Demofall - Hot new applications Thursday, September 28, 2006
For the hottest & latest apps to be released check out demofall which is a conference on right now in San Diego. The videos of the demos given by the companies at the conference are available on the site to watch.
I can see this being my favourite timewaster Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Widgetbox is hosting a directory of widgets! There's loads to play with : - ))
Press release from JPM
JPMorgan Introduces Algorithmic Trading Alert Service
NEW YORK – September 26, 2006 – JPMorgan's Electronic Client Solutions (ECS) announced today the launch of AlgoAlert, an instant messaging service that provides unique charts as well as real-time updates of algorithmic trading performance and trading conditions such as halts and oversized orders. AlgoAlert can be received via a variety of email and instant messaging platforms including, AOL's AIM service, the BLOOMBERG PROFESSIONAL® service's messaging system, and the Google Talk ™ instant messaging service.
"AlgoAlert is a tool that tracks algorithmic trading performance when traders need it the most – while they trade," said Carl Carrie, head of product development in ECS. "It gives traders a competitive edge by ensuring they receive information they need for split-second decision-making. The result is improved awareness, better execution and improved transparency in algorithmic trading."
AlgoAlert requires no software to install and is available for JPMorgan's suite of algorithmic trading products, including Aqua and Arid, the firm's recently announced "dark pool" algorithms. It can also be used with Trading Algorithm Optimizer (TAO), a tool that selects algorithms and executes strategies. AlgoAlert works in conjunction with any execution management or order management platform, including Neovest, JPMorgan's own broker-neutral execution management system.
"Our focus continues to be providing clients with top-notch service, coupled with cutting-edge trading tools," said David Conner, head of electronic sales in ECS. "AlgoAlert is just the latest example of our innovative and expanding platform."
JPMorgan's Electronic Client Solutions provides a comprehensive suite of electronic execution products to institutional clients, including direct market and algorithmic access, pre- and post- trade analytics as well as a variety of algorithmic trading tools and services. For more information, please visit www.jpmorganequities.com.
Slight problem - most traders will tell you them are already overwhelmed with email; that they can't access IM services other than Bloomberg's due to corporate concerns about the lack of automatically arhived chat histories; and if other houses play "me too" they'll be swamped! Still, hats off to JPM for being innovative - wonder if it actually works?
“With MojoPac you can turn any portable storage device - an iPod, USB flash or hard drive, even a cell phone or digital camera memory card- into your PC. Simply install the MojoPac software on your favorite device, copy your files, select the applications, settings and environment preferences you use regularly, and MojoPac will mirror the capabilities and functionality of a private and secure PC. Whenever you plug your MojoPac enabled storage device into a Windows XP based PC, MojoPac will automatically launch, magically turning the host PC into the customized and private PC you enjoy at home, work or school. Instead of lugging your computer/lap top, you can pack up your entire PC and carry it in your pocket wherever you go.“
Assuming it works, this is perfect for the mobile worker. Carry your PC config round on a USB flash and simply plug into a business internet cafe PC and off you go, without leaving a trace behind, which is good for the cafe owner too.
Thank goodness for common sense.
Having started using online/web-based application almost exclusively (rarely use desktop apps) including
- writely for word processing,
- webmail, including gmail
- airset for calendaring,
- irows for spreadsheet,
- thinkfree for office equivalents,
- vyew for webconferencing and skypecast for web voice seminars
- userplane for videoconferencing
- several apps from 37 signals
- meebo for instant messaging
- springdoo for video email
- yackpack for group voice conferencing/messaging
BUT its very frustrating that neither IE or Firefox have a recovery capability to re-open the browser to its last state if the browser session terminates for whatever reason (powersupply interruption, program termination). And whilst my "Home" location opens multiple tabs of many of the above apps, it doesn't re-open any extra tabs I've had open whilst "link surfing" - I usually don't know their urls/names either as I just clicked on links.
So its great news that Firefox 2.0 will restore your session after it crashes. Given that IE7 is only just coming out, it seems bizarre that Microsoft hasn't included this capability (at least not that I've heard).
I came across 2 services today that are quite handy in converting document/web pages into pdfs.
RSS2pdf lets you create a pdf of a web page or RSS feed, which is very handy for reading material offline (or sending it on). They've also got some other useful tools on the site.
