Friday, October 27, 2006

Facebook and Myspace have peaked....

The WSJ points out a so-called seasonal flattening of Myspace and Facebook's traffic...

Both MySpace and Facebook lost visitors in September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a Web-tracking service. The number of unique U.S. visitors at MySpace fell 4% to 47.2 million from 49.2 million in August, and the number of visitors to Facebook fell 12% to 7.8 million from 8.9 million.

I think this is the beginning of the end... The two sites are huge, and their traffic is still there, but there is a rot in the foundations: the users who built the sites - the college kids and young adults who made all the user generated content, created the popularity, and built the buzz, are no longer part of the community.

It is these early adopters, the keystone of the two sites, that are leaving for greener pastures. Turned off by commercialism, perverts, and just plan mainstream-ification of the sites, they are deserting.

Nearly 3,000 Facebook users have joined a group called "Official Petition to Keep Facebook Limited to Students." A note on the group's page reads, "Facebook just opened its doors to everyone on the internet. That means your mom, your boss, and every stalker in the world can now make an account."


Of course, that won't stop Yahoo! from buying Facebook for billions. Sigh.

Read more...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

think or feel

People think or feel?

People feel, not think. -
Rochelle (Shelly) Lazarus, Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Inc.

My questions are,
what kind of people feel while the others think? And vice versa?
when people feel? And think?
how we can be better off, to think or to feel?
why we are encouraged to think but rarely urged to feel?



Read more...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's Go! Second Life

Wired has a great set of articles about Second Life for tourists...

Read more...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reuters opens Second Life news bureau

Reuters, one of the (real) world's largest news organizations, has announced that it will begin publishing news in the online video game, Second Life.


Reuters' Second Life News Center will report on events in both the virtual and physical worlds, and especially their intersection - for instance, Congress's probe into the taxation of virtual economies; and the Linden Dollar/USD exchange rate (see chart below).

As we have discussed in class, there are a host of other large corporations conducting business in Second Life, including Bank of America, Starwood Hotels, and Toyota. How long will take for advertisers to begin buying ad space in the Reuters' newspaper? And how threatened is the writer (blogger) of the Second Life Herald?

Here is a link to my source article from Wired News...


Read more...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

YouTube - Keys to Success

Hello,

I'm just preparing for my interviews by reading some recent releases of the FT. The issue from Monday, October 9'th contains an interesting article detailing some of the reasons YouTube succeeded while so many other videocontent sites failed.

The article starts by noting that Video has long been a "graveyard" for Internet startups, ever since the browser transformed the net into a mass-market medium. It then proceeds to explain that YouTube learned lessons from companies such as Google, and then included them in its model. The main points presented are:

1.) Ease of Use: YouTube placed high priority on ease of use. The solution was completely "web-based" and did not require the installation of special SW on the computer.

2.) Technology: YouTube was one of the first sites to use a format that was compatible with the ubiquitous flash player, found on virtually all PC's. It also made it easy for users to grab a segment of video and place it on their own site, thus extending reach considerably.

3.) Community: YouTube lets users decide which videos are worth watching. In the past, other video sites made the decisions for the community. With YouTube, the community decides.

Cool stuff. It all sounds a lot like what we discussed in class to me.

Regards
Jack

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You Tube and Big Media

Hello,

As discussed in Class, YouTube is under the microscope of big media. Todays WSJ has an interesting article. Check out the trailer for the article:

+++++++++++++
Media giants are exploring the legal implications of YouTube's unauthorized use of copyrighted material -- days after Google reached a deal to buy the video Web site.
+++++++++++++

I'm sure they will find someway around all this, but in the near-term YouTube might be in for a bumpy ride.

Jack

Read more...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yahoo! enters the photo sharing space?

Well not exactly, but this seems like a nice idea. In our love affair with free information whenever and whereever, Yahoo is trying a new model - holding information back.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/15735032.htm

The plan for Yahoo! time capsule is to collect 5 terbytes of data from users and such and seal it up!
No one will be able to view it until Yahoo's 25 anniversary in the year 2020.

I think it's a nice idea. I mean, think about VH1. Why is "I love the 80s" so popular? It's memorabilia. I think this shows some reallysmart forward thinking.

Read more...

Demon Wife blogs going beyond the web

An article from the Wall Street Journal titled" How Demon Wife Became a Media Star...", described how a business man created a blog that discussed the actions and mentality of his domineering wife. The mystery spouse has become a household name in Japan, and has inspired the main character of movies , plays, books, and other media content, which is now know as the"Demon Wife Diaries".

Not only are blogs taking over the internet, but they are providing content for nespapers, magazines, books, movies and other forms of media. This "demon wife" example demonstrates the diversity and expressivenss that blogs cultivate. Now, creative people from jounalists to authors to the daydreaming teenager can inspire stories and inspire feeeback from other bloggers. This is more than an internet trend, but a new form of self expression. The "collective intelligence" created by these blogs will have a profound impact on media content world wide

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Online Fantasy Games

Last Thursday's Wall Streeet Journal had an article titled "The Knights of Networking" which describes a online video game that allows users to play while communicating and socializing with one another. It is becoming a much more popular trend in social computing. RuneScape is an Englich based company, which is a free service and is very easy to download. These capabilities make it very popuular, esspecially among teenagers. Teenagers compare it to an alternative version of MySpace. The game has dull graphics, but adds an interesting and fun alternative to social networking.

This is yet another sign of the trend in social computing. As many consumers and advertisrs are looking for more targeted sites, Runescape is an example of an alternative that not only targets a new group, but engages socialization in a totally new way. There may be and should be other ways besides simply creating profiles to network with others. Maybe this approach is only interesting to yonger consumers, but that day may change. With online video interaction and online phone calls become more frequent and cheaper, there will be more "real life" ways to interact.

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Started here at Columbia

A current Columbia student started a new search website called Zotspot. This new site differentiating point is that it shares revenue with you. You can in turn keep the earning or donate them to a cause. The site facilites the opportunity to continually increase your monthly earnings by referring your friends to the service.

You earn money in 2 ways - by either using Zotspot as your search engine or by referrals. Zotspot in return makes money through advertisements.

Zotspot's mission is to allow the consumer to benefit from the search industry and to secondly help benefict charity and other social organizations.

Read more...

Started here at Columbia

A current Columbia student started a new search website called Zotspot. This new site differentiating point is that it shares revenue with you. You can in turn keep the earning or donate them to a cause. The site facilites the opportunity to continually increase your monthly earnings by referring your friends to the service.

You earn money in 2 ways - by either using Zotspot as your search engine or by referrals. Zotspot in return makes money through advertisements.

Zotspot's mission is to allow the consumer to benefit from the search industry and to secondly help benefict charity and other social organizations.

http://www.zotspot.com/

Read more...

Preteens shopping on-line

Hazard Ahead: Preteen Fashions

The NY Times article, “Hazard Ahead: Preteen Fashions” relates exactly to what we were discussing in class last week. In the article it states “In retail stores, there’s only so much space for merchandise,” Ms. Brunelle said. “But online, we have more flexibility to offer a wider assortment, maybe even a couple of pieces not in the stores, like flower-girl dresses available in two to four colors, instead of just one.” She is referring to J-Crew’s Crew-Cuts, its line designed specifically for children. Traditional brick and mortar retailers have been able to greatly expand their collections due to on-line sales and marketing. On-Line stores are virtual, and thus do not have major space constraints. Therefore, retailers are able to offer a much larger variety of merchandise. This has completely changed how traditional retailers operate, and how consumers shop for clothing. This wave has not only hit the adult market but has also penetrated the children’s clothing market.

