Signum sine tinnitu--by Guy Kawasaki: The Wrong Tale: A Checklist for Long-Tail Implementations Friday, July 21, 2006
Signum sine tinnitu--by Guy Kawasaki: The Wrong Tale: A Checklist for Long-Tail Implementations. This is an interesting article, examing what is necessary to be successful as a long tailer. However, just like Chris Anderson, I think Guy overlooks the importance of the search engine firms in connecting buyers & sellers. If buyers need to find sellers, they invariably turn to search engines.
Rule 4 suggests that sellers need near zero selling and marketing costs. Yet, more of the search engines are already driven by an ad model and google has already stated in a recent legal case that its search rankings/listing are an expression of free speech and which implies they don't need to "treat everyone fairly". As such, search engines may be able to exercise greater control over who is successful in the long tail.
Anyway, check out the article - its definitely thought provoking.
Gizmo – A free phone for your computer - Learn More Call Out Rates is another company fighting for your messaging airtime. I use a number of messaging solutions, partly because I'm caught in the game of netwrk externalities - you need to use a solution that allows you to connect to everyone else, and right now (sadly) not everyone is using skype, messenger live or userplane. And even if they were, they're not permantly online. In contrast the phone is fairly ubiquitous thanks to the advent of the mobile!
Connecting with the "unenlightened" by phone and particularly overseas has remained relatively expensive (ok, there are some solutions to this in the UK and most likely elsewhere). So its excellent news that the messenging firms have now bridged that gap and done so in such an inexpensive manner. Both Skype and Gizmo have cheap calling plans which offers me a single device through which I can speak to my online and offline contacts. And using the PC as a phone is not alien anymore either - even Tesco is selling an online phone service with loss leading headsets, thereby bringing it to the attention of the mass market.
All we need now is more bi-lateral (better yet, multi-lateral) agreements between messenging firms to support interoperability ala MSN & Yahoo, and I may yet get to consolidate on a single app - at least when I'm online.
Google Voice Search Demo Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Google Voice Search Demo - Found this whilst stumbling today - Google labs have put together a speech recognition device that allows you to search by saying the keywords. Presently the test is driven over the phone with the results provided to you onscreen. However, that's fairly limited in its usefulness (if I can see the screen, in most cases I can type the keywords - acknowledge that some people with special needs might find it valuable. )
BUT, if they can embed speech capture in the browser, and there's a good many apps that are starting to do this like yackpack and odeo, then this starts to take on a different dimension give that speech driven UI is most natural interface. Better yet, deliver search over the phone with results delivered as SMS results.
Can conceive of many possibilities with this one.
Colin over at jigsawuk.org told me I looked "dapper" in my photo in an email to me today. But wasn't it a bit formal for a blog! Well, to explain... The photo is from a black tie charity dinner that Folio Partners helped organise for Small Steps, and was taken by Paul whilst I was doing my MC role for the evening. In the background you can make out Amanda Lamb of Channel 4 fame, who gave an excellent introduction to the charity. The after dinner speaker was Tim Foster (Sydney Olympics Gold medalist coxless four rowing) who is great chap and highly entertaining. You can see both of them in the event photos
Entitled "Chief Tote Officer" the event raised £42k to help fund therapy programmes that assist children under the age of 5 that have physical and developmental difficulties. Its a great charity, doing excellent work in helping kids to do what most people take for granted - look, listen, sit and stand.
So now you know.
The lifespan of ideas ... Saturday, July 15, 2006
Check out this excellent article by Tom Foremski on Silicon Valley Watcher
His observations are spot on - too often people are scared that their ideas will be stolen and so keep them hidden away. Yet in doing so, they often rob themselves of the opportunity to use the creative genius of others that could help develop their ideas. In my own experience, when you expose an idea others will happily chat it through, challenging your assumptions (thereby helping test the rigor of your thinking) and providing their thoughts on how to develop/improve/modify it.
