like this:

If someone’s been identified as someone who’s interested in fashion, we target ads to them that have nothing to do with fashion, and then ads that would direct them to say, the MySpace fashion channel.”

How do they determine someone is “interested in fashion”. Do they look at my MySpace messages? At my “Blog” posts? Surely someone will want a public deceleration of the data collection policies used to determine the targeted advertisements.

At any rate – we are on our way, so we shall see!

Gathering thoughts about SN, Web 2.0 and everything else

August 12, 2007

http://www.calacanis.com/2007/07/27/facebook-bankruptcy

 

 

One of my “friends” on Facebook posted a link to this BRILIANT blog post which has filled me with a ton of energy.  I am trying to figure out where to aim this and I guess I am hoping that you can help.  I have a few angles of discussion from this post and I need to know where to focus (may help to actually read the post =) :

 

1.) These applications that are popping up (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pownce, Twitter, ???) – are they opportunistic software application developers taking advantage of the hype of Web 2.0 to make a buck (or million) or are they opportunistic software application developers taking advantage of the shift in our societies decision to communicate more openly/freely over the Internet to make software that helps enable true “enhanced connectivity”?

 

2.) Is his disgusted with the Social Network System and his inability to internalize what is going on here (we are completely shifting our Communication techniques).  Is he part of the “older” generation that just can’t understand how to fit this into his daily actions?  Hyper connectivity anxiety disorder?

 

3.) Is he trying to get people to think further down the road?  Can we honestly think that the current state of Social Networking is the “Way it will be”?  Why do we have to travel around to all of these different sites?  Why do we have to post on other people’s blogs (only to loose that communication later when the user decides to close up shop?)  Should we think about shaking up the model a bit and leverage the Internet to communicate in a whole new way?

 

4.)Unrelated – I have travelled quite a bit over the last 2-3 years and I have met a ton of young professionals who either don’t know that much about social networking or find it to be a  waste of time.  To be honest I am not sure that I would have learned as much as I did if I hadn’t been on the road.  With a wife and two children, time is a precious commodity.

 

One of the conversations that I have been having recently is how we as a society is not interested in information for the long term anymore.  We are “experience” animals that search for the “next best thing”.   We revel in the challenges to achieve it (getting from A to Z is half the fun) but are disinterested as soon as we do.  Moving on to the “next best thing”.  We are an ADHD society who have been transformed into “minute-memories”.

 

Our means of communications have shifted towards this – IM, Text Messaging, Blogging etc…  We are very interested in the now – and NOW moves faster then any of could believe.

 

The nagging question for all of this – what does it mean to the next generation of “communicators”?  When they have grown up on Text Messaging, IM and {gasp} Twitter?  And more importantly, how can we establish these new levels/channels of communications so that these new communicators are capable of achieving more then we have.

 

I am certainly not claiming “Facebook Bankruptcy” but I have denied the Zombie requests and I continue to edit my “iLike” portion of my site (and encourage others to do the same).

If you haven’t heard of Sphere, you will soon

June 23, 2007

Before the wis.dm site jumped ship, I wrote about how mainstream media has begun to engage end users in conversations. News sites like Wall Mercury commentsStreet Journal, USA Today, Wired, San Jose Mercury have been engaging their customers for a while. WSJ.com forumsReaders have been posting comments, digging, tagging for some time. And most people actually like it. CNN.com has been a little late to the game and while they have the “revolutionary” Situation Room, they have not joined the true social network. Until now..

I use CNN.com for all of my mainstream news (can’t ever get enough Paris jail footage), and while I don’t spend a ton of time there, I do use the site on a daily basis to keep up with what everyone else is keeping up with (not everyone knows what NewsGator is for or how to use it). When they announced their beta I like any other beta tester jumped at the chance.