Here is the link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/12/fashion/12Online.html?_r=1&ref=technology&oref=login


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Mosquito Box

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_east/5382324.stm

Interesting article that speaks about a company that designed the ‘mosquito box’ – a device that emits high-pitched noise!

To see what this has to do with our ‘little class on the internet’ read the article. But, long story short, this high-pitched noise emitted by the mosquito box is audible to youngsters and not to adults. And now, this has been used to create a ringtone that will allow young mobile owners to know their phones are ringing without the adults knowing. Also full-length tracks are being created. This is also a perfect example of how a technology went from being used for alarms to keep teenagers out of stores to now targeting them as consumers!

I can’t help wonder if this ‘exciting’ product has the potential to be put to any good use in the business school. It will be especially useful in a class setting – no more upsetting professors due to ringing phones! But the thought of kids sharing subliminal messages amongst themselves seems scary, though!


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The future of open source

An article presenting the extract of study by IDC about the future impact of the "open source" movement.

http://ce.tekrati.com/research/News.asp?id=7614


To those familiar with Linux by virtue of having used it either at university or in a small business environment, all of the claims in the article will resonate with your prior experience. The crux of the argument is that open source by virtue of its nature brings enormous pricing pressure on existing enterprise software products. However, softwares that are products of this movement are often more innovative, robust and quite simply better than those canned by software companies. However IDC claims in its study that the impact that the movement has on innovation far outweighs that on pricing pressure.

This is especially true in an economy that is more geared towards generating revenues from services. As companies move from acquiring new customers to sell their products to, to retaining existing customers, the emphasis shifts from product development to delivering innovative services. It is in this environment that having an "open source" paradigm where users have the ability to not just use the product but also improve it and let all other users benefit from the improvement. By making continual user community-driven improvement the very core premise of its existence the open source movement has not only survived the might of giant companies such as Microsoft but continues to prosper.

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Can Yahoo! be classified as a slowpoke? (Sorry, Hootan!)

A recent New York times article notes that Yahoo! may be losing speed and innovation relative to its competitors.

Yahoo! was interested only a few weeks ago in buying YouTube, but deals fell apart in the 11th hour, and Google swooped in and closed the deal quickly.

According to this article, this may be a sign that Yahoo!'s enormous size and scope may be preventing it from moving as fast as its competitors.

"Yahoo has lost the favor it enjoyed a year or two ago,” said David Cohen, a senior vice president of Universal McCann, a media buying agency of the Interpublic Group. He said his clients were reducing the share of their budgets they allocate to Yahoo in favor of newer sites, like MySpace, and sites developed by big media companies like Viacom.

“There are more players in town, and the others are closing the gap relative to the things Yahoo is good at,” Mr. Cohen said.

One of the main reasons that Yahoo has slowed down is due to the freezing of its text advertising business, which is being held hostage due to implementation of a new software system. The upgrade is more than a year late and the delay has sucked up the company’s engineering resources and prevented it from developing new advertising products. Yahoo’s system produces much less money from every page than Google, a handicap in bidding for advertising deals.

Moreover, Google has so much cash and market value that it can afford to take riskier acquisitions than Yahoo!

It will be interesting to see how the horserace between Google and Yahoo! plays out. On one hand, Google's cash-rich state and innovative platform make it look very attractive. HOwever, Yahoo still retains the most users on the web - and in a world of social networking, users are key. Hopefully Yahoo can use recent acquisiton of myspace to help build an innovation platform and move forward.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/11/technology/11yahoo.html

Read more...

Can Yahoo! be classified as a slowpoke? (Sorry, Hootan!)

A recent New York times article notes that Yahoo! may be losing speed and innovation relative to its competitors.

Yahoo! was interested only a few weeks ago in buying YouTube, but deals fell apart in the 11th hour, and Google swooped in and closed the deal quickly.

According to this article, this may be a sign that Yahoo!'s enormous size and scope may be preventing it from moving as fast as its competitors.

"Yahoo has lost the favor it enjoyed a year or two ago,” said David Cohen, a senior vice president of Universal McCann, a media buying agency of the Interpublic Group. He said his clients were reducing the share of their budgets they allocate to Yahoo in favor of newer sites, like MySpace, and sites developed by big media companies like Viacom.

“There are more players in town, and the others are closing the gap relative to the things Yahoo is good at,” Mr. Cohen said.

One of the main reasons that Yahoo has slowed down is due to the freezing of its text advertising business, which is being held hostage due to implementation of a new software system. The upgrade is more than a year late and the delay has sucked up the company’s engineering resources and prevented it from developing new advertising products. Yahoo’s system produces much less money from every page than Google, a handicap in bidding for advertising deals.

Moreover, Google has so much cash and market value that it can afford to take riskier acquisitions than Yahoo!

It will be interesting to see how the horserace between Google and Yahoo! plays out. On one hand, Google's cash-rich state and innovative platform make it look very attractive. HOwever, Yahoo still retains the most users on the web - and in a world of social networking, users are key. Hopefully Yahoo can use recent acquisiton of myspace to help build an innovation platform and move forward.

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Would you rather be a professor or a billionaire?

An article in today's New York times profiles the third founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim.

Karim first's (huge) internet success was the introduction of PayPal back in 2002. He "hit the jackpot" when PayPal was bought by eBay.

Karim then went on to develop and found YouTube with more famous friends Steven Chen and Chad Hurley. However, after they founded the company, Karim went back to Stanford to pursue a graduate degree in computer science. His dream is to become a professor.

As early as February 2005, when the site was introduced, Karim said he, Hurley and Chin had agreed that he would not become an employee, but rather an informal adviser to YouTube.

However, he does have a significant equity stake in the company. And, the purchase of YouTube is so significant, he stands to become incredibly wealthy regardless of his more limited involvement.

Karim notes that if another opportunity like YouTube comes along, he could pursue it even in an academic career.

Maybe he'll start teaching Marketing and the Internet next year?

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/12/technology/12tube.html

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How Does GoogTube "Change the Game?"

Link to an interesting blog with several postings on how Google's acquisition of YouTube could change the media/web landscape.

A few interesting ideas and predictions:

1) This serves as a wakeup call to mainstream media companies, who may have thought they were "safe" after the bubble burst. Start-ups are now "out-innovating" traditional media companies, and this will change the power dynamic in this industry.

2) YouTube will be able to speed up the process of monetizing content.

3) With Google behind them, YouTube will be able to start delivering search video content as a pre-roll.

http://www.paidcontent.org/goog-youtube-how-does-it-change-the-game

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Lets hear it for the ladies!

According to recent research from M:Metrics, the number of ringtones downloaded has grown by 20% in the past year. However, the number of mobile games downloaded has remained relatively flat.

Perhaps the most surprising conclusion in the report, however, is that the number of females consuming ringtones and games grew by 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively, across the past year. Corresponding numbers for males were growth of 15.4 percent in males downloading ringtones and a decline of 11.3 percent in the number of males downloading games. Females now account for a clear majority, or 55 percent, of ringtone purchasers. While males still have a higher propensity to download games, the ratio of male to female game downloaders has dropped from 61 percent male in 2005 to 54 percent male in 2006.

Additionally, growth in the market is coming from older demographic groups. The 35-to-44-year-old segment has had the highest growth for games and ringtones, while consumption among teens has lagged, with the number of teen ringtone purchasers remaining relatively flat, while teens engaged in downloading games fell by 30 percent.

This presents interesting new challenges for marketers looking to promote ringtones and games - do they want to recapture their core market of teenage males, or do they look to expand the core to include women and 30-somethings?

http://rcrnews.com/news.cms?newsId=27482

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US – tops in ringtones!

http://www.mmetrics.com/press/PressRelease.aspx?article=20060912-sept06benchmark


Since, we are so accustomed to hearing how the US lags Europe in mobile technologies and services offered over the mobile, it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when I read this
article.