As to stealing your ideas, well, sorry to disappoint you but having ideas is relatively easy - its having the guts to do something with them and executing that's hard. And if you don't know how, then involve somebody that can help you. Sure, they may want some equity, but remember that 100% of nothing is ......... [if the answer is obvious, then put it into action and exploit your ideas].
Sadly the launch of Zooomr v2.0 which was due to go live at 1am GMT on 15 July was hit by a DOS and caused them to temporarily abort. Thomas Hawk, one of the 3 people involved in the venture, is well known in the blogosphere and commented on the Zooomr blog that perhaps it was inevitable that they should have been hit. This is because there has been a considerable amount of online chatter about the launch but also because they posted a "cool" looking countdown clock on the site which somebody clearly saw as a challenge to interupt - the online countdown clock was halted at 11 minutes to go.
The sad reality is that small online commercial "start-ups" still have to take the same precautions and counter-measures as larger corporations to tackle this kind of threat particularly when a)they get a high profile b) headline a key date c) their whole existence relies on their online availability. A large corporate that also has a bricks and mortar presence might be able to weather the storm from other revenues, whereas an online service is wholly reliant on this channel for its revenues. Clearly this also exposes it to intimidation - I recall one of the better card processing services in the UK, Protx, being hit by a DOS two years back. Not only was it unable to do business (DOS attackers wanted to be paid c£10k) but also all the customers that relied on it to process their card transactions were unable to do business during the outage.
Hopefully, Zooomr will be back on its feet soon, but its' a useful reminder to budding online entrepneurs that sometimes the obvious steps to protect a bricks & mortar business (locks and alarms) have their equivalents in the online world and shouldn't be ignored in the hope that their venture won't be targeted.
The Long Tail Friday, July 14, 2006
I was delighted to get to meet Chris Anderson who is the Editor of Wired magazine at the London Geek Dinner last week, he of the Long Tail fame, when he was over to promote his book on the subject. The evening had been organised by Ian Forrestor, who did a great job in putting the evening together in a week and demonstrating the power of the grapevine/blogosphere in getting a message out with the result that over 80 people turned up at a wine bar in Holborn.
Chris was formerly the tech editor over at the Economist, [which has been of my must weekly reads for the last 15 years and no, its not just about economics!] and has a very sharp mind.
I'll do a posting about the chat I had with him and my subsequent thoughts on the fascinating theory he advances, which has almost reached reverred status in internet circles. I shan't be the first to comment on it, nor shall I be the last (check out techmeme or technorati for proof)
Kathy Sierra has a great piece on "The Nod" - what should be the aspiration for most companies of having a passionate customer base, which is proud to use the product/service and almost wear it as a badge of honour acknowledging others users with the nod. It is questionable whether a mainstream product can achieve this or whether a niche product can preserve this when it goes mainstream. I say this because part of the "Nod" intuitively involves a certainly smugness - "we're smart because we know this is a great/cool product". If everyone feels the same, then this smugness evaporates.
Passionate users are a fantastic marketing vehicle - they freely proclaim the virtues of the offering to anyone that will listen i.e. "grassroots marketing". People will often trust other people's recommendations far more than advertising because it's assumed to be based on good experiences. Often these customers don't need to even be incentivised to promote the service - they are so happy with it, that they simply want to share their "joy" with others.
What's the magic formula for creating passionate users - simply put, over deliver on your promise to the user so that their reaction to the product/service turns from initial surprise into delight, ensuring of course that you give them what they want as a minimum. Kathy has much more to say on her blog on this subject - defintely worth checking out.
For sometime I've been aware of a service called Spinvox that converts voicemails into text messages. Very handy as a) its faster to read a text than listen to voicemail b) any numbers left are automatically written down [no more fumbling for paper and pen only to have to listen to the message a few times] c) you can discretely read your voicemails in meetings! Whilst its not cheap, its useful.
The service is receiving plaudits in the blogosphere - its even rated a mention on Techcrunch, the high altar of Web 2.0 applications.
