About these ads

What’s the Story of Your Life?

In the recent post Who Is Your Information Filter?, I noted that individuals are emerging as leaders in the distribution of information. These Information Filters have good judgment as to what their subscribers like.

But there is certainly more to the being a good filter. Here’s an example of what I mean. Dare Obasanjo wrote a post titled Giving Sh*t Away is not a Business Strategy. Eric Rice and I both shared the post on July 12. Check out the results on FriendFeed:

The Likes and comments on Eric’s share included some folks who are subscribed to me.

This is the sort of thing that I love to explore. What makes people respond to the sharing of identical content from one person, but not another?

Interactions and relationships are an important part. Robert Scoble made this point in a comment on FriendFeed.

There’s an additional factor as well. Here’s one way to describe it:

  1. Experience and passions make up your narrative, the story of your life.
  2. A narrative gives context.
  3. Context loads the information you share with meaning.
  4. Meaning draws interest by others.

This takes a little explaining.

A Lesson in Mark Rothko’s Paintings

Mark Rothko was an abstract painter, famous for paintings of rectangles (multiforms) with different colors. His life shared the drama that seems to mark many great artists. He was Jewish, and saw the persecution of Jews in Czarist Russia. His family emigrated to the United states. He was highly intelligent, rapidly advancing through school and receiving a scholarship to Yale. He divorced twice. He drank heavily. He ultimately committed suicide.

And yet he was pivotal in the abstract movement of the mid-1900s. He hated being called an “abstract artist”, but he was leader in the genre. His is a rich history of art, intellect and  experimentation.

Growing up, I’d see art like his and think, “I could paint that. What’s so special about that painting?” Typical punk kid.

But to that point, I went ahead and tried my hand at painting in the Rothko style. Below are a painting by Mark Rothko, and one by my own hand:

This was my first painting effort since middle school. Please pardon the brush strokes.

With practice, I could get the hang of the brush strokes. With time, I bet I could replicate Mark Rothko’s style pretty well.

Which would make me a hell of an abstract painter, right?

Obviously, the answer is no. Even if I could duplicate the style, no one would care. Why? I don’t have a narrative to back it up. I didn’t come up with the style, I wasn’t a participant in the abstract movement, I’m not a student of art or of Rothko, I’m not a painter.

The silly adolescent that I was didn’t want to understand that. And yet understanding the importance of Rothko’s narrative imbues his paintings so much meaning.

There is a lesson here in terms of people who shine as Information Filters.

The Information You Share Fits a Larger Narrative

The context surrounding a piece of content is an important, underestimated component of what makes it valuable to an audience. If Thomas Hawk and I were to favorite the same photo on Zooomr, I suspect Thomas’s favorite would garner more Likes and comments on FriendFeed than would mine. Which makes all the sense in the world.

Thomas is a professional photographer, shooting photos for magazines and other media. He regularly blogs about issues affecting photography. He’s the CEO of a photo sharing site. When he shares a photo, you know he “gets” a wide range of attributes for that photo:

  • Lighting
  • Subject matter
  • Angle
  • Lens
  • Dimensions
  • Etc.

Me? I’m just a dude who likes a picture. The pictures I share lack a larger narrative.

Curious about this, I took a look at my Google Reader shares on FriendFeed. Here are five that received the most attention (excluding my own blog post shares), and five with no Likes or comments:

My online narrative is really defined by this blog. So the lists above don’t surprise me. The five that fit my narrative are consistent with blogging, information consumption and distribution, and enterprise 2.0. The five that don’t fit my narrative reflect themes I generally don’t hit on here: online advertising, acquisitions, SAAS and the environment.

Does that mean I should stop sharing them? Hell no! But it does show that the people who subscribe to me have particular interests, consistent with my narrative.

Attention Paid to A-Listers: It’s Not Just Hero Worship

I do think there’s an important point to be made. Sometimes people get exasperated that something they’ve blogged about or posted didn’t get a lot of traction, while an A-Lister talks about the same thing and everyone falls over themselves to Like, comment, share the content, etc. This is generally ascribed to an overly worshipful flock. I’m sure there’s a bit of truth in that.

However, I think an overlooked element is that a lot of the well-known figures out on the web have a strong narrative.

When they share something, it’s really part of the larger narrative they’ve been sharing with a lot of people over time.

What’s Your Story?

I bring up A-Listers because its a familiar meme. But there are regular people who have a particularly strong narrative in a subject area. You see people reacting to the content they share, because it fits what they’re about.

Strong narratives make people strong Information Filters.

How about you? What’s the story of your life?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

About these ads

Cuil and Business Models: Complement, Replace or Create?

Cuil went live Monday. The new search engine promises dramatically better search results:

Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance. When we find a page with your keywords, we stay on that page and analyze the rest of its content, its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency.