As shown, the US leads Western Europe in all aspects of ringtone consumption. While it still lags in mobile music consumption – I think that this bodes well for the future of music consumption on the mobile phone here in the US. We are all aware of how the various competing standards and technologies have impeded a rapid growth of premium mobile services which are quite commonplace in Europe. But with new demands being placed on profitability in voice services, there are one of two ways that mobile operators can respond. Gain an early mover advantage in these new data and multimedia services and also lock in advertising revenues. Work in collaboration with each other to create a common platform that will allow users portability and flexibility and share profits based on quality of service as opposed to choice.


Obviously, from the consumer’s point of view the second option is the better one. This is how things have been in Europe, where the existence of a single GSM standard has made the user ‘king’ and the mobile companies more willing to be more innovative. But as the mobile users in the US become more discerning and demanding, the operators will be forced into one of the two above options. All early indications suggest that things are going down route 1. For eg: Apple iPhone is set to be launched as Cingular only. But it seems to me like this strategy is sustainable only in the short run. In the long run, there will be a definite convergence to single standard and interoperability, giving the consumer more choice and flexibility.


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Mobile Advertising

http://news.com.com/Advertising+seeps+into+the+cell+phone/2100-1039_3-6115617.html?tag=st.num


Its payback time and the mobile operators are ready to open up their networks to marketing partners!


For years, the mobile operators had displayed unwillingness to incorporate marketing content into their multimedia services for fear of losing customers. But now with the mobile phone being used to download ringtones and over the air full-track downloads, the opportunities have grown. Astronomical amounts spent on 3G licenses and continuous pricing pressure on voice services have made them more amenable to an advertising-driven business model.


Of course, the nature of marketing that consumer will receive well is still a matter of debate. The popularity of online search-based ads suggests that mobile consumers may respond positively to it as well. These will certainly, in my opinion, be more effective and targeted than the random ads popping into your mobile because you happened to pass a starbucks or another merchant.


Another major source of ads could be the mobile music business which has been a major driver of uptake of 3G usage. As pricing pressure comes to bear on this segment, more and more advertising will start showing up on the mobile phone, as content providers and mobile operators will seek to subsidize the final cost of downloading music to the consumer. Presumably, consumers will be more accepting of ads that bring down the cost of listening to mobile music. And it is in this context that News Corp’s acquisition of Jamba an online music content provider becomes significant. Expect some acquisitions in this space as the big players jostle for their space in the bandwagon!


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Free international calls from a land line

First, there was Net-to-Phone and other competitors, then Skype, GoogleTalk, and other over-the-internet calling plans that dramatically reduced the cost of making long distance phone calls. Now, there seems to be a new player on the market offering free phone calls from your land line (not a computer), with no catch! Well, just one minor catch- you need to be able to first call a number in Iowa to initiate the international leg of the call. However, for most individuals they have access to cell phone plans or home phone plans that accomodate free domestic calling based on their monthly package.

Go to Futurephone to see this for yourself - I personally could not believe it, and still have a strange feeling that by using it I will somehow be allowing Big Brother into my life to monitor my activities. However, their claim does seem to be true: they are offering no-strings-attached free telephone calls. I have not yet tried it. According to the website, they are trying to build a brand. I'm not sure how this accomplishes that or what kinds of services they will be offering in the future. Of course, I'm also assuming that they're not just phone call philanthropists giving away their money. In any case, we should probably enjoy it while it lasts.

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It's just the beginning....

Earlier today, I was talking to a classmate who works in the PE/VC world. We were discussing the implications of the massive deal that went down on Monday. She was saying that the Google acquisition of YouTube is going to kill one of the deals she is working on because the company they were looking to acquire was now going to ask for a higher valuation. She and I started talking about how the acquisition serves to legitimize online video as a new force to be reckoned with and that this sale is a milestone.

IMHO, YouTube's main value has been to get consumers used to the idea of speding lots of time self-entertaining themselves through online videos. YouTube provided an easy, user-friendly technology that allowed the worldwide internet audience to prove the notion that user-generated video has a place on the web. From here, I think we are going to see companies competing to release the next step in streaming technology, TV channels popping up on the internet and of course, advertisers and broadcasters racing to define and refine the internet equivalent of traditional TV's 30-second spot.

This topic is near and dear to my heart as I am one of those people aiming to launch an online TV channel, focusing on automotive content. As such, I am interested in seeing what the standard of quality for online viewing is going to be. Is it going to be the tiny YouTube format that downloads without freezing? Is it going to be high-quality but slow streams such as what one finds on Apple's website? Will it be something in the middle? Well, I found a link to a company while reading Mark Cuban's blog (an interesting read) that deserves attention in this context. According to the website of Waltham, MA-based PermissionTV, companies can use its service to "configure and manage their own branded Internet TV channels and monetize their audience through ad-supported, pay-per-view and subscription-based services." The proof is in the pudding: the introductory video itself is remarkable in its seamless quality, and that's just the overview. PermissionTV offers an upgrade that installs a program on your PC, which in turn allows for DVD-quality steaming video.

What I also find highly interesting about PermissionTV's service is that it bundles several methods of advertising together with the video delivery technology. It looks like PermissionTV is experimenting with video monetization, and more power to them. Whoever figures this out is the next billionaire. Trust me, you want to check out PermissionTV.com.

One more site I want to draw your attention to is veotag.com. This company is based in our own beloved New York City, and I discovered it yesterday through a link a classmate sent. Veotag is "an exciting new service that lets you display clickable text, called "veotags," within an audio or video file", according to the site. The link that led to my discovery was a 30-minute video of Guy Kawasaki of Apple fame. What was really cool about this video was that it was chopped up into ten or so segments of Guy's speech that you could skip to, akin to "chapters" on a DVD.

I think you get the idea. Pandora's box is now open as entrepreneurs race to be the next online video headline, inspired in no small part by Chad and Steven's $1.65 billion payday. I for one am really excited to see who comes up with what and which one gets noticed. Stay tuned, so to speak.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New PowerPoint Clone On the Way

Preezo is about to release a PowerPoint clone of their own, to join the likes of Zoho, Empressr, and Thumbstacks. This goes beyond Preezo, Google, and Zoho but is really showing us what the net is really capable of. The proliferation of Ajax seems to be pushing us closer and closer to a client-server world.

What you have to love about all of these web applications is the timing. Not the timing of the release of the apps, but the lack of timing on the part of Sun Microsystems (you know.. that stock that once traded at $80, but closed today at just under $5). Years ago, Sun's Java vision was that the Internet was going to be the computer. Unfortunately for them, Java applications were unstable, slow, and nobody had the bandwidth to run anything worthwhile.. until now. Where are the vocal privacy advocators on this issue? and why does is blogger's word verification so long?

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A Message From Chad and Steve


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Helium - not just something that makes your voice sound funny

Similar to Google Image Labeler in its logistics, Massachusetts based Helium is a user-generated article database which combines original writing with rankings and profit sharing. The writing may not be of the highest quality at this point in time, but give it time and the ranking system should weed out the poorly written articles.


Here is a quick rundown of how it actually works:
Users are asked to write articles on topics from 25 categories and many subcategories, starting with nothing but a subject line. After writing one article, users are taken to a page to rank other articles in the topic area they just wrote about. Two articles written by other users but with user names removed are placed side by side and the reader is asked which is a better article. Any number of articles can be compared two at a time on a continuum (”article A is much better, or a little better than article B” for example). The best articles are then displayed on the category’s front page, followed by related articles in order of reader ranking.