However, "SPIN" vox is apparently a clue to this apps underlying tech credentials - apparently I understand from informed sources that this is absolutely HUMAN translation. Spinvox voicemail message are routed to India for human operators to code and then send out as text messages. As a consequence, they have specific issues in providing the service to non-English speaking markets and in scaling the service up.
The Spinvox business is also up for sale, and its being touted round London right now. For potential buyers in the telcon space they believe that it would be relatively straight forward to replicate and hence aren't convinced that its worth much of a premium. Furthermore, taking such a volume sensitive service into the mass market could involve considerable difficulties in maintaining service levels.
So big applause for making available a convenient service - but only moderate applause for marginally updating phone based transcription services and outsourcing it to a cheap labour market. Not sure that this really qualifies as "Web 2.0".
Orchestrate - the simple things in life need organising Thursday, July 06, 2006
Stumbled across this online task list facility - its simple, clean, focussed and inspired.
Comprised of a single page into which you can create multiple lists with editable task entries, that you can easily tick-off and which can also be printed out. No registration is required and its free to use.
Yongfook (I spotted that too!) comments in his blog "There are lots of neat web apps / services out there to try, but what I find frustrating is arriving at a new site that a friend or blog has recommended, only to find that I’m not allowed to play with it until I’ve given up some personal info to a registration form. Considering that the web app market is becoming ever-more saturated, I think in the future we will see more of the Orchestrate approach - let users test-drive the service with zero commitment. If you’ve made a good service that they genuinely need, they’ll be back and they will register for a reason. I feel registration should be something that expresses a user’s increased emotional attachment to a site - not something that acts as a front door."
Absolutely spot on - unless of course as I've pointed out before, you are looking to sell email address lists ;-) Great work.
Alternatively you may want to try Wallnote, which allows for one task list and notes. I've been using it for a few days and synchronising it using active desktop (windows feature) with a cached copy on my laptop for when I'm (rarely) offline. Again its free and easy to use.
For more ideas you should also check out Solution Watch and the article 50 Ways to Take Notes
Userplane - the best online meeting room? Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I've just been trying our Userplane Webchat which delivers full-featured, text/voice/video multi-user chatting, and is offered free for incorporation into any website.
Userplane describe Webchat as "truly the next step in chat software—beyond generic and ubiquitous chat rooms, Userplane Webchat is a feature-rich, multi-lingual, solidly-built, and easily-integrated Flash App that enables real-time text messaging and streaming audio/video communication for any website. Leveraging Macromedia’s robust Flash Communication Server technology, Webchat enables community, corporate and collaborative websites to rapidly deploy a scalable, centrally-hosted a/v chat room for their users."
It was remarkably easy to sign up and the features described worked remarkably well. I can see many uses for this, even as a virtual meeting venue for you to collaborate with location diverse colleagues (or even those who can't be bothered to walk over from their desk and prefer to send emails all of 5 metres!). The environment has a moderator facility, online chat with restricted word filters and chat archive facilities. It even displays active video/audio from all participants with webcams!
The service carries advertising, but I felt it did so in a non-instrusive fashion. Best of all, this is a hosted service that can be easily accessed with the need for any user downloads specific to this sevice - I increasingly dislike any form of PC footprint for a given service.
Worth checking out. You can access my "entrepneurs" forum in the sidebar if you want to try it.
The departure of Amanda Congdon from Rocketboom will be a text book tale of key personnel risk (online or offline) - When the “star” becomes as big or bigger than the brand, what happens when the star walks voluntarily or otherwise?
Amanda was Rocketboom to its viewing public. Whilst the rocketboom brand has high recognition in the online space, repeating its formula (similar to a band finding a new front person) will be incredibly difficult with a new face - in contrast more front people tend to have successful solo careers.
Unlike some other recent departures in the online hall of fame to pastures new, she is probably one of the few “online” names that could cause a collapse of the underlying business.Whilst few really know what’s actually happened as yet, I suspect that this will prove an excellent prompt for many companies to put in place mitigating measure against being similarly caught out.
Amanda - thanks for being so entertaining (and for providing a salutory lesson to entrepneurs).