Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Open Social Graph

My biggest motivation of this conference was this topic of OpenFaced, takes me back to the dreams of web1.0 with XML and microformats and creating an interconnected web built on open standards of different sites.

OpenFaced panel: Opening Up the Social Graph
- Tantek Celik (moderator), David Recordon SixApart, Chamath Palihapitiya Facebook, Joseph Smarr Plaxo, Ted Grubb Satisfaction Unlimited

Joseph Smarr Plaxo:
Online Identity Consolidator find the same person's account across twitter, flickr,ma.gnolia.com, pownce and everywhere else on the web , all without compromising the privacy if the user.
opensocialweb.com - lists a bill of rights to build out an openweb.

David Recordon SixApart

Ted Grubb Satisfaction Unlimited allows import profiles from other services which support microformats.
Love the ability to create an address book, where is a friend should get a friends phone if I have his email.
Facebook does not allow data taken out of facebook using Facebook API to be stored for more than 24 hrs.

Chamath Palihapitiya Facebook:
  • Facebook pioneered open technologies like Memcache.
  • The service itself itself is conducive to people trusting facebook.
  • There is one social graph of 6Bil users in the world, we have captured 45Mil of it.
  • Here is one model of it, we acknowlege we need people to help us.
  • Everyone including facebook is at the starting point, we need to measure progress over coming years.
  • Its a delicate balance between being open on the web on one hand and trusted and private on the other side.
  • Should be done methodically and systematically not reactively.
  • Consumer choice leads in the end.
  • We need to provide more and more control to App developers and will open slowly and cautiously.

How about integrating Openid and symantic web?
How long will it take for developers to build to an open web across platforms instead of one facebook platform?
What is each panelist doing to share open social graph:

David: Implement Openid
Facebook : want as much information to flow across the graph and touch everyone in the world.( This is an ambitious and audacious goal, but does not seem to signal real open graph outside of facebook, or am I missing the point here?)

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

web 2.0 for small business panel -from Web2.0 Expo

I am at this panel with Om Malik, of Giga OM who needs no intro, and I found he is a Mac user too! Wow. Others are Ismael Ghalimi of Intalio, Satish Dharmaraj at Zimbra and the coolest part is its moderated by Rafe Needleman of CNET , Webware.

Rajen Seth of WebApps from Google "Adding collaboration to a document suite is a killer App " Seth. I agree,, I am a big Google Apps fan.

Om raises good questions about Privacy and Security and lack of commenting on Google Docs, he uses Zimbra for email. Rajen agrees that Google Apps targets small to mid-size companies and its a leap of faith to switch to Google Apps, leaving desktop apps totally.

Om: Google Apps, and all Webware Apps expect users to give up existing usability features of MS Word, etc. Also lack of trust on private data, how can they be sure they will protect my privacy. He summarized as perception problem today not about technology.

Hale nails it as the fundmental problem with adopting the Internet right from the start!

Its an awesome topic, but the audience is quiet and polite, maybe its a signal of the uncomfortable evaluation stage of Webwares in the world today!

Nice question about need for channels for Web2.0 Apps, compared to established Enterprise VARs for desktop Apps. Satish of Zimbra says they exist for Web2.0 Apps.

Ismail quotes Zoho, integrates hundreds of Apps, and Salesforce.com, Webex Connect as good candidates to check out!

My question: When are development platforms for Webapps coming? Oh Ismail asked the same of Google. Rafe agrees Web Apps has to interoperate with others on the Web.

Question from Audience: Integrating voice to WebApps - Zimbra has launched a SIPzimbet, CISCO and VOIP switch, good plan to integrate to best of class Voice Servers. Google App has Voice on SNMP (open), showcase of select set of partners who integrated VOIP.

When will you voice enable your mobile Apps? Address cost issue - Open Source has not helped with low cost. Satish disagrees. Cost shd be thought not in terms of software cost, add maintenance cost and it adds up.

My question: What is the next Web2.0 Killer App the panelist are working on?

Om - An App that retains email properly, rethink email combined with RSS, Jabber, manages communication flow properly, so it increases productivity, not increases time we use with the App.
Satish - can't tell ,its all dynamically born., Google App
hale - Closed all all IM clients when he was working on an App.
Ismail - Aggregating diff feeds, translate it into task.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An Entrepreneurs Guide for Desiging Consumer Web Site FrontEnds

I decided to write this article about how to build a clean Web Site UI in terms of developing specs for the web designer, communication tools and techniques and good guidelines for entrepreneurs because I could not find one overall primer on the web.

This is meant to help an entrepreneur building a web site with an application on the backend or outsourcing frontend to any web designer. The goal is to help articulate what you need and break it to manageable pieces so you can have a clear understanding of what to expect and how much it will cost in terms of time and money.