Users can also see how their article is doing by logging in. The only thing that isn't as clear on the site is the actual revenue sharing, but it appears that once your account reaches $25 you can request a payment.

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Google fires the first shot at MS Excel (cont'd)

To add to Santosh's post regarding the Google Docs & Spreadsheets launch, I have attached a link to the application tour.

The site, released as "beta," of course, allows users to create, store and share documents and spreadsheets online. To differentiate it from MS Excel, the program also allows real-time collaboration, multiple file formats, and Web and blog publishing (in addition to being free!).

Google claims that it does not intend to compete with Microsoft in office software, as this application has limited functionality compared to the established Word and Excel platforms. But this notion is laughable - of course they intend to compete, and it is only a matter of time before they release a "new & improved" Google Docs & Spreadsheets (also for free, I might add).

Although it will be tough to wrest control of large company software platforms, small businesses and entrepreneurs will rejoice - and they are a significant portion of the market.

Here's my source article from CNET News.

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A Site in Need of a Masher

SizeEasy.com, a site I mentioned in class last week, is a cool online application that's brimming with potential, waiting to be snatched up -- or mashed-up - by a smart online retailer.
On the fence between buying an iPod or Microsoft's soon-to-launch Zune and think size might be the deciding factor? Log on to SizeEasy.com, enter the measurements of each device, and let the Ruby-on-Rails-powered sizing engine put things into perspective -- literally.

As the site explains,

Sizeasy allows you to compare dimensions of items you find described on the web often. Many online stores show the dimensions of items like Product Dimensions: 192x45x32mm. Although useful this doesn't give us a feel for the real size of the item that we would get going into a high street store. Sizeasy allows you to take this size information and see it drawn out to scale next to everyday items so you get a real feel for its size.


In truth, the interface is a little rough around the edges, site's image are crude, and it doesn't yet offer means of lifting its sizing engine for mash-up purposes, one hopes online retailers like Buy.com and Amazon are taking notice.

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Internet shopping experience

Because I can't try the clothes or shoes on, I tend to not shop on internet. But, these days, the customized email promotion is luring me into checking more stuff that I previously didn't think about. I believe the internet shopping experience will be enhanced by the saved data for each customer. I easily get annoyed when it takes too long time to find my size and go through each click. Also, most of the shopping sites are too complicated. In contrary to the companies' intention to give all the options to customers, customers find it too dragging to go through redundant steps each time they shop. For example, I gave up shopping at Nike.com because it was too complicated to choose everything. I simply wanted to have a cool looking pair that was a bit different, but they made me select all the colors including the inside and outside fabric. I got really confused and it was time consuming. After three trials, I know not to go back. These days, I see more efforts to change the formats that's easier to the cutomers' experience.
When I look around on the internet stores, I like to see three dimensions. There are some stores that they show both the front and the back image. I think more product images they have, better it is for customers to make a purchse decision. As internet shopping nubmers increase, online companies need to come up with a more aggressive marketing plan for each targeted customers.



Online shopping. Do your homework before plunging!
By: devv Member's photo available | Sep 27, 2006 03:49 PM
While nothing beats the experience and advantages of physical shopping ( I’d recommend you do it whenever you can), time constrains, availability and the lure of ad gimmicks are some of the reasonswhy we end up buying online. Fine. But keep a few...
Useful
Tajgift.com - Sahajhaan would approve too!
By: ronin Member's photo available | Sep 27, 2006 02:35 PM
Honestly, I was a skeptic when it came to online shopping till last week! As usual I remembered a very close friends birthday at the nth hour & was ruing the fact that I had not sent her flowers (A regular ritual between us) & that it...
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My Expereince of Online Shoppinng
By: iqbal32 | Sep 16, 2006 06:34 PM
Few days before I don’t like to buy online as I think how can a person buy anything without touching anything or how can a person have a faith on a website. One have to pay money without getting it immediately so it seems to be very strange...


http://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Online_Shopping_Experience-925028487.html

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Grandma's social networking site

Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor established a social netowrk for seniors. I don't know how successful this will be, but marketed well, this could be a great business. Retiring baby boomers have a lot of time to spend and money to dispose. If social networking sites such as Friendster really want to start making money, they should change their target customer base. Simply, Eons is wooing the over-50 crowd through its to-do lists, online obits, boomer search, and life map.
To-do lists; after members create a list of the top 10 things they want to do in retirement, Eons links together subscribers with similar goals.
Online obits: People over 50 are the top readers of newspaper obituaries. Eons compiled a database of 77 million obits. Members can search for obituaries, and can make contributions to them.
Boomer Search: Eon's search engine, cRANKy, lists results based on studies of the types of inquiries people over 50 typically make online.
Life Map: As a legacy for children and grandchildren, Eons helps members create a time line that documents their life experiences.




http://www.eons.com/

Eons: 'MySpace' for the boomer set

Seniors are logging on to Eons.com and discovering the world of online networking.

| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The online posts appear earnest, but not plaintive.

Ladybird calls herself a "transplanted New York State grandma" living in Michigan who hopes to trade e-mail with some new local friends. JoeMarty - who has never been in a chat room or posted a message online - wants to know if "anyone out there" is into bikes - the kind with pedals, he notes, not internal-combustion engines.

(Photograph)
SCRIBE FOR SENIORS: Sue Bloom writes a blog for Eons.com and runs the site's 200-member photography group. She says her audience is very engaged.
COURTESY OF WALTER CALAHAN




Like some 300,000 others in recent weeks, they have logged on to a new website, Eons.com. The site is banking on a digital awakening among recreation-minded boomers and matures, a growing and increasingly active demographic - online and everywhere else.

"Our goal is to be the center of gravity on the Web for adults 50-plus," says Linda Natansohn, senior vice president for strategic development at the firm, a Charlestown, Mass., offshoot of job-board giant Monster.com.

This is not your grandchild's Internet. Social-networking websites from MySpace to Facebook to Friendster have long been the virtual neighborhoods of choice for - primarily - Gen Y youths and young adults.

Burrowed into these web-based warrens, registered users can trade text, images, and audio - in total anonymity or with starkly candid, photo-accompanied attribution.

Today, such sites are exploding - and the demographics of their user bases have broadened. Executives increasingly use sites such as LinkedIn.com to conduct "back door" checks on references. Wal-Mart runs a site for teens called the Hub.

Social-networking sites in the form of interactive games exist for children as young as 8. (See related story.)

But it remains unclear whether an older crowd will comfortably ease into communal clusters. So far, websites aimed at the senior set - AARP.org, thirdage.com - have tended to be more informational than interactive. A recent study by Jupiter Research found older users to be the group least interested in online social networking, says Corina Matiesanu, a senior analyst there.

Still, Ms. Matiesanu says, 20 percent of nearly 900 respondents ages 55 and older were open to the function. And Jupiter estimates that 62.4 million over-50 adults will be online by 2010.

They just might seek one another out. "The fastest growing group for Internet dating is older people," Gloria Steinem told The New York Times earlier this month.

Social-networking sites frequently form organically around interests - stick-shift cars, for example - without regard for networkers' ages. But mixed-topic sites could succeed just by mining broad veins of generational interests.

"There's a strong bias that we have toward interacting with people who are demographically and physically similar to ourselves," says David Krackhardt, a professor of organizational behavior at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School and a leading expert on social networks.

Age, he says, "is one of the strongest, most persistent predictors of how networks form."

Others submit that in an online environment packed with distractions, it might not be enough.

"Is being over 50 years old a strong enough affinity? I'm not so sure," says Howard Rheingold, a writer and well-regarded expert on the social implications of communications technology.

"There are plenty of boomers in communities that discuss health or investments - two concerns of aging onliners that come immediately to mind - but I really wonder what the founders of Eons.com plan to do to achieve a critical mass of participants," he writes in an e-mail.