Cuil went live with an incredibly high level of publicity. Alas, the promise of the company’s press release has not been met initially:

So Cuil has its work cut out.  And Cuil is running into the classic 9x problem anyway. As Harvard professor John Gourville explains it, new products need to be nine times better than the product they replace. Two parts to that nine times rationale:

  1. Risk aversion: the market will overvalue the incumbent product, with all its warts and limitations, because the benefits are certain and entrenched
  2. Uncertainty: the described benefits of the new product may not be realized

Three Philosophies to Building Products

I lack any build-your-own-company experience, so my observations are those of an outsider looking in. From what I see, companies build products that do one of the following:

Each product strategy entails its own risks and rewards.

Complement Strategy

In the Complement strategy, companies plug into an installed based and existing ecosystem. They see an opportunity to improve the functionality of the existing product.

The nice thing with the Complement Strategy is that there is a defined market. The incumbent provider has done the hard work of creating it. And the way customers use the incumbent product is well-known, so creating an experience consistent with that makes the new company’s job easier.

The Complement Strategy company ties its fortunes to the incumbent’s installed base and future product roadmap.  A nice exit strategy is to be acquired by the incumbent. There is the risk that the incumbent company will just add the feature on their own to their product.

One good example was Summize. Summize built a very nice search application in support of Twitter. Summize didn’t ask you to use it for micro-blogging. It worked on top of Twitter, making up for a limitation in twitter: search.

9 times better impact: Companies that pursue the Complement Strategy buys themselves a much easier time of it. The issue of risk aversion is put to bed because customers are not asked to give up their existing products.

Replace Strategy

The company that pursues the Replace Strategy aims to dislodge the incumbent. This is a tough thing to do. Customers know what they value in the existing product. They know how to work around the limitations of the products. They built their own processes around the product.

That’s going to be tough to disrupt. But the rewards are terrific. Typically, the incumbent has a large market size. The customers’ use cases are well-developed, and the shortcomings of the existing product are easy to identify.

Still, it takes ripping out a lot of entrenched processes and mindset to replace.

The iPhone is a good example of a product successfully employing the Replace Strategy. Not that it has actually replaced the bast majority of existing mobile phones yet. But it has gotten vital traction in the mobile market and is carving out its share.

9 times better impact. This strategy is the one that runs hardest into the issue of a product needing to be nine times better than what it replaces. Customers are going to overvalue what they have, and the completeness and reliability of the replacement product will be questioned.

Create Strategy

The Create Strategy is a storied one in the world of entrepreneurship. To create a whole new category of usage. Companies that pursue this are riding the visionary edge. Fun place to be.

The landscape is littered with companies that have tried this approach. That’s the big risk with this approach. It takes a lot of experimentation to find the new products that resonate with the market and really change people’s experience.

If a company hits on success in creating a new category, it will enjoy first mover advantages. These are important as Replace Strategy competitors inevitably crop up.

Twitter is an example of this. Twitter is the leader in the micro-blogging/social messaging movement. Other companies are trying to move into the space (Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, Identi.ca), but Twitter continues to enjoy a dominant position.

9 times better impact. This strategy has an easier time relative to the nine times better requirement. The Create Strategy does have replacement aspects, but they’re often more time replacement issues. Using Twitter as an example, Twitterers were likely replacing some of their activity on email, instant messenger and social networks. But they really weren’t replacing those. Twitter stands on its own merits, not in comparison to other apps.

Diigo: A Hybrid Case

Diigo is a new bookmark and tagging service. Ultimately, Diigo would like to replace Del.icio.us as users’ go-to site for bookmarking (Replace Strategy). But Diigo is being sm,art about it. They have made it easy for sites bookmarked in Diigo to be exported over to Del.icio.us at the same time. So by bookmarking in Diigo, users are suimultaneous bookmarking in Del.icio.us. In this way, Diigo is also pursuing the Complement Strategy. This allows users to get comfortable with Diigo while not losing their existing investment in Del.icio.us.

Cuil: The Challenge of the Replace Strategy

Google Search has en established brand. It has a huge share of mind. People have Google Toolbars. Google Search is a popular add-on to the Firtefox browser. Google Search powers myriad corporate websites.

Louis Gray has a nice post describing the challenge start-ups face when they take on incumbents. Often they start out with dreams of becoming the next big thing, but may have to settle for niche market positions.

Cuil’s initial approach is one of being better than Google Search. Not carving out a particular niche. But based on the initial feedback, Cuil has not come anywhere near being nine times better than Google Search. Cuil is not trying to create a new category. It is not trying to complement existing search. It is firmly in the Replace Strategy mode. Here are its options:

  • Completely replace Google Search: continue to compete against Google for more content that is searched and superior relevance.
  • Replace Google Search for a niche segment: be better than Google at just one thing. But really be nine times better.