I have to say that I was not tremendously impressed at first. Since all of my news is read through a pretty plain RSS reader, I saw this as a simple re-design. Then I started seeing a few things that I liked. First was that they have a tab on some articles (the details page) which will display a video file if the article has an associated video with it. Then I saw it … the difference that I had been waiting for.

CNN.com has not only decided to allow people to add their voice directly to the web site, CNN.com has decided to “report”CNN.com and Sphere oCNN.com and Sphere (1)n conversations in the Blogsphere with a widget created by a company named Sphere. The basic idea for the widget, is to query the Blogsphere for content related to the article. I think that this feature will really improve the recongition of Blogs and expose the community to more people. I am not sure how many people will actually use this but I think that it is a great idea.

Categorizing our communities

May 30, 2007

Sarah Cooper posted a great response to the following series of posts regarding “Circles of Relationship”. The summary of which can be found here and here.

The flash application that Sarah built (here) brings up a good topic about classification for our communities. I participated in a beta site called wis.dm (which has currently shifted it’s format and is completely unusable) but when it started out it showed me clearly how a system could be built which would allow us to classify the people we participate with in our communities.

The system used a rating service (which had some scaling issues that lead to its ultimate demise) which allowed people to determine who were experts.

Basic idea was this:
1.) Someone posts a link to topic and adds some comments (to spark conversation). They then tagged the links (and people who posted comments could also add their tags).
2.) You voted on the link and comments

The result was essentially a system which would relate someone who posted a lot of information on say “Apple” or “iPod” with a positive vote as an “expert” on the topic.

We need this system in our world today so that you can tell me that “Jen” (from the sample flash application) is really good to talk to about concerts, OK to talk to about clothing and not so good to talk to about Movies. I think that this has been created as an internal memory piece (particularly on web forums where you participate with many of the same people) but how do we extend that?

For instance, I have frequented a web forum where people talk about movies. And there is this one person who is the “King-Transformer” guy. Knows everything about the history of the show, the movie and everything else that is Transformer based.

Know I know that this person is the person to go to in order to ask an educated question about Optimus Prime and gang, but how do I tell others. How does this person become widely known as the “King-Transformer” guy. This system has to be created some how. Unfortunately I think that this is something that will require the cooperation of many sites but we can hope.

Some crazy thoughts about Web 2.0

May 3, 2007

As Mike posted about “RSS in Plain English” , it reminded me of some of the conversations we have been having at work as we try to jump-start discussions surrounding our companies general approach to Web 2.0 (which includes a healthy dose of RSS). I spoke at internal round table last week about RSS, Wiki’s and Blogs and their place in the Web Content Management space. Particularly, focusing on how RSS was effecting the Enterprise business world and how our product would be growing to support that need. During my work, I came across a great video (like a great cult movie these days you need to watch it a couple of times to pick up everything) which helps to dispel the myths about Web 2.0.

What I found to be well done in the video was the process of not only describing what Web 2.0 is today but how we got here. How HTML was built as a markup language which was

“…designed to describe the structure of a web document … such elements defined how content would be formatted. In other words, form and content became inseparable in HTML…”

In the early days of pure HTML development, the tags were the power. <b> for something bold, <i> for something italics. We coded because we wanted to designate that something was important and should be looked at differently. We were not thinking about the actual content in the context of the document, we were simply saying “when this is displayed on the Web we want it to look like ‘x’.”

What is remarkable about the current changes on the Web is that they are not simply architectural changes (support for semantic style markup like <address>4222 Clinton Avenue</address>) but it was also the explosion of the user compiled data:

Amazon.com customers rushed with surprising speed and intelligence to write the reviews that made the site useable. Owners of Adobe, Apple and most major software products offer help and advice on the developer’s forum web pages. And in the greatest leverage of the common user, Google turns traffic and link patterns generated by 2 billion searches a month into the organising intelligence for a new economy. [excerpt from “Unto us a machine is born”]

Nobody could have ever imagined how much the consumers of the world would contribute to the web and it’s over all growth. In some articles it is said that a new blog is born every 1/2 second. When I first started blogging at WordPress.com (which was admittedly way after the general populous started) there were roughly 190K blogs. In the short amount of time that I have been active in the blogsphere, that number has grown to an astonishing 900K+.