PDFonline lets you convert a range of document formats into a pdf via an free online facility.
There's a story at business2blog today about a venture involving Goldman Sachs, which is going to be making backup energy batteries/generators for the household use. The simple but brilliant idea is that you would draw down energy at off-peak/cheaper times and store it to draw on during peak periods.
Homes would benefit from cheaper electricity, but perhaps more importantly, the burden on the power grids would be more evenly spread thereby alleviating the need for even bigger grids and smoothing demand (or reducing the peaks). I remember in my "youth" some electricity companies in the UK operating differential pricing on this basis, the frustration being that you couldn't arbitrage this benefit in the home by "storing it"- now you can!
Well, following my last post, Roger (President of Monitor 110) was kind enough to respond to my questions, albeit I didn't quite get answers to them. Nonetheless, you can read the exchange at Information Arbitrage.
As Roger has commented elsewhere, there is remarkably little awareness of even basic facilities such as RSS [Ready for Some Stories ;- )] in the mainstream, including amongst capital markets firms and their employees, with the consequence that some of the "wow" and related acclaim is attributable to things that have been available for some time. But that being so, it simply means that there are opportunities for those that can get past the early adopters and cross the chasm to the mainstream, which I believe will achieved by focussing more on what the tech can do for you, rather than the tech itself.
Anyway, I shall keep an eye on Monitor 110, if only for their mastery of the mainstream media!
How to make a fortune from Monitor110 Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Monitor 110 has managed to make a huge news splash this week with its public launch, which has in turn sparked considerable capital markets interest and comments, mostly favourable - without detracting from the tool itself, I suspect some of the "awe" is more a reflection of the ignorance in capital markets circles (some tech research analysts aside) of what's going on and available in the internet. Try conducting a poll of terms such as RSS or Wiki and don't hold your breath whilst you wait for a look of recognition, let alone comprehension, in most dealing rooms!
That aside, as I understand it Monitor 110 will be providing a tool for helping institutional investors access, analyze and monetize information from the internet primarily blogs. The key benefit of their services will be to offer real-time; relevant; trustworthy (based on source reputation) summaries on textual inputs from around the blogosphere.
As someone that has been involved in capital markets for over 15 years I am fascinated by developments in this area. For many years there has been a keen focus on technical analysis of time series, tick data - seeking to uncover relationships and trends in real-time in order to gain an edge. Such systems rarely focus on causality, merely scanning against pre-defined criterion that may allow some form of relationships to be inferred. Early versions involved what were then considered to be massively powerful databases from specialist vendors such as Informix, tuned especially to cope with real-time tick data analyses.
Recently we've also had the launch of Seeking Alpha, who've secured a deal with Yahoo to also monitor/scan and filter news from the blogosphere.
Anyway, back to Monitor 110, which I felt had surprisingly little critical challenge in the press. This tool will be of great interest to many institutional investors seeking to filter out the noise from a source, that presently is too overwhelming to pay considerable attention to - the search effort in finding timely and reliable news is almost incomprehensibly large. Whilst you can put keyword searches into a variety of search tools htat will monitor postings, these won't distill the content into a manageable propotions, nor will they be filtered based on quality or reputation of the writer.
Many will be sceptical about the reliability of information and will continue to remain loyal to independent research boutiques. Yet there will always be a nagging doubt that someone may have a new take or nugget of information that will be material to the share price, if only it can be found. Problem is you have to know begin by knowing what to search for! Some users may be hoping to find a preconfigured answer in this tool and will be sadly mistaken. Others will be drawn to it in the hope that it gives them an edge over non-users and certainly one can expect Monitor 110 not to try too hard to dissuade them from such a notion, after all there is a sale at stake :- ).
Nonetheless, a few questions occurred to me about the system itself, which I've posted to its President and Chief Operating Officer, Roger Ehrenberg, (whose intro says something I can almost relate to "After 17 years in M&A, Derivatives and Trading, I'm spending my time working with kids half my age and thinking about the impact of the internet on Wall Street"): My comments on the thinking behind the question is presently in italics.
- Am I right that time series tick-data is not included as an input in the current product capabilities?
Looking at news independently of tick-data strikes me as a gap
- How often you will be "polling" relevant blogs for new posts, given that there presumably is a time value associated with the output as well as an information value?