Might there be a hybrid strategy for Cuil? You get your Google search results, but get to see what Cuil found? Perhaps like dogpile.com. Not sure how that would work though. And it really doesn’t address the entrenched ecosystem that Google has.

Choose Your Strategy with Care

Dave Winer makes a nice point when it comes to competing against an incumbent like google:

Google is a thriving coral reef, and one doesn’t just show up one day with an idea and compete with an ecosystem.

I don’t know if the Replace Strategy or the Create Strategy is harder. Both have their challenges. It seems Complement Strategy is the easiest, but probably has the lowest market potential.

What do you think? Did I miss any other product market strategies?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Cuil+and+Business+Models%3A+Complement%2C+Replace+or+Create%3F%22&public=1

Who Is Your Information Filter?

This comment by Michael C. Harris on FriendFeed the other day caught my eye:

Heaps of fantastic shares from unknowns get almost completely ignored and yet Scoble shares “Scoble” and gets 50 comments

Michael is hitting on something very important. In FriendFeed, not all shared items are created equal. I’ve noticed some people are really good at getting people to click through on a shared item and start a conversation.

I think of these people as the new Information Filters. They have a knack for getting their subscribers to check out stuff they find interesting. More so than your average social media user.

Over time, a logical outcome would be this: as the Information Filters share information with their subscribers, click-throughs and comments occur on that content. Which attracts new people into the discussion. Who then subscribe to the Information Filter. Which increases the click-throughs and comments. Repeat…

Good Information Filters can find themselves with a lot of power to direct traffic, and subtly influence what others take in when it comes to information. This isn’t without precedent. Television and the web are prior examples of this.

Migration of News Consumption Habits

Both television and the web have seen changes in the way people get their news. In both TV and the web, the changes are based on the strength of someone’s personality and judgment as to what the audience wants:

In 2004, CNN reported a Pew Research Center survey of news viewing habits. The survey found that 21% of people aged 18 – 29 got their news on the presidential election from Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live. A follow-up report “Where Americans Go for News” by Pew also noted:

During these late night hours, many young people are tuning into comedy shows such as David Letterman and Jay Leno. Those under age 30 are among the most likely to watch these types of shows 17% watch Leno or Letterman regularly, compared with 8% of 30-49 year-olds and 12% of those age 50 and older.

What do Jon Stewart, David Letterman and Jay Leno offer that the traditional news broadcasts don’t? Humor, obviously. They also get to pick the most interesting news items for their shows. NBC News anchor Brian Williams noted the obligation of professional news organizations to offer news that likely doesn’t interest most audiences:

Some people call it ‘eat your peas’ journalism because it has to include everything that’s good for you to know to be a good citizen of the world. We put it out there.

In this comment, you see the larger societal obligation felt by the mainstream news media. They cover everything, even the stuff you don’t care for. There’s a tension between ensuring people get a full range of information about our multi-faceted world, and what people are willing to pay attention to.

The web has undergone a similar change in reading habits. Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report has eclipsed traditional news outlets in terms of influence. From The Telegraph’s article Matt Drudge: world’s most powerful journalist:

So much internet traffic can be directed to an item linked to by Drudge that unprepared websites have been known to collapse under the strain.

For politicians, the effect is akin to a needle injecting information into the media bloodstream. A positive story can give a shot of adrenaline to a flagging campaign. More commonly, negative information can be like a dose of poison being administered.

Drudge rose to prominence when he famously put the Monica Lewinsky story in play. Since then, his traffic has grown enormously. It’s not just about that one scoop. Drudge has a good sense about what is newsworthy. From the Washington Post blog The Fix:

The second major reason for Drudge’s influence, according to the Fix’s informal poll of Drudge-ologists is his ability to sniff out a potentially big story when others — including reporters — miss it at first glance.

“He can identify what’s a big deal even when the reporters who actually cover and report on an event don’t realize what they have,” said one GOP strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly. “He scoops reporters’ scoops.”

What do Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Jay Leno and Matt Drudge have in common?

  • They don’t actually find and report news (for the most part)
  • They only present what they find interesting
  • They have shrewd judgment as to what audiences will like
  • Their personalities are part of their effectiveness as news filters – people trust them

Each of these guys have emerged as a key Information Filter.  New social media platforms, such as FriendFeed, are starting to see the emergence of their own Information Filters.

You Are Who You Follow

This is something Robert Scoble emphasizes: you define yourself by who you follow. Early FriendFeed employee Kevin Fox described the general role of your friends on FriendFeed:

The nature of FriendFeed is that you start to think that the world is like you, because your friends shape your FF world. I think the FF world is full of Obama supporters, and other people thing it’s full of Twitterers. Pick your friends wisely because they define your FF.