(Illustration) SCOTT WALLACE - STAFF

Eons counters that its 2 million page views to date represent the pull of a cyberspace location at which meeting up electronically is almost incidental - though more than 800 affinity groups, with interests that include gardening, digital photography, and antiquing, have already been formed.

Sue Bloom, a published digital photographer and parent of two adult daughters, was contacted by Eons this summer to run the site's photography group - already the largest, with more than 200 members after about 50 days - and write a blog about the topic.

Chair of the art and art history department at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., she knew how to use the Internet but was unfamiliar with the world of blogs and online networking.

But she took to it, she says, and finds that older adults do, too. "I think some of [my students] would be surprised to know that their grandparents are networking," says Professor Bloom.

"This [senior] generation is really active and alert and engaged, and going full throttle with a sense of purpose," Bloom adds. "What do they want to do? What kinds of things do they want to learn yet? Where are the places they want to travel?"

Her biggest challenge, she says: writing for a member audience that includes professionals as well as amateurs with point-and-shoot cameras. Some interact, others just harvest information.

Eons will pursue growth by taking a role far beyond that of basic sites built around communities of interest - a site for owners of recreational vehicles, for example, that might include a message board. The firm, Natansohn says, has set out to be a master aggregator of senior-specific tools and services.

Recommendations aren't necessarily driven strictly by merit. Five partner corporations - including Hyatt, Liberty Mutual, and Verizon - back Eons and serve as information providers. This is clearly disclosed on the site.

"You either accept the terms or you don't," says Natansohn. "We like to think of it as adding value." (More ads are likely to appear soon. Generation-targeted sites represent a shimmering lure for advertisers.)

Many of the site's features, Natansohn says, were generated in-house and with no intent other than to enrich.

Click on a goal - "travel to Italy," for example, or "lose weight" - and Eons tells you how many others share that goal and how many of them live near you, before offering direction. A popular "life-expectancy calculator" follows up with tips on healthier living.

And a feature called cRANKy is "the first age-relevant search engine," says Natansohn. When its research showed that senior users were frustrated by enormous, largely irrelevant yields found by major engines, Eons built in a vetting process that pulls down top sites based in part on its own editors' reviews and previous users' ratings.

"The more people use it," says Natansohn, "the more you see this 50-plus voice coming through."

The site also includes a "learn the lingo" section. "When you hear kids talking about MySpace," reads an explainer on the site, "do you think they're referring to their bedrooms?" A glossary of youth terms defines such kid-culture icons as SpongeBob and Disney's Kim Possible.

After that it's back to business: talking NASCAR, sure, but also taking on household clutter, coping with estate taxes, and overcoming stereotypes in the job hunt.

"[Eons] is purpose-driven, versus a lot of the younger sites," says Natansohn. "It's a good place to hang out, but at Eons we've got lots of important things we want people to come and do."


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the same time meeting

While I was working at Bayer HealthCare over the summer, I had countless meetings. One of the efficient meetings that I had was the same time meeting. For example, 15 different people from different locations were looking at the same file over the internet. Interestingly, this wasn't just a file sharing. We'd indicate who would be the master of the meeting and then the master has the control to change the file to show the difference as the meeting progress. The master also has a drawing abilities to freely draw anything they want. This covers the traditional weaknesses in conference call meetings. People share the opinions and through looking at the visuals at the same time, it also strengthened understanding. Not only was this efficient, but also was a fabulous tool for communication. About 5 years ago, people had to fly in for the same type of communication that was excuted through same time meeting.


5 Ways to Save Time During Conference Calls

NetMeeting tips to keep your calls fast, productive, and maybe even fun

Published: February 28, 2006
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If you have ever tried to explain a written document to someone who can't see the document, then you know the meaning of the word frustration. And if you have ever tried to give a presentation while others on a conference call are still dawdling around opening up your slides, I'm sure you felt like I did: There has got to be a better way!

Valuable time is wasted during conference calls when people aren't working together. Fortunately, there is a simple fix that anyone with Microsoft Windows can use to get things back on track: Windows NetMeeting. I use this product several times a week for everything from presentations to group chats to collaborative editing of documents. Working with people literally around the world, we can quickly pool resources to make our conference calls fast, productive, and even a tiny bit fun.


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Live classroom for pharmacists


Pharmacists need to take a continuing education class from a certified place. The law requires that they take certain hours of live classes every month. There are some pharmacists who still go to the school and take the required classes. But, the trend is to take online classes at home. For pharmacists, it's especially harder since there has to be a certified instructor to answer and ask questions. Over the last few months, many internet software has been developed to fit the needs of the requirements. The software that's used by many live classroom is super talented. It lets instructor see what students are doing on the same time base and the speed in which they interact is not an issue any more. It's also a great tool to demonstrate any new computer application for pharmacists. Once the instructor locks the screen, the students are there to follow and watch it step by step. This highly interactive form increased the reality of the live classroom through voice and visual communication. This could open up many possibilities of limited online classroom.



RxSchool Launches New Live On-Line Education SoftwareBusiness Wire, line pharmacy education and learning management software, announced today that it has launched its new RxSchool Live(TM) on-line delivery software. RxSchool founders Rich Barnhart and Steve Croke will unveil this new technology next week at the NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference in San Diego. RxSchool Live(TM) is a powerful e-learning platform and will meet the needs of thousands of pharmacy professionals and educational providers. A recent survey conducted by RxSchool reveals that over 90% of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians prefer to participate in continuing education programs that are delivered live or on the Internet. Furthermore, many states now require pharmacists to receive a certain number of live continuing education credits and with a limited amount of traditional live education programs available, many pharmacists welcome this new option. Rich Barnhart, chief technology officer, stated: "The best part of this new platform is that we don't have to sacrifice quality when delivering our educational programs. In many ways, this software exceeds our students' expectations and provides a more interactive and quality experience than the traditional live classroom setting." RxSchool Live(TM) not only provides a quality educational experience; it also qualifies for pharmacy continuing education credit. Busy pharmacy professionals with a computer and Internet connection can now meet their live continuing education requirements from the comfort of their home or office. Steve Croke, president, adds: "Our students are embracing this new technology and our clients are using it to enhance their current educational offerings. The applications for this medium are more cost-effective than traditional live settings and are not limited to live continuing education." Morris Cody, a provider of traditional NAPLEX(R) review courses for over 30 years, plans to use RxSchool Live(TM) to complement its leading review products. As well, RxTechSchool, a leading provider of on-line pharmacy technician training, utilizes this new software for its interactive e-Classroom sessions. The flexibility of this software allows RxTechSchool to host small sessions that promote discussion and interactivity with instructors. Additional applications for the technology include software training, customer service and on-line meetings.


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Web 2.0 Platform Vs Platform

So, there was another article today on how Google's free web services will vie with MS office products... The article goes on to explain how Google is trying to change user behavior and get them accustomed to web based applications that are FREE. Why pay hundreds of dollars to buy word, excel etc when you can have similar features for nothing. Obviously this will be a big blow to Microsoft which makes 11.8 Billion in revenue every year on MS Office.

Microsoft is certainly in a tough spot here... They can't go with full force towards an online model as they risk cannibalizing their desktop based office platform. Google on the other hand is strengthening its online platform with a wide range of products that will meet all the different needs of consumers (email, document, spread sheets, calendar etc). It will be interesting to see how these two campanies fight it out in the next few years.

The online platform (Google) Vs client based platform (Microsoft) will certainly be very interesting....