Some RSS aggregators only retrieve updates every hour or so. Depending on update timings, you may get ahead of the market so any latency between posting and dissemination may cause concern amongst professional investors seeking time advantage - bear in mind traders seek to hit the market in sub-seconds; any longer may mean they miss the opportunity.
- Will the addition of new sources of data selected by users (which I'm speculating users will be able to do) be available to only the person that adds them or passively for all users of the system to include in their scans?
If I identify great new sources, I don't necessarily want everyone else to know or have access to them without doing their own discovery work.
- Will I be able to perform a reverse scan of how many people (not necessarily who) are monitoring which sources and what is being monitored (perhaps with top 10 list etc)?
I think there is huge value in this element, in the same way that Digg highlights what people proactively flag, investors will be keen to know who is watching what and from whom. This is similar to the "Watchers" indicator on an Instinet screen or even eBay, which highlights market interest by the electronic crowd.
- Who will have access to observe who is monitoring what at an individual level i.e. how do you prevent people externally/internally utilises the value of this "interests disclosure"?
Knowing what particular users were watching has information value which could be exploited e.g. if I knew certain investors monitored certain blogs, it might be hypothetically possible to collude with the writers to create false markets
- How will you mitigate against "gaming" of news (as a secondary measure to reputation) whereby people collude to create noise in the blogosphere?
Monitor 110 has created a huge story for itself in the blogosphere. "A list" bloggers and "sneezers" are usually able to spread news fastest due to their high readerships.
If he is kind enough to reply, I'll be happy to post his answers here. Meantime, dare I suggest that I know of at least one person who is almost certainly going to make a fortune from Monitor 110, if not two. Congratulations to Roger and his Sales Director ;- )
Back in skinny jeans: How to explain RSS the Oprah way Saturday, September 23, 2006
Back in skinny jeans: How to explain RSS the Oprah way . This is an excellent article, explaining in simple terms what RSS does in layman's terms and introducing its renaming as "Ready for Some Stories" - an accessible and easily understood term that concisely explains the benefits of RSS.
What's this also illustrate - the IT guys can build fabulous solutions but you need the marketing guys to explain it if you want it widely used and understood.
cyn.in: A web 2.0 collaborative information management service for the enterprise Friday, September 22, 2006
cyn.in: A web 2.0 collaborative information management service for the enterprise. And so the unstoppable march of online "software as a service" businesses continue. cyn.in provides
Secure Online File Storage & Versioning
Content Management & Broadcasting
Personal Information Management
Document & Digital Asset Management
Community Blogs & Group Systems
Intranets & Extranets Management
These features outstrip many existing content management solutions like Teamsite from Interwoven (albeit it has other roles too). But the big added bonus is avoiding the internal infrastructure headache of installing, configuring and maintaining these solutions.
As I writen many times, there is a challenge to address in pursuading many corporates to trust their data and processes to an externally hosted solution. Yet it is getting somewhat easier (relative term) because a) technologist are becoming familiar with these solutions b) business managers want to drive out IT costs and see subscription based online services as offering a viable route to this.
I've signed up for a trial, so I'll report back.
Technophilia: 15 ways to get more out of Pandora - Lifehacker Thursday, September 21, 2006
Technophilia: 15 ways to get more out of Pandora - Lifehacker. If you're a Pandora fan, Lifehacker has some top tips for ways to improve your experience. Also make sure that you check out the comments section for even more ideas/suggestions.
Om Giga is reporting a story of a new start up that is going to offer commission free share trading, funded by advertising. This story may send a shiver through the retail brokerage commission which is already operating in a commodity space, but may also prompt some scepticism about what's going on.
However, the securities trading business is one that I've spent 17 years involved in and there's always an angle. So how might this work in practice
- they could be charging market makers for their flow. If the volume of shares you trade is sufficiently sizeable, market makers have been known to pay for flow because of the information content value, not to mention the ability to satisfy their inventory requirements
- they could internalise some of the flow provided that there are sufficient buyers and sellers in the same stock
- they could be marking the price up or down, in the same way as commission free foreign currency outlets operate - wholesale FX operates a zero or near zero spreads, so when you see a spread on the board that you could drive a bus through you'll know how they are getting rich
Sometimes, when you see a deal too good to be true, it is.