So as this data grows and the web spins out of control, we must start thinking about the next thing. How many times have you gotten to a great Digg article, only to find that 850 people had already commented on this article. Rendering the comments section of this article completely useless. Who can sort through that many comments and make heads or tails of anything relevant to the discussion. Likewise, how do you weed out the unproductive comments that prove we still have a long way to go as a society? You don’t, that’s how!

One thing I will say that I have spoken about in the past (and is iterated in the article mentioned above) is that the system is growing and the tools that are becoming available to us are opening up our use-able networks. We are currently connected (most of us) with way more people then we were in the past. Additionally, we are capable of maintaining relationships with hundreds of people at at time through many different outlets.

I am not sure that we are “teaching the Machine (a.k.a. the Internet)” but I can say this, when I get involved with projects like Behavioral Targeting I can truly say that we are living in a remarkable time, and I am glad to be a part of it.

Where is wis.dm Webisode 2?

March 27, 2007

I have certainly been bitten by the Wis.dm bug lately and so I wanted to share with you a few of the interesting “things” going in the quite creative community which has so nicely developed over at wis.dm. To do so, I am going to introduce you to a “character” that has joined the community.

The first is George Pepper:

Sent to document and report on the pop culture of the early 21st century, I, Commodore George Pepper stepped through the time displacement portal and arrived in the year 2007. Expecting to find a time of peace and prosperity, as had been recorded in my history books, I’ve found a culture mass paranoia, military conflict, and degrading environmental conditions which will lead to mankinds doom.

Faced with customs and beliefs alien to my own, I’ve set forth to change history for the better. My only guide on this journey is Wis.dm, a research assistant from my own time, who appears in the form of an 8-Track player attached to a tripod. And so, I must scour pop culture, striving to find the people, events, and institutions that have corrupted the timeline…hoping to save this era, and my own.

 

In addition to some of his posts he has produced a video which can be seen here:

This was posted some time ago (February 12th) and I am very much looking forward to the second Webisode where I hope to meet some of George’s arch enemies like Dr. Digg and his evil henchman Facebook.

More from this later.

Not your average social networking site

March 27, 2007

I have been participating in the alpha/beta for a new site designed to connect you with your friends and help you find new ones. In addition, the site has become an excellent source for discovering new content. The site however, is very different then its predecessors in that it has stronger social tools like contacts, comments (something delicious lacks), votes (another piece delicious lacks) and just added “teams”.

The site is called Wis.dm and to be honest it is this “wis.dm” (or wisdom for you non-2.0 lovers) which truly separates this site from its collective siblings. The content on this site is actually really good and I have “met” many people who share the same love for the Internet as I do. In addition I have found many new sites (blogs, marketing sites, forums etc…) to get new fresh content from.

The changes in this site have been phenomenal over the past 6 months and its semi “organic” growth has been fun to participate in. They have scratched their “Web 2.0” look and, while at first I was disappointed the look of the site has grown on me. What works for me is the sites functionality and while they are still in Beta I recommend you join so that you can see for yourself. Like any social networking site, you get out of the site what you put in. I will demonstrate what works (and doesn’t work) for me on the site and discuss why you should join

General Concept
The general idea of the web site is actually a few layers deep and in fact I have found it easier to participate on this site then I have with sites like MySpace or Facebook (both similar sites). For me, the idea of “hollering out” to my homeys on my website and having 145,983 “friends” that send me messages like “sorry we missed you while you were in town” is so superficial to me. Wis.dm offers a layer of networking which to me works:

1. Add Wis.dm WidgetFind a website (or post or whatever) that you find interesting and add a link to it. I use Firefox and they have created a very unique link which “pops” up a window (Figure 1) that will collect the information for the site (Title, description, tags and optional team). This tool is one of the best “add” tools out there. It really makes it easy to add links to Wis.dm.