Thanks to my customer Dan Pouliot of Cabletron.com who challenged me to develop a process to spec out and communicate the user flow on a ecommerce site in 1998, to Perry Hewitt who excited me about caring so deeply for the customer with great usability for Harcourt.com and Paul English, we meticulously tabled product specs and screenshots and taught me focused execution as I built my first tech startup Coola.

A good web site design is what excites your users to do what you expect of them and builds loyalty to return to your site.

Here are steps to follow to execute on building a clean frontend for your Web 2.0 consumer site.

1. Always start with a CED (Customer Experience Definition), which forces you to clarify who is the user and what is your expectation of their usage of your site.

2. All sites have several different constituencies - customers, consumers, media, investors, job-seekers and influencers who judge the reliability, size and value of a company by their experience on a site.

3. List all users. Remember who is your target user when you launch your site, some type of users may come later, so plan for them but don't worry too much about all type of users for your initial launch version.

4. For each user type, list all possible actions they would take on the site. For example, a consumer can register/signup, try a demo as a guest, just surf and read about what you offer, refer friends, or turn around and become a customer as is the case in most B2C sites, in which case they transact and make a purchase.

5. Look at all possible combinations of these actions. For example a user may register first then try a demo, and refer friends. Another user may try a demo and surf around and then register.

6. Now plan a use case for all possible paths of action sequences for each user.

7. For every action, (this is a discussion between the product manager and UI designer) design the User experience by making screenshots.

8. Translate this (discussion between product manager with Engg) to become html for structure, CSS for presentation and Javascript for user behavior.

9. Find what user actions call the backend database or backend application (or middleware in a large system) by means of dynamic or interactive pages to send or receive data and ensure those are communicated in the product requirement specs.

10. Plan the best way to render data to the users in a clean and friendly fashion. For example, kayak.com is my favorite example of a Web 2.0 site that shows data and engages the users while they find travel deals with cool UI.

11. Decide on the branding message - cool and hip or funny and lighthearted or more formal and plan on content placement and graphics accordingly.

12. I am a big believer that all sites should have relevant apps to engage and communicate with the users. Place them strategically around the site.

13. Like the 90s had a blue as the favorite color, web 2.0 sites have an orange, or light shades of colors with simplicity as the key in their design.

14. Break the design into number of html pages, javascripts, widgets, flash apps, and CSS neccessary and execute on your design with a cool UI designer. This should get you a list of what needs to be built and what are the dependencies and help understand how much time and money it will take.

Here are my delicious links to good Web Site Design and UI. I'll add more here as I find them.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hybrid Photo Apps - steps to take us from desktop to the SAAS world

You have seen me track the online photo space from simple photo printing options from walmart to shutterfly to desktop apps like picasa.

Here is a potential new player, an expert in the Desktop world entering Web services with lot of promise - Adobe! (http://news.com.com/Adobe+to+take+Photoshop+online/2100-7345_3-6163015.html)

In 2001, before Picasa was born, I had approached Adobe with my mobile Server platform startup Coola, trying to sell the dream of how users would love to upload photos from mobile devices to the Server to create Web Services, offering a strategic sustainability of hybrid Apps across the desktop and Web. This was before Macromedia aquisition and Adobe was not a server company. We were walking with Kodak Pix cameras attached to Palm pilots before the days of cameras on cell phones.

Today I am excited by Adobe's entry in this space because

1. Adobe will increase the standards for photo processing on the web which is set to a basic standard with no differentiation among existing players.

2.Also, Adobe owns the photo space with Photoshop and knows the real users, not just web consumers who would like to gift picture mugs to grandma, but those who appreciate the beauty of creating good pictures and tools that help them express their creativity.

3. It will wake up the online photospace and we can sure see lot of creativity and new solutions.

4.Of course, since Adobe is a desktop software company, I am dreaming here to see not just web services, but Adobe strengthening its place with hybrid Apps that will create a new space taking us from the desktop to the hosted world with a series of products and services. Adobe is positioned well with customer access in the desktop world that a pure online company like Google does not have.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 19, 2007

Video sites summary and Adobes bold moves

Adobe has launched a new Flash for mobile and now a new tool to mashup videos, photos and audio available only for premium photobucket users currently. - I've been tracking the online photo space and cannot wait for the much awaited integration with video and audio.

Its one thing to be a leader with pdf format, its another to be agile to create new products for a competitive evolving space lead by startups. Now Adobe is a company worth watching in the new media space!

Oh! here is a neat Summary of the comparison of Video sites online - here thanks to Read/Write Web

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 12, 2007

The digital Generation of Web 2.0 Marketing

I have been in marketing for the past 10 years focusing on consumer web and user generation and online communities, built an ecommerce site and transitioned a business from consumer to enterprise successfully. Its an ever changing fun landscape.