Online backup services Wednesday, September 20, 2006
After yet another friend experienced a "hard drive" problem [2 in 2 weeks - hope it's not catching], 3 services caught my eye
- www.streamload.com [now www.mediamax.com] which I've been using for a while to store files online but which required files to be manually transferred, has now released a backup application. You get 25gb of storage free, with a max file size of 25mb and a 1gb per month download limit. Other prices plans offer more storage & less restrictions
- www.mozy.com which offers 2gb of free storage with paid for plans offering up to 60gb which automatic backup. This makes it the least competitive of the three here in that it has an upper limit and the free space offered is comparatively low.
- www.carbonite.com which offers unlimited storage and automatic backup for USD5 per month. This is techcrunch's current favourite, which I am about to trial.
- these services work in the background, so they are less hassle and you don't have to remember to backup. Its always
- these services provide offsite storage automatically
- you can access your files from any PC
- your drive always crashes immediately before you were going to back up thereby ensuring you lose the files you most need right now, being the ones you've recently created/worked on
smartpox - bringing bar codes to life Sunday, September 17, 2006
smartpox. is a service that delivers on an idea that has long been trailed in tech & business magazines, namely one in which simply by scanning a barcode with a device like your phone, you are immediately connected to more information about that product. Such info might have come from the manufacturer or from customer blogs or magazine reviews. It may link you into to product ads/video or connect you to a customer adviser who may be able to answer a question that the store reps can't (or are seemingly to busy to notice a customer because they've something fascinating to discuss about Big Brother on tv).
This will be immensely powerful:- allowing for the consumer to be more informed at the point of sale; identifying a pre-qualified customer to a manufacturer as well as enabling a direct dialogue between the two which bypasses the retailer; allowing for expertise to be "on hand" to respond to customer enquiries rather than relying on superficial advice from the retailer.
Smartpox has set itself an enormous challenge though, in that they require the use of their barcoding system on the product, rather than having adopted the existing barcodes used by a manufacturer [creates an adoption barrier] and users are required to install a java applet to their phone. For as long as their proprietary coding system is not widespread, there is no incentive to install the app and in turn for manufacturers to implement it. Consequently, it may remain very niche - alternatively, a myspace generation could latch onto it and create crowdswell!
Springdoo – Video email made easy! Saturday, September 16, 2006
Springdoo – Video email made easy! Ok, so banging out an email to someone is incredibly easy, so why would you bother to record an audio or video message that is delivered by email - isn't that just technology overkill. Maybe, but its quirky, and sometimes isn't life just about fun over form.
Its also an easy way of leaving a message for a group [not so easy with phone voicemail]
I signed up for Springdoo simply on the basis of its How it Works video which I thought was brilliantly delivered. Watch it even if you can't be bothered signing up.
By the way, the service is free and there's no limit on the number of people you can send a video or audio message to (max duration is 3 mins for video and 10 mins for audio), nor are the number of downloads limited. Your message remains live for 30 days.
Better than that this services operates entirely within the browser - no download required!
Ok, so it won't replace all of my text emails but I reckon its a flyer for some of my traffic, including as a means of grabbing someone's attention, as least for a while. So be warned.
Geek And Poke: The Market For Web 2.0 Companies have an excellent cartoon on valuing web2.0 companies.
The day was intended to showcase Salesforce to prospects, customers and partners and the conference probably attracted over 600 people.
Big focus of the day was the AppExchange , which provides a development platform for Salesforce Development Partners to create embedded offerings to complement Salesforce online capabilities. But that's not all - more notable is that it provides those Partners with a direct distribution channel out to the 500,000 customers of Salesforce and presently does so for FREE. This is great news for those firms since
- they get market access to pre-qualified customers that have already bought into buying online services. I spoke with the CEO of Clicktools which is one of the early entrants onto the market and he commented that they had spent many years fighting a losing battle to persuade big companies to use online services and trust their data and infrastructure to third party providers. Now though, thanks to firms like Salesforce, these arguments and related scepticism are ebbing but the AppExchange, puts them directly in touch with those firms that have already "converted" to the new religion. The new believers include Merrill Lynch (5000+ seats), ABN (1000+ seats) and Barclays, who are firms that you would expect to be fairly paranoid about putting their data with an external party both for security reasons and concerns about service reliability/upturn, but who now all represent fabulous reference sites.