A copy of the article I am referencing above is pasted below:

Google's Free Web Services
Will Vie With Microsoft Office
By KEVIN J. DELANEY and ROBERT A. GUTH
October 11, 2006; Page B1

Just as Microsoft Corp. is about to roll out the latest version of its cash-cow Office applications, Google Inc. is beefing up efforts that could win away some of the customers Microsoft is targeting.

Google's latest move, expected to be announced today, is a plan to bundle its existing word-processing and spreadsheet offerings -- online applications that people can use through their Web browsers -- under the name Google Docs & Spreadsheets and more tightly weave them together. The services, which are available free, offer more-limited functions than Microsoft's word processor and spreadsheet programs, which people use the old-fashioned way on their personal computers.
[Chart]

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told reporters last week that Microsoft's hold on customers who aren't "professional users" of its core Office product "may be vulnerable." The Web search giant is targeting average consumer users and organizations such as universities as it continues to expand email, calendar, spreadsheet and word-processing services that overlap with Microsoft offerings.

Google's push comes as Microsoft puts the finishing touches on Office 2007, the latest version of its ubiquitous set of business programs, due by the end of the year. The programs, taken together, are Microsoft's largest generator of revenue and profit after its Windows operating system. They are also deeply entrenched in the world's large and small businesses around the world.

Free equivalents of Office have existed for years and failed to crack Microsoft's market share, But over the past two years, a growing number of Internet companies, including Google, have started to make concerted efforts to pick away at the business, which accounted for $11.8 billion in revenue for Microsoft in the year ended June 30.

Working in favor of these Internet interlopers is a continuing shift by businesses and consumers to software used over the Internet. For decades most computing tasks were handled with software that was installed on computers. Microsoft defined that era with its Windows operating system and its Office suite of applications.

In recent years, though, as high-speed broadband Internet connections have spread to homes and offices, an increasing number of computer users have begun experimenting with software applications hosted over the Web. With just a Web browser, they can use software over the Internet that's free or available by subscription.

Kyle McNabb, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says that Google's moves are less about grabbing market share today than about changing behavior and getting consumers accustomed to free online software that they now buy from Microsoft. "Google is helping set the expectations that you don't have to go buy these things," he says. "This is going to have an impact over five to 10 years."

Microsoft Vice President Antoine Leblond says that Microsoft doesn't have plans to roll out an online version of Office. Instead, he says, the company is building online services designed to work with Office, a strategy that would tap the benefits of online programs without cannibalizing Office. "The future of software is going to be the combination of client applications [like Office] and [online] services," Mr. Leblond says. "It's not going to be one or the other -- the black or white approach."

Mr. Schmidt said last week that Google was "not in the business of building Office," which he said was well suited for "professional users." But the comments by Mr. Schmidt, who has long played down any competition with Microsoft, make much clearer Google's likely core target market: users at home, in educational settings, and at small- and medium-size businesses. It could also include professional users who rely on Google for personal applications. Mr. Schmidt said Google's calendar application is better than Microsoft's for family members sharing their schedules, primarily because it is free and allows such sharing to take place easily online.

Google has rolled out a range of free online services. Some of them carry advertisements, and it hopes others will entice people to use its ad-supported services more. In contrast, Microsoft licenses Office to businesses and sells it to consumers for about $400.

Microsoft plays down the potential threat to Office from Google, arguing that online software can't have the same full features that computer users demand. It can also be slow, and many businesses are loath to entrust core business functions and data to outside companies.

Microsoft's Mr. Leblond says that Google will also find it increasingly difficult to add new features to its programs, in part because the programs rely on browser software for many of their functions. So for instance, printing is much more limited than printing from an Office program, he says. "The technology they are using has some inherent limits," he says. "They are going to hit up against these limits."

But Google says it isn't trying to match all the features of traditional productivity software. "We believe that 90% of users don't necessarily need 90% of the functions that are in there," says Jonathan Rochelle, a product manager for Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

With the Google products, a user can save any documents on Google's servers, accessing them from anywhere that can connect to the Internet. Other key differences with Microsoft: Besides being free, Google services make it easier for users to share files and work on them simultaneously, Google executives say. One important similarity: The Google services can generally save and open files in Microsoft-compatible formats.

"We're building a different way of dealing with complex, powerful information that is online all the time, on every device, and fully shared," explained Mr. Schmidt.

Google is now trying to drive a shift toward this sort of consumer usage. The Mountain View, Calif., company earlier this year bought Writely, a Web-based word-processing service, and rolled out its own spreadsheet product. In August it began offering Google Apps for Your Domain, a package that allows organizations to tap email, calendar, instant-messaging and Web-page creation services that run on Google's computers. Google executives had said that word-processing and spreadsheets were "good candidates" to be added to that offering, which is geared toward organizations and small businesses.

Google's Gmail email service had 9.7 million U.S. visitors in September, and its Calendar service had 896,000, according to comScore Networks Inc. The research firm didn't have usage statistics for Google's word-processing or spreadsheet services.

Rick Sherlund, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, thinks that Microsoft will need to respond more directly to Google's moves. He predicts -- despite Microsoft's denials -- that the company will offer a lower-end version of Office over the next year that's aimed at consumers and small businesses.

"I think that they are leaving the door wide open for Google to deliver a broader solution on their online platform," Mr. Sherlund says. Microsoft needs "to be serious about trying to shut that door on Google."

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Revver's New Partnership

Here is a post from TechCruch, another blog, that talks about Revver (a YouTube clone that shares revenue with content providers) and its new partnership FameTV

User created video sharing site Revver has landed an intriguing partnership with a new UK TV station called FameTV. Revver users will be able to opt-in for TV broadcast and those selected will be shown on FameTV. Viewers will vote for their favorites by SMS and revenue sent to Revver will be split 50/50 with the video publishers.

This is the kind of partnership we’ve seen fomenting in previous deals like PodShow’s Sirius broadcasts, the podcast fueled radio station KYOU and Rocketboom on Tivo.

Revver is very 2.0, with post roll still frame ads, revenue splits for publishers, social bookmarking integration and an API. Unfortunately, they’ve had a tough time building the kind of critical mass that YouTube has. Aside from a handful of high profile video series (Ze Frank, Ask a Ninja, Lonelygirl15) there’s not a lot of good content on the network. Perhaps it’s the revenue sharing that brings less authentically creative and more profit driven amateurs to make up the bulk of the content at Revver. I don’t know. A TV partnership may or may not help.

I think the blogger brings up a very good point about how Web 2.0 Revver is. Of course since we are all done finishing our finals we can debate whether or not Revver is meeting the Web 2.0 requirements. There are a couple other things I want to point out.

1) Does sharing revenue produce less authentic and thus therefore less desired content. The post mentions that it has not reached the critical mass of YouTube but is that simply because YouTube got the buzz jump or is it the content.

2) Will this model work in the US? I know American Idol and other shows use SMS to have the audience vote. Will this be the new model for America's funniest home video? I can see it now, Bob Sagat hosting a bunch of Revver clips and making jokes about his days on Full House.

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The New LonelyGirl15 is Geriatric1927

In the wake of the outing of LonelyGirl15 as a New Zealand actress, the newest vlogging superstar is a 79 year old English widower named Peter aka Geriatric1927 - the grandpa & elder statesman of YouTube. The self-described YouTube addict started his vlog in August to "bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person who's been there and done that." in a series entitled "Telling it All. Through each of his 30+ videos, Peter has told his life story, including his growing up during World War II and joining the British Army, his experiences in England's education system, his meeting his wife, and his passion for motorcycles. He has also on occasion commented on YouTube, his fans, haters on YouTube, and even this week's acquisition by Google.