2. Instantly your link (originally called “interests”) is available for people to see. In addition, your link gets one “vote”. While I disagree with this the nice thing about the site is that this may change (seems that the path of the site is being driven somewhat by the users which is great). People can now go to the page, vote on your link (currently +1 or -1) and add a comment.

3.Top movers Your activity on the site (links voted and commented on) in addition to the people you invite effect your “Points”. Points help you understand how active a person is (and it there is a little bit of fun watching your points increase) and how “reliable” their posts tend to be.

4. Join a Team. Just added a day or so ago, this feature is very interesting. I have been interested in Marketing lately and more specifically how marketing is changing in this new consumer content based marketplace. So, I created a group called “Marketing redefined”, gave it a description and invited some people that seemed to also be interested in marketing. The group is small but what I hope to accomplish is the ability to have a concentrated group of people that will help define my impression of what is going on today. When adding links, we can target the link to the team and hopefully we will create a small community within the community where we can invite like people. Should be interesting.

Finding Content
Popular Another major task on the site is finding content. I will have to say that this part of the web site that I find difficult (or at least it was when I first got stated). The ideas are simple (and this is where some of the design is laking – more about this later) you tag you content (this part is easy) and so you can search by clicking tags in both your profile and the “popular” cloud. Both implement the common font size increase familiar with most link sites.

Additionally, you can “free text” search for content links by using the “Search” box which appears on each screen. The search feature seems to be pretty quick and the search results are pretty accurate (you would surely expect this at this point).

Probably the most effective way to find new content is to camp out on the “popular” page which is essentially the home page to wis.dm. This is where the most popular (currently I think all content comes through here) links are highlighted. At some point I would imagine that this feature of the site will work much like digg.com works today with the community pushing links to the top.Recommended

A nice feature that they have added is the “Recommended” option. It is designed to look at all of the content you upload, all of the links you comment and vote on and offer some example links that you may find interesting. So far, I have found some good links by keeping an eye on the box. Very helpful.

Dislikes
So of course I have an opinion (everyone is entitled to one). I think that there are a few things that don’t work so well in the site:

1. The top navigation. I know that the owners of the site are trying to build the “atypical” Web 2.0 application but I think that they have done themselves a bit disservice here. I know that craigslist has been popular by emphasizing the content vs the tools but I find their implementation of “tabs” in effective. See below – the word “Explore” is slightly larger then “my wis.dm” or “submit”. They need to have a better signification of being in a section of the site. In addition, the sub section links (which are difficult to separate) also are displayed as “on” with a different color (red).
Top navigation

2. Tagging. When you add a new link using both the JavaScript button in Firefox or the submit option on the site, the tag adding process is not supported with “helper” tags like you get on Del.icio.us. I am not saying that wis.dm needs to copy the process directly from Del.icio.us, but I am saying is that they need a new process. The difficulties arise the first couple of times you tag. Invariably you are going to tag something with “Web2.0” only problem is in order to get your tag supported by others you need to make sure that you choose the correct terminology is it “Web2.0” with one word or “Web 2.0” with a space. Luckily they did add an option to edit the links after the fact but it becomes difficult to remember your tags and so you sometimes end up double tagging something.

3.Wis.dm team posts. I know that theonly way sites like this are successful is if they attract users and that content attracts users. Since you have people that you are already paying, why not offer incentives for them to post to the site. Sometimes what happens with these posts is they become inside jokes which eliminates the opportunity to collaborate on comments.

Company Challenges
1. Finances. What has become unclear (maybe because I have not asked) is where this company tends to make its money. Will they continue with the advertisement route which they appear to be travelling down currently (as the site is free to all users) or do they take a different approach and charge for use of the site.