In 1996, when we knew everyone on the web, we went to newsgroups to let people know about a new site (my first was a RSS reader like site offering subscription for users to get feeds of select publications as they were being updating on the web), or we requested links from directories like Yahoo and mutual links from friends.

Then came the banner ads and link exchanges. I've learned the hard way that effective user generation was built on real passion for users and listening to them even when they say what you don't want to hear.

During 99, when I built my own Startup Coola, we got 1 million Palm users by old fashioned viral play among Palm user groups.

Somewhere down the line, Internet marketing became a bad word and consumer marketing was even less cooler as huge tools evolved to track user click-throughs and the path the user took in navigating sites. Google IPOed and SEOs went on a mad gold rush to generate eyeballs.

Now with the cliched web 2.0, a new combination of trends in technology offering clean usabilities and change in social behavior bringing us together to communicate, connect and build collective intelligence, has web marketing really changed?

I am a big believer of David Weinberger's Clue Train Manifesto which predicted that users will bring their social behaviors of looking for referrals and sharing good and bad reviews and biases from real life onto the web and change the fundamentals of business. It just got easier with Web 2.0 tools and techniques today.

The fundamentals of marketing are always the same - knowing who is your customer and finding what they want and communicating with them to generate revenues or whatever your metrics.

I am curious to hear your comments on the difference for internet marketers and whether you experience the digital generational divide as a marketer.

1. There is a digital generation of old-type marketers and new Web 2.0 marketers. Its obvious in job reqs asking for one or the other. However, what it means or how its valued depends on the startup founders and their interpretation of both. I see a lot of optimism and new thinking in the younger marketers who did not see the web world crash. I also see fear in those who carry too much of the past.

2. I was lucky to make the transition to the new web as I took a break after my last startup Coola, end 2002 and came back with new fervor to learn the new blogoshere just to connect back with new projects. There are a set of media folks, investors and entrepreneurs who have made the transition successfully.

3. Tactically what is the difference in marketing in Web 2.0 world?

Real marketing is about messaging the passion for a product (or service) and communicating it to customers (meaning you know who they really are) and successful marketers do it will clear metric driven campaigns and a love for speed to iterate and learn from the market.

Web 2.0 world makes it every juicier to make it happen because all components of marketing has changed:

A. Product - An online product is always about the core tech offering, related tools that help the user, some specific for the type of business, many generic, and most importantly the content that provides the context for the user to consumer the product and make decisions to evaluate , decide for or against a product, check feedback of fellow users and engage or disengage from the rest of the community of users, irrespective of whether the community is facilitated by the site or not.

Web 2.0 is all about harnessing the collective intelligence of the users and that part has to be built into the product by simple tools like ranking, feedback systems and self-propelling community tools.

I remember Content vs Commerce arguments in Harcourt as I built out Harcourt.com for $2 education publisher, a brick and mortor business transitioning to the web in 1999.

Now Content created by the community has become a larger component, how does this affect product development today?

B. Messaging/Outbound Marketing:

Print vs long tail of the web has become clearly differentiated. There are new set of influencers like Mike Arrington, Om and Robert Scoble for the new world, who will bring the young tech crowd. This is good for market validation and market acceptance. But to fundamentally build a business with real customers, it goes back to good old segmentation and reaching the core set of users.

Here I find companies targeting traditional customers, say an ecommerce site will benefit better from real print world PR from NY Times etc.

Of course, the tools have exploded and even Walter Mosberg publishes videos addons to his articles, so we have become a more visual society and marketing tools to help in that are yet to evolve.

C. Overlap:
I find that the product management cycle and messaging are more mixed up than before. This is because customers are talking everywhere, which seems like community and messaging, but thats changing the dynamics of products and the marketer has to be aware and be in all places.
For eg, thermaware offers a heatpad for pain relief that works differently from standard products by producing heat slowly by oxidation. When you look for them on the web, you'll find dicussion groups talking about using thermaware not for pain relief but for storing mattresses because it takes oxygen from the closet where its kept, amazingly comparing with a totally different product in the storage space that thermaware product folks won't even consider as competition.

This factor is huge for a new web company launching as the product is in early cycles and messaging and community competes with product management to build out the product roadmap.

This is a huge topic dear to my heart, I'd love to hear if you disagree, have any experience supporting this idea. Email me or post a comment.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Off to space with Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos's new company Blue Origin is building a spaceship in Internet mode, incremental with lot of startup energy.

Nov 13, 2006, they launched and landed Goddard – a first development vehicle in the New Shepard program, a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space.

It went up 300ft and came down smoothly. Awesome! (video here)

Its funny to see the Amazon plug for S3, Simple Storage Service to store and access info from anywhere to leverage their hosted infrastructure for picture storage. Sure hosted pics online is just scratching the surface of S3.

Amazon can sell lot of Blue Origin merchandize for sure. I'd love to buy a cool toy version of Goddard that I can control by remote for a take-off and landing :-)