Geriatric1927's first video gained 2 million views and his YouTube channel is now 2nd all time in subscriptions only to LonelyGirl15. A search on YouTube for his handle yields 582 results which range from video responses to him, both positive and negative, news profiles like the BBC on him, video tributes to him, and parodies. Despite all the attention he has gained, he has shied away from advertisers and media who want to profile him.

Some people credit him as an inspiration for trying new things like YouTube at his age, for opening himself up to the world, for his style of storytelling, and for brining a higher profile for the elderly. Others say he's a refreshing, real human voice on YouTube, particularly after many realized they were duped by LonelyGirl15. He is an unlikely, yet amazing internet superstar indeed... basically, he rules.

As we keep hearing more and more in recent months with data to support, sites such as MySpace and YouTube are actually rather popular with older demographics. It's clear that they're not just for teenagers & twenty-somethings. The implications for marketers are quite interesting then as popular social mass media sites are identified as a medium for all demographics and more and more voices across the world are heard. Websites and companies that cater to the elderly should take note to use the internet to reach their target market more effectively.

Links:
Wikipedia on Geriatric1927

MySpace Fan Page for Geriatric 1927

BBC News on Geriatric1927

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MySpace Seeks Relationship with YouTube Purchaser

Since NewCorp lost out on its bid to buy YouTube its trying to get in on the action. NewCorp is meeting with Google Ad sales this week to discuss new ways to work together to possibly expand the recent ad deal that Google signed with MySpace, NewCorp's recent acquistion, to include video advertising.
The deal between Google and YouTube is intially a major threat to MySpace as they are both direct competitors among sites that allow users to post their own content. However many users use the sites jointly linking YouTube pages to their MySpace pages.
Initial reaction to the deal at NewCorp was upsetting and execs went as far to discuss cutting off MySpace links to YouTube after being rebuffed by YouTube when trying to participate in the bidding process.
Overall News Corp recognizes the need to take advanatege of the video advertising boom. It haas been focusing on vamping up its video technology on the MySpace page on even thought about building a competitor to YouTube.

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Outsource the Outsourcers?

In case you missed the news, Bangalore shut down yesterday due to political reasons. Apparently there's a dispute between neighboring states (the ones within India) and virtually all business shut down. So what did they do?
"...the business of outsourcing continued, either by having work shifted to other locales or by telecommuting, reports say. Many companies say they asked workers to work weekend shifts to replace the lost hours."

Ok, so not the end of the world for call centers and $10k/year developers but as someone who's worked with a South Asian outsourcing software firm (with disastrous consequences) I always warn people that shifting your business process to someplace halfway around the world means increased risk. Businesspeople always look at development as a cost without considering that most software projects fail anyway. The first question people should always ask themselves isn't how much making it will cost but rather how much it will cost if the whole thing fails.

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IMDb: 2.0 from the Get-Go

In the midst of all the Google/YouTube hullabaloo, I wanted to highlight my favorite website, the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb.

IMDb is a massive directory of film information, from movie quotes to actors' agents' contact information. The content is interconnected such that surfing IMDb becomes its own Kevin Bacon game, where clicking on a movie brings up every actor in it, and clicking on one of the actors brings up every movie they've been in, etc.

The best content on IMDb is its movie and celebrity trivia, both primarily user-generated (and fact-checked by professional staff, similar to Wikipedia). I have even submitted an interesting factoid about a Patrick Swayze line in Point Break that references his earlier work, but I digress.

The CGM aspects of IMDb have been in place since the early days of the site (it has not changed much since the late 1990s), which makes it an early adopter of Web 2.0 methods. Amazon now owns IMDb, given the clear synergies between a movie website with great content and the most popular online store for purchasing DVDs. I presume NetFlix is envious.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Funeral Home Webcast

What would you do if you have to attend the funeral of loved ones in California? You would get yourself a plane ticket, fly there while pausing everything in your life. What can you do if the funeral is within 4 hours since you got the call? It surely is frustrating when you can't do anything.

With the help of high tech on the internet, you can virtually attend the services wherever it takes place. Even though you are not physically in a chapel, it gives a comfort of being part of the service.

Nothing can replace sharing grief togeter by hugging and crying together. This webcast service, however, can connect more people. People who live in a long distance can watch the service far away from home. Distant relatives and friends can still be part of it without feeling the burden of pressure. The elderly people who can't freely move around can also watch the service through one click.

The New York Times article,

When David Grossman’s father, Albert, died at 72 on Aug. 26, some of his out-of-town relatives could not make it to the funeral, which by Jewish custom was held the next day.

Instead they were able to watch the service on a live video broadcast over the Internet via a Webcam hookup at the Star of David Memorial Chapel in West Babylon.

“It was a relief for them,” David Grossman said. “At least they could see something.”

A panoramic camera angle allowed cousins in Arizona, Connecticut and Florida to see the coffin and listen to the rabbi give his eulogy. They could toggle to a view of the pews where their relatives mourned and send electronic condolences to the mortuary Web site.

Kevin Gray, an owner of the funeral home, which opened in May in the midst of Long Island’s cemetery hub along Wellwood Avenue, said that logistics often made it difficult for far-flung next of kin to attend funerals, particularly hastily arranged Jewish services.

“Not everyone can afford to fly as quickly as it takes to get here for a service,” Mr. Gray said, recalling a recent funeral that 50 members of Lider Vera Chica’s family watched from an Internet cafe in Ecuador. Others may be too elderly or infirm to attend.

So far nine families have chosen to use the Webcam at the mortuary, although the burial is not Webcast. The Star of David chapel is the first funeral home in the metropolitan area to be set up specifically to provide the service, said Jo Pettit, the executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk Funeral Directors Association. It is included in the cost of the funeral — $4,500 to $5,000, not including the cemetery or clergy.

(To help fend off intruders, viewers must log on to Mr. Gray’s Web site before they can gain access to the memorial service.)

Robert J. Biggins, the president of the National Funeral Directors Association, called the use of technology during funerals a “burgeoning trend” that allowed people to share memories. Video tributes chronicling the deceased are shown during visitation and memorial services at many funeral parlors, Mr. Biggins said.

Rabbi Jeffrey A. Astrachan of Temple Beth Elohim in Bethpage, who has officiated at funerals at the Star of David chapel, said that the Webcam provided a valuable service but cautioned that it should not “replace coming to a funeral.”

Mr. Gray, who had a Web-based coffin business before becoming a funeral director, said the preference was to wait for out-of-towners to arrive. “You can’t hug someone over the Web,” Mr. Gray said.

For those who cannot watch in real time, and as a keepsake for the family, Mr. Gray provides the family with DVD’s of the funeral at no additional charge.

Rabbi Astrachan said that funerals resembled other cycle-of-life events, like bar mitzvahs and weddings, which are videotaped and later revisited.

“In moments of any extreme emotion, be it grief or joy, sometimes the moments pass and we are not able to moderate our emotion enough to focus on the experience,” he said.

As part of her “Real to Reel” DVD business, Jo-Ann Stokes, a videographer from Mount Sinai, will include, upon request, footage of the receiving line at a funeral home, the eulogy, the procession and the family saying goodbyes to the deceased at the cemetery, along with 40 to 50 photographs taken during the person’s lifetime, all set to music.

“You can hold on to it forever,” Ms. Stokes said.

Funeral DVD’s may ultimately be replayed more often than wedding videos, Mr. Biggins said.

“It may be a very strong tool in the healing process to look back and reminisce about the things that were said about someone you love,” he said.


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MySpace for a different generation...

Founder of Monster.com seizes opportunities wherever he sees them. Realizing the the Baby Boomer generation will be retiring soon, his next big idea is Eons.com, a MySpace specifically for that generation. He realized that these new retirees will be adventurous and will therefore want to share ideas about trips, lifestyle, etc...as a result, he wants to connect them through technology. A new set of advertisers will surely come to target this coveted group. This might be something...I would think the majority know about the internet and how to use it (obviously unlike the previous generation) They will want to interact with each other and share their experiences. And they certainly will have time on their hands...