2. Numbers. In either case, the number of users has to increase way beyond where they are today. Probably need 5+ million users to be considered as an elite social networking site (Facebook has 17+ million and MySpace has 100 million). The true beauty of viral networking is that the best survive. And they grow fast. We are all familiar with the explosive growth of sites like YouTube. In order for this site to grow the content and social services need to be top notch.

3. Performance. Some grumblings have been heard around the blog sphere about performance at Facebook and MySpace are attributable to their massive growth. So what happens when the site gets its 5th million user? Will their site fall to pieces. I am confident that the team they have assembled should be capable of handling this.

If you would like to join click the link below to join – I think you will find the time you spend is completely valuable.

Join Wis.dm


Best Web Application of 2007 (possibly ever)

March 7, 2007

Ok, the web is changing, web applications are becoming more sophisticated, social networking is growing …

Yes, we all know this, but I have to say that Geni has the best interface of any web application that I have ever seen, ever (so far)! I found the application yesterday while perusing through some new news feeds I found whilst I was constructing my new PageFlakes page. The company has been around for a few months now and has already secured $100M $10M in funding (yes million). An astronomical amount of money for a 12+ person company.

When you use the application it is very clear to see why this company is garnishing this much praise (and money). The company is lead by the former COO of PayPal, David O. Sacks so I am sure he has the ears of a lot of people in Internet technology.

My Experience
I am going to try and contain my excitement about this application and explain my experience as I built out my family tree (at least as much as I could). The process of adding my account was simple, First Name, Last Name, Email Address and Password (password confirm field as well). So, simple I forgot how I did it (hopefully I can remember my password). I was instantly “logged in”. No need to retrieve a temporary password or confirmation URL. Nice.

Geni, genealogy made funI then got started adding people and by the time I got to my mother the application was put the test. My mom is divorced and remarried. Handled that like a champ. I was surprised but I guess if you are going to build a genealogy application in an era where divorce rates are high, you better handle that well. They did. When I got to my Sister who has been married twice and had a child with two different people it handled that smoothly by presenting me with an option to choose which mom/dad combination created this child.

I could not stop, I was completely addicted and I am not sure if it was because I was having fun or I was interested in seeing my family tree in the “tree” layout which looked so good.

I started adding every family members email address that I had, my mom, my aunt, my wife’s aunt as far as I could reach. I wanted to see what they thought. It has been less then 10 hours (slept 5 of those) and I have already received very positive response. I am hooked. I can not wait to see how this grows (hopefully someone will hold my Grandmothers hand through the program so that she can add her family lineage).

Organic growth
Although I started this family tree, this is not mine. I participate in this with my family members which is great. My sister in-law started adding details to my wife’s side of the family and I saw the real power of the application. Everyone participates in this. She had added a great uncle and all of his details, added a picture for my father in-law and it appeared she was hooked as well. I think that this will not only be enjoyable but I think that this application will actually bring my family closer together and offer my children a birds-eye view of our family (something that I can honestly say was difficult to do before this). Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy it when my grandmother brought out the manila envelope which contained the several pieces of graph paper with the family lineage she constructed.

I recommend that you give this application a chance, if not because you enjoy genealogy then simply because it is fun and it may help you understand how to organize information on the web.

Breaking Dunbar’s Number

March 6, 2007

I first learned about Dunbar’s number when I read “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell (highly recommended).  The basic idea (described in detail here) is the number of people one could have stable relationships with.  The number as stated in the book and at Wikipedia is “150”.  So I ask then how can someone have over “350” (399 to be exact) connections in LinkedIn?

After some thought and some research on the Internet (I found this post from 2 years ago: Dunbar’s Triage: Too Many Connections) it led me to a very interesting post from more than 5 years ago.  Back before the popularity of MySpace, Facebook, Linked and other great networking sites (new favorite includes Wis.dm)

Edge: The World Question Center
“How do we scale up the number of quality human relationships one person can sustain by many orders of magnitude? In an increasingly connected world, how does one person interact with a hundred thousand, a million or even a billion people?”