- they aren't incurring sales costs [astonishing isn't it, but more of that in a moment]
- they can easily provide demos and free trials to prospects
- they enjoy a direct relationship with customers that sign up, including billing. I found this element bizarre, since to my mind, customers would probably find centralised billing far more convenient that having to settle with many small suppliers, sometimes via credit card. Likewise, Partners would probably prefer to avoid the admin overhead of billing many customers that insist on being invoiced
The shocker of the day for me was the degree of ignorance amongst about 80% of the audience about what's available already on the web. This was evidenced when he spent the first 15 minutes of his 70 minute podium presentation showing the audience, Yahoo mail, Writely and iRows , the latter two of which are embedded into Salesforce, albeit in the same way as any web page could be. Look, he proclaimed to an ignorant audience, you can do email, word processing and play with spreadsheets on the web, hosted by someone else and accessed simply as a service. Perhaps I've known about these for too long to still be wowed, but it's still staggering that an audience familiar with Salesforce isn't more familiar with other online services. Perhaps Benioff is benefiting from this ignorance to some degree, in that Salesforce seems like a completely new innovative way of delivering services and most notably crm. Many I asked for example had never heard of ZohoCRM , userplane , meebome , airset , thinkfree .
Anyway, onto my chat with the 6'7" giant himself. I caught him in the Hotel lobby and managed to briefly prise him away from his entourage of PR "girlies" & helpers. Knowing I had only a few moments at best I asked him 3 questions that struck me based on the day's proceedings.
1. Why wasn't he taking a cut from the AppExchange Partner sales?
2. Why didn't he make life simpler for everyone by offering central billing for AppExchange
3. Will the Salesforce name become a hinderence as the offering expands across disciplines, both through Salesforce's development efforts and those of Partners.
Ok, so you might have come up better than that but these things genuinely intrigued me based on what I'd heard earlier in the day. Why? Well,
Re 1. firstly none of the Partners would have resented paying commission and I personally believe the AppExchange sales could in time account for 25% of the gross sales of Salesforce. Assume a commission of say 15%, this would go straight to bottom line. Not only that but Salesforce is trading at an astonishing 9 times REVENUE. So slip in some extra revenue from external sources and boom, up goes market cap before even the cosy Ovum analyst, who did an on-stage love-in with Mr Benioff, notices. However, having spoken to a number of the Partners who were present at the event, none of them believed they would ever be charged - you know why? Because a) their revenues would be to tiny and b) they were doing Salesforce a favour by rapidly adding capabilties that would make it competitive with Oracle and the like [no alcohol was served at the event, in case you were wondering and I never saw any drugs either]
Belioff answer to 1. : Of course we will do, but I haven't told them yet [I do have a witness to this conversation]. Equally its early days and the offering is being expanded more rapidly at no cost to us
Re 2. I think customers would appreciate dealing with a single supplier, at least from a billing perspective. Additionally, Salesforce would benefit from additional cashflow and be able to deduct their commission at source. However, I suspected that they simply hadn't given this enough thought at the outset and so didn't have system to support it as yet.
Belioff answer to 2. : We will do, probably when we introduce fees [I do have a witness to this conversation]
Re 3. Salesforce may have started as a CRM system to help the sales team but is now a far broader offering including configuration offerings to support Recruitment, HR, Call Centres, Support teams, Self Service, Partners Programmes and even some Finance functions. Thing is, you're not going to appreciate this breadth from the corporate name/logo/brand. Now this might seem like a trivial point but how many potentials are going to misconstrue the name to be a guide as to the product focus.
Linguistic expert Frank Monaghan reckons there are 6 name types for a business, namely Family Focus (Bloggs & Sons); Think and Link (Lip-Smacking Catering Company); Geo-name (Clapham Plumbers); Straight to the Point (The Towbar Shop); Pun-ter (Pine and Dandy); and Obscure (37 Signals). The fourth of these is where Salesforce began its journey to goliathdom, but what about now?
Belioff answer to 3. : (Most indignant and evidently displeased by this notion) We have a very well known brand but what would you call it?