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005117.htm?chan=tc&chan=technology_technology+index+page_more+of+today%27s+top+stories

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Social Browsing & Swarming the Web

In the land of Web 2.0, beyond social networking and social bookmarking lies the growing area of social browsing. Social browser Flock and browser plug-ins StumbleUpon and The Swarm are leading the charge.

Flock is a new web browser built on Mozilla's Firefox that has added social features such as:
  • photo sharing with online friends through the browser including drag and drop of photos for sharing, uploading or posting comments
  • search on your favorite search engines and websites
  • a WYSIWYG blog editor that allows you to drag & drop text or images from the web for your blog and manages multiple blogs
  • drag and drop RSS feed subscriptions.
StumbleUpon is a social browsing tool that allows users to rate and review websites through a Firefox extension, which in turn creates a community of rated and reviewed sites. Pressing the "Stumble" button in your browser's toolbar and selecting a topic of choice, like Google's "I'm feeling lucky" button, takes you to a random website based on the community's ratings. You can also find new sites of interest by browsing through other users' recommended sites (a concept similar to music library browsing in Napster).

Swarm (pictured above) is a social browsing website that features a real-time graphical map of its users' browsing activity. The Swarm map features hundreds of interconnecting websites as it follows what sites its users are going and coming from. The map is created by anonymously tracking the websites that participating users are visiting through a Firefox extension (similar to Alexa) and updating itself every second with new traffic data. Sites that are gaining traffic become larger graphically and move towards the center of the swarm while sites that lose traffic become smaller and move towards the outside of the swarm. Users can use the map to browse for new sites or to chat about sites in the Swarm with other online users.

Like all social-based websites, the power of social browsing tools lies in their network of contributors. So long as people are willing to participate, these tools provide great value to web surfers and will continue to gain more users. This summer, StumbleUpon topped 1 million users - through its Firefox extension alone - and followed with the release of an Internet Explorer extension. They will never overtake search as the primary way to find what you're looking for on the web, but they are a fascinating way to browse the web based on common interests, not to mention a neverending way to pass the time...

Links:
Mashable on Stumble Upon

Mashable on The Swarm

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Yahoo Time Capsule: Stunt or Scheme

Yahoo just announced that it is going to create a digital time capsule which will be re-opened in 2020. Users around the world can submit content which will be profiled, played on anchient ruins and beamed into space in 14 years. Click here for article

In my view there are only two ways to view this move. It's either a PR stunt or a money making scheme...or both. They're obviously getting lots of coverage for this new venture - if they weren't, the news wouldn't have made it to Google News where I picked it up. As for it being a money making scheme, Yahoo is placing advertisements on the pages that are used to upload content to the time capsule. With its existing broad consumer appeal and already succesful PR campaign Yahoo will undoubtedly deliver millions of impressions, generating lots of revenue. So, as far as I can tell, this new concept is both a stunt and a scheme. Here's the part that really bothers me - it's a relatively good one.

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Google Just Can't...

Stay out of the news!

I realize this is overshadowed by Googles YouTube acquisition, but thought it was noteworthy for the blog. Google's "Writely", a Web-based word processor, is reported by one critic as "mostly hit[ting] the mark" and "speedy... but still needs some polish."

Many people would love to see Web based applications become the norm, eliminated the purchasing and loading of software on a single machine. Could this be the start of loosening Microsoft's iron grip on the category? Being able to access applications and information from anywhere you have a connection is very liberating, as those of you who have used a "virtual desktop" can attest to. And, with high speed Internet connections soon to be ubiquitous, the concept is becoming more and more of a reality.

According to this AP report, Writely is to Microsoft Word what Gmail is to Outlook: A speedy online program that retains familiar features of traditional desktop software and isn't afraid to introduce new ways of taking advantage of the Web. Unlike a boxed program, Writely runs on a server somewhere on the Internet

The article goes on to explain:

"It took less than a minute to register at http://www.writely.com/ and get a blank document open on my screen. As someone used to Word and OpenOffice Writer, a free desktop-based word processor, I felt comfortable playing around with formatting: familiar buttons across the top of the screen let me change fonts, indent paragraphs and cut and paste.

In fact, the first reminder I was working on the Web came when I hit save. It was done in a flash. Because it saves to a remote server, the process seemed eerily quiet without the grinding hard-drive noise I've become accustomed to. The program auto-saves often and warns me if I try to close an unsaved document. It also can save files to your desktop."

Sounds pretty nice, eh? Google has revolutionzed a number of product categories. I'm hoping this will be another blow to MSFT and a win for "the people" :)

Full AP article as published on MSNBC.com:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15145793/

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YouTube Founders in their own words...



It's hard not to be jealous when these guys just raked it in, isn't it?

Sigh....

As Venturewire says:

With its $1.65 billion acquisition of video sharing Web site YouTube Inc., Google Inc. is once again providing Sequoia Capital with monster returns.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm poured about $11.5 million into YouTube since last year and reportedly held roughly 30% of the company. That would give Sequoia about $495 million in Google stock, worth roughly 43 times its investment....


This implies that everyone else - including our pals Chad and Steve and the other 65 YouTube employees - have 70% or less in stock... If we assume that our founding buddies have roughly 20% each, leaving 30% for other investors/employees/etc., that means... snifff.... they have in the neighborhood of $350 mm each. For 18 months work.

Of course, Sequoia's return on investment for YouTube is nowhere near what it scored with Google. The firm invested about the same amount, roughly $12 million in 1999. At the time of Google's IPO in 2004, Sequoia's eighth fund held about 21.65 million shares, according to Google filings, meaning Sequoia's shares were worth about $2.17 billion after the first trading day.

Over the years, Sequoia has dwindled down its stake in Google to about 0.1%, according to an April Google filing, leaving it with 412,823 shares worth about $177 million. With Google's stock trading at $429 as of Monday's close, Sequoia is getting roughly 1.15 million Google shares in the YouTube deal.

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Surprise, Surprise

So it finally happened… After much speculation Google finally bought YouTube, and for quite a price. Google shelled out 1.65 billion for the video site. Although most were not surprised by the sale, the price took many by surprise. The deal brings more then search and free content together, but adds a new personal element. With the combination of Google and now all the video content from YouTube, the giant can really now capture the Long Tail.

"This is the next step in the evolution of the Internet," Google CEO Schmidt says. On Monday, he kept noting that YouTube founders Chen and Hurley remind him of Google's founders in Google's early days — a couple of guys with a plan to alter the universe.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2006-10-09-gootube-usat_x.htm

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Open Source to the Rescue?

Open source software sounds great and it has genuinely improved costs for businesses, particularly small firms. But there are a lot of pitfalls you need to watch out for. As a former developer, I was always skittish about incorporating open source into my codebase because of licensing issues. A tiny little library might "infect" your entire source with a nasty GNU license virus that effectively takes over your entire license. That's because Richard Stallman, who founded GNU, is an ideologue. This article at ACM's Queue explains:

"...in practice, the GPL is actually one of the less "free" software licenses out there because it requires anyone who modifies a GPL'd program to make the program's code freely available, if the program is "distributed" to others."


Ok, not so cool if you want to distribute your code instead of just run it internally. So a cottage industry of competing licenses have popped up which provide dozens of variations on the GNU license. The ACM also provided this handy map to explain your rights:

And then, of course, Linux OS modifications are a whole other ball of wax. Of course, unless there are any kernel hackers in the class, we probably don't need to worry about that.

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