So, based on the above post the general idea would be that the software revolution that is occurring now will help us expand our network.  Somehow the blogs, linking sites, bookmark sites etc… will allow us to keep in touch with more people like the email we use has allowed us to communicate with more people then we used to when we just had phones (which in turn allowed us to keep in touch with more people then when all we had was written letters).

In order to believe this, you must truly believe that a human can connect with more than 150 people.  That all of our social interactions that occur on a daily basis can be “enhanced” by using the online world and these new applications that seem to be popping up on a daily basis.

I put my life into three main categories – my family, my friends and my job (If I am a good excellent time manager I may be able to slice a bit off the top and apply it to me).  With all of my time going to these three categories I find it hard to believe that I can have meaningful relationships with 150 people.  Logically this means 50 in each category.  Since I have a descent sized immediate family, I can see 30 there, and work certainly has 30-40  that would leave 80 or so friends.  I think that I would be a lucky person if I could have 80 people in my life at some meaningful level.

While I guess some of the tools available lets me maintain relationships but today, most of the people that I interact with on line are people that I interact with off line.  So, what part of this new communication architecture is a bit of sensationalism and what part of it is real?  Maybe for us (people in my generation) there are a lot of people who would disagree – those that find it comfortable meeting people online in anonymous chat rooms and through posts to sites.

The real answer is that people of my childrens generation will be a lot different.  They will live on the Internet.  All of their communications will be with people, they will not care of their location.  They will meet people online just like you meet someone at a bar or in a supermarket or at the local laundry mat.   They will not care that the individual lives 5 minutes away, 2o minutes away or across the world.  They will simply know “This person has something in common with me, because we have posted on the same blog, linked to the same article or have common connections through work, play or family”.

Before I wrote this I had no idea whether or  not I believed in the Dunbar number or if applications can enhance our communication with others.  After some thought (I sometimes do this through my writing) I can say that I  do believe that we are capable of enhancing communication and that we may also be able to extend our relationships beyond 150 people.  While I don’t think that it will be just the applications I do believe that we are changing.

What comes after “The Gradient Era”

February 22, 2007

I don’t have enough energy to do this, but it would be cool if someone could give names to each of the “Design Era’s” we have seen come to life. But here goes:

– The Bullet Era: When I first started on the web every link had a “3-d Bullet graphic” (http://web.archive.org/web/19970724115909/www.uri.edu/artsci/artsci_home.html) [note: click though on Economics]

[Somwhere along the way we graduated to the black background sites]

– Black background sites: Some of the first major designs we did were on black backgrounds (http://web.archive.org/web/19981212030944/http://www.mewstavern.com/) [note: first CF site I ever worked on – take a look at beers]

[Missing a ton of designs – for the better of man kind I moved into development at this point]

[Eventually we got to the point where we are today]

– Gradients: If you site does not use Lightbox and have Gradient headers you just ain’t cool

————————–

Well, I can honestly say that I believe that we are finally at the end of the “Gradient Era”:

Proof1: There is actually a web site that will build a gradient image for you. Yes, I did not stutter, it actually builds a gradient image: http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/gradient/. It is my recollection, that if anything ever becomes this “Mainstream” it has already met its demise. After-all, if the blinking text on my Grandma’s web page gets replaced with a gradient image then it’s all over – right?

Proof2: Two web site designs that have come out recently which don’t use any gradients. Not one.

1.) wis.dm – A social bookmarking site heavier on the “social” then the “bookmarking”
2.) mikull.com – my friends blog (yes he has some mad design skills)

So, while I can’t guarantee you won’t stumble upon a site riddled with Gradients, I can say that I am happy to ask “What is next??”.

Gotta go, off to make a few gradient images for a new menu system, I have connected Yahoo’s Menu Object into CommonSpot.