So, I responded that perhaps he should do what firms like the "Easy" group had done after having launched EasyJet when they launched their follow ons - Easymoney; Easycafe; Easycar; Easycruises and maybe use "force" as a suffix. But anyway, I'm pleased and proud to announce the competition to rename Benioff's empire and provide him with his suite of new titles. Simply add a comment to this entry with your ideas or better yet email Mark direct with your thoughts. Can't promise any prizes or even thanks from him.....
Techcrunch » Blog Archive » Loopt to make mobile presence usable Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Techcrunch reported today that Loopt have launched a US based paid-for service that utilises GPS enabled phones to allow you to locate your "buddies" that have agreed to disclose their location and that sends you alerts when they are close proximity.
I always felt that such a service was inevitable once the technology got cheap and small enough. Whilst concurring with Dead 2.0 in the notion that sometimes you won't want to reveal your location, I actually think this will be a very popular service. Myspacers in particular are going to snap this up, albeit how they will cope tracking their 107,932 myspace friends simultaneously.......
Is it likely that such data might be shared outside your approved list ? - well, law enforcement agencies are going to certainly be able to get this data and undoubtedly it would help them to locate meetings between conspiritors assuming of course that they are dumb enough to use this service whilst not wanting to be snooped upon.
Other than that, its a logical next step to see location based commerce and advertising start to encroach into this space. This is clearly going to have to be opt in marketing, unless of course the users gets free phone minutes/texts in exchange for receiving unsolicited location based adverts - as a model this has been used albeit how long customers actually put up with it is less clear.
pintsearch - find pubs in london by location, tube or postcode using google maps: Now that is a useful mashup - a pub locator for London! Search by area or tube station and it will graphically reveal all the local watering holes. No more wondering where to meet around St James.
Thanks to Google Mashup Mania for this one (and many others).
MySpace: The Business of Spam 2.0 (Exhaustive Edition) - Valleywag. Nothing like a good bit of gossip, particular when its concerns the unmasking of a myth - or is it?
Gen Yers (18-26 yrs old) Monday, September 11, 2006
Forrestor are reporting the following generation divide
24% of Gen Yers read blogs, which is twice as often as the 12% of Gen Xers (ages 27-40) and three times the 7% of Young Boomers (ages 41-50) that read blogs
Better think about your marketing tool of choice - maybe the "one club in the bag" approach doesn't apply here!
Seth's Blog: Juggling - you'd laugh if it wasn't so accurate about how most operate companies!
Sitepal provides you with a canned avatar character for your site which speaks a recorded message, alledgedly to "enrich the user experience and increase sales". Ok, so assuming that
- the visitor is wearing headphones or has speakers turned on
- doesn't find it cheesy
- isn't put off by a cartoon character
- it has something worthwhile saying, beside "Hi and thanks for visiting", just like the pointless sales assistant standing at the door meeting and greeting [I've never understood that as its clearly so false but maybe that's because of my English reserve!]
Feel free to educate me on this point.
I am a huge fan of meebo and in particular its meebome free widget that enables you to chat with visitors to your website [there's one on this page]. It also provides you with real-time presence information [no historic data sadly as yet.]. Presently its best suited to the smaller site, as the widget only links to one person's IM account, rather than say a dept or call centre team.
I came across a similar commercial service today, Helponclick, the free version of which isn't as good as meembo but which does have several paid-for versions that provides the dept connectivity as well as real time + historic traffic data.
I reckon that, for now at least, these utilities do offer a competitive advantage to sites using them. Why? Well, you're offering a more personal experience
- You're on hand to help your visitors to complete the sale/find stuff
- The site allows a conversation to take place just like in the bricks & mortar store, allowing for a relationship to begin and trust to develop
- You can prompt the customer for instant feedback or direct them to items
For the website owner, this obviously adds an additional expense and their dreams of a cost free site, particularly if they don't have a call centre that can handle this additional "outlet". Consequently, it may not be suitable to all sites, particularly those selling low margin/priced goods. Likewise, depending on how many concurrent visitors a site receives, it may actually prove counterproductive if you don't have enough "assistants" that can promptly respond to online "chats" and thus diminish the perception of the brand.
Disagree? Well, if I'm online then let's chat! Or you can leave me a message if I'm not.
Business model checklist Sunday, September 10, 2006
Windows Live Local - I quite like the new Live Local service from Microsoft. Good mapping and satelite imagining, with the ability to add you own collections, overlays etc. The driving direction facility is very good too.
BottlecapPorn.com - This is great, not to mention inventive. It was the winning entry in Halfbaked.com competition at FooCamp 2006. You can't help but be impressed by the inventiveness even if it was just in jest.
A VC: VC Cliché of the Week Saturday, September 09, 2006
A VC: VC Cliché of the Week - I liked this story from Fred Wilson (no relation), probably because it rings so true in my day to day work.
Gliffy.com - Create and share diagrams online.
Obviously, this online app is in beta - aren't they all! Whilst less sophisticated than Visio, it does appear to cover many of the basics that most people use the app for [similar to Microsoft Draw facilities]. However, unlike Visio or Draw, the emphasis is on collaboration. Not a killer app, but useful to some nonetheless.
Live Documents - Web-enabling Microsoft Office is a new tool from Instacoll, which I can really see taking off. Operating as an small local install, the tool embeds itself within Microsoft Office and then allows you to collaborate on documents with others. By marking a document as a "Live Document" and assigned rights & privaleges to the people it will be shared with, the applet handles the tasks of maintaining the synchronisation of copies between those users and allowing you to track use of the document.
We've all been in version control hell - email a document to a group of people that open it a different times; who make different changes and then email them back to you, in between which the document has moved on in state. Whilst other solutions exist out there, notably Sharepoint [I've also been amazed this hasn't had wider takeup within companies], and more recently online "wiki" like services including writely, thinkfree, google spreadsheets, I think this may have the edge for the mass market since most people are comfortable in the Microsoft Office apps space and would prefer not to switch. Hence an applet that "fits inside" is comfortable.
This is also a viral app, since when I send a doc to my colleagues, they too need to install the app!
The branding is smart - with Microsoft big push with its "Live" services, some confusion could easily arise. Guess its surprising Microsoft hadn't grabbed the label first but they may well seek to take some action if people do get confused.
Only factor working against this is the need for a local install. Most people inside companies no longer have the ability to install things on their machine, so unless the company signs up, this app may never make it onto the desktop, thereby denying Instacoll the mass market & enterprise take-up they are clearly hoping for. They need to think about this aspect if they want to sneak in under the corporate IT radar as Salesforce so successfully did.
Its presently in beta and is free during this period. Charging thereafter is not yet announced.
I haven't tried it yet but plan to.
That's why this spoof event on waterfall development also makes me laugh everytime I look at it. Odd thing is, most talented people it IT departments know the approach sucks and either laugh at it and resign themselves to having to be unproductive in the blame culture that typically insists upon waterfall documentation or just leave in frustration, leaving the useless people unmolested!
UPDATE. My 5yr old daughter peered over my shoulder whilst I was typing this and without understanding what the cartoon was about said.......Daddy, I want the tyre swing!
dpolls - online polling Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Dpolls is one of a number of services that enable you to conduct free online polls about subject. Votes can be cast by anyone or a restricted group. Its a great way to entice feedback on your blog post content or indeed on anything because its so easy to use.
ChatCreator.com: Make your own chat room!. This is a handy free utility for a spontaneous chat with friends/colleagues or to embed into your website.
Educators Corner: Entrepreneurship Education Resources Monday, September 04, 2006
Educators Corner: Entrepreneurship Education Resources is a great set of resources being provided by Stanford University, including videos and podcasts.
Recently out of beta, this service provides a mechanism for tracking what users/customers click on when they visit pages on your website, thereby enabling you to refine and optimise your site/page layout. One of the reporting offerings is a heatmap which visually represents the popularity of page click positions.
With several pricing schemes, including a free account for that covers up to 2 webpages and 5000 visits up to a USD99 monthly scheme for larger sites, this looks to be an excellent offering, providing vital feedback to all website owners.
This isn't the only service of this kind around, but its reporting appears superior at this juncture. A more established service is clicktracks.
Came across Browster over the weekend, which has evidently generated considerable favourable PR for its Firefox and IE extension that allows you to preview links on Google & Yahoo without actually having to click through to them. By preloading the pages, it cuts down time clicking through & makes surfing faster. It asserts that there is no spyware within the software to track your movements.
There is evidently some revenues associated with this service as they are offering affiliate commissions [doubt they are a charity!] which I'm speculating arises from a) advertising as their T&Cs gives them permission to dleiver advertising with the service b) commissions from navigating you to a page; excerpts from their T&Cs
"In the course of processing a given web page preview or prefetch, Browster sends a request to Browster’s servers or the servers of Browster’s licensors. This request may include the keyword query, time of day, browser type, default language setting, IP address, an anonymous unique ID, and a code which identifies the distribution source of Browster used by you to conduct your search. We use this information in order to properly process your preview request. In addition, this data provides us with: aggregated click information for the purpose of ensuring that our partners and/or us are appropriately compensated; information that allows us to make accurate payments to our distributors; non-personally identifiable data regarding the context of the page being viewed; aggregated usage and retention information; and non-personally identifiable information for the purpose of more accurately matching or further monetizing commercially-oriented searches for services or products."
However, with Google toolbar enabling you to skim through the links easily, other than the preload element, I'm not sure this is a killer app - I'll give it a try though as it could well be one of those things that only usage illustrates usefulness. Certainly, Stumbleupon users like it.
Personal online storage & backups Sunday, September 03, 2006
A couple of years ago I participated in the evaluation of a start up proposition for an online backup service. Targetted primarily at individuals and SMEs it aimed to provide remote storage and a backup application that would run in the background passing deltas of data. In addition, there was to be a web front end to enable remote access of data as well as restore facilities.
We believed a market existed for online backup services on several grounds
- most people don't take backups frequently [too much hassle and overconfidence] thereby leaving themselves exposed, and when they do they have to proactively do it
- most backups are not stored offsite, nor are they securely stored
- personal and irreplaceable data is increasing [photos, music, email]. Whilst people will increasingly use online services such as Flickr or web mail, these represent disperate islands of data and not ideal from which to recover data. More importantly, because it's irrecoverable, fear about loss of personal data will increase
To be successful, we felt the service had to
- be very cheap, say £5 per month for up to 20gb, to be attractive to the consumer. Unless they've had a crash, most people don't realise the cost of recovery services [£600 approx for an average hard drive].
- have a big brand(s) fronting it. Putting your personal data with a third party requires a high degree of trust so it needed to be someone like a Virgin or Tesco
- be easy to install and operate
At the time, whilst the technical solution was feasible, the price level proved too great a challenge.
How quickly times change. With Amazon S3 blazing a trail, online storage costs are plummeting. Off the back of this, nimble start-ups are offering the apps that will undertake the backups, sometimes using Amazon's storage facilities.
One example is Elephant Drive which is in beta presently and is therefore free at the moment - I've just signed up for a trial so I'll report back. Another is Jungle Disk which provides a the price comparison of legacy providers v Amazon. Thanks to Read/Write Web for spotting these two. Another is www.sosonlinebackup.com which is more expensive.
This is going to be a big growth space, particularly with the presence of big name players acting as storage host.
Barcamp London Saturday, September 02, 2006
Well, after a week in the Loire valley wine tasting & visiting cathedrals & chateaux, its back home to London and straight into Barcamp London. 2 days of unconference, surrounded by nearly a hundred geek developers - thankfully being able to code wasn't an entry criteria, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten in. Event reports to follow.
Some background - The event has no agenda! Sounds like chaos. Strangely its not. Every attendee at Barcamp has to do a 30 minute presentation on a topic of their choosing [or lead a discussion]. The day's schedule gets built when people turn up and post the title of their talk. The attendees then simply elect which sessions to attend, with five sessions running simulataneously in separate rooms. Now I confess that the majority of the attendees are techies and many of the talks are geek focussed. However, in amongst it are some fascinating discussions.
A few interesting examples
- www.theyworkforyou.com which is a website dedicated to monitoring what MPs are doing in Parliament
- Petukotcha, which is a style of presentation originated in Japan, which involves a strict 20 slides aired for 20 seconds per slide. Its pacey and full of energy created by the impetus of slides flicking over.
- The future of social networks. Contrasting views between those expressing views that there will be dominant embracing forums that host many niche interests like MySpace to an enormous fragmentation of forums.
Thankfully, I got an audience [it was looking shaky with one minute to go and only one other person in the room] and we talked about 2 things with the underlying theme of "Trust", namely
- Online services for the Corporate market.
- "In the Loop"