In an equal world, information shared by any of your friends will merit click-throughs and discussion. But the practical reality is that some people will be more “equal” than others in terms of driving the discussion agenda. There are two highly correlated components to that:

  • Number of subscribers
  • Reputation for identifying what is interesting

The sheer number of subscribers make some people Information Filters. The big power users on Twitter: Leo Laporte, Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, etc. These guys really drive discussions around ideas, opinions and news. If you subscribe, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the discussions they can kick off.

The reputation for finding interesting stuff is a little harder. Like Matt Drudge and Jon Stewart, you need to have a sense for what people want to know and find interesting. Some people are naturals at this, but I think anyone can learn how to identify interesting stuff.

Louis Gray is a really good Information Filter. Out of curiosity, I took at look at the last 30 Google Reader shares he put into FriendFeed. And I compared them to my last 30. I wanted to analyze the interaction around them: Likes, comments.

The chart to the right graphs the total Likes and comments for the 30 Google Reader shares of each of us. Louis is clearly good at putting things out there and having people discuss them. You’ll see the Likes and comments on his shares are double mine.

I consider Louis to be one of my Information Filters. He’s great at identifying the good stuff. And he takes this role seriously. He wrote a post Roll Your Own Blog Leaderboard with Google Reader Trends, in which he identifies the blogs he’s sharing most often.

The Effects of Our Information Filters

NBC News’ Brian Williams had this to say in response to the increasing application of personal filters to news:

Do you have a problem with people personalizing the news vs. you saying ‘these are the top stories’? Is there a danger in that if you give people too much personalization?

Williams: That’s for others to decide. I will say that if you’re using a filter, if you wake up in the morning and you have loaded up your computer, in other words to say, ‘Foreign news totally bums me out, this Iraq thing, it just ruins my day. Keep it away from me.’ Is that what [James] Madison had in mind, do you think? Is that what [John] Adams and [Ben] Franklin and [Thomas] Jefferson had in mind? Did they expect a little more informed electorate, to quote Mr. Jefferson? Did they expect a little more from us as citizens? I can’t judge people.

Democracy, on the other hand, looking at the argument, it’s their right [to filter]. I’m a lover of news and information, I’m a lover of American history, it’s my hobby. So if I had my druthers… Some people call it ‘eat your peas’ journalism because it has to include everything that’s good for you to know to be a good citizen of the world. We put it out there.

I can’t start programming the ‘NBC Nightly News’ with just the news that doesn’t bum people out. Just the news they want to see and hear. But I can’t stop someone from using filters, from using pay-as-you-go technology to get what they want. I will probably have my own opinion in a couple years about what we’ve become as a society as a result of if we stop getting the news that’s at all negative.

There’s a similar concern about over-reliance on our Information Filters in social media. That it becomes too easy to rely on what they find, and put in front of us. Robert Scoble asked a question that touched on this recently:

Hmm, how come you all like commenting on Google Reader Shared Items here in FriendFeed but you all do so little Google Reader reading yourselves?

Check it out for a good discussion around the merits of using FriendFeed exclusively for reading new blog posts.

Choose Your Information Filters Carefully

Brian Williams alluded to the “eat your peas” element of being an informed citizen. That is, take in information even when it doesn’t interest you. But that’s really fighting against human nature. We’re time-constrained, and social media has made it easier than ever to perpetuate our natural tendency to rely on the advice of friends for what is interesting.

So really, the best thing to do is to choose your Information Filters wisely.

What do you think? How do you select your Information Filters?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Who+Is+Your+Information+Filter%3F%22&public=1

Weekly Recap 072508: Twittering into the Mainstream

Twitter got some big play this week: 2 good, 1 bad…let’s start with good…

USA Today had a nice feature on Twitter, Twitter took off from simple to ‘tweet’ success…this quote from the article really gets it right about Twitter these days…

Twitter has become so popular, so fast, that keeping up with its fast-growing user base is a real issue. So many people now use Twitter to update friends that the system often crashes.

The outages are the markers of a company that is experiencing success beyond its expectations…

The New York Times ran a story about how companies use Twitter, blogs and other social media to keep up with customer issues and questions…

If you’re scoring at home, that’s two mainstream, huge-circulation newspapers writing positive stories about Twitter this week…if you wonder a couple years from now how Twitter became so mainstream, remember weeks like this…

But not all was well with Twitter this week…the company inexplicably chopped off subscribers from every user…there were a lot of pissed Twitterers…people threatened to leave Twitter…but when the followers were restored?…

Temporary retraction .. comes back up 50 more followers ? I can’t help it … it’s sticky”

Twitter’s je ne sais quoi

*****

I’ve never said jailbreaking

*****

SmugMug seems to have figured out FriendFeed’s visual dynamics…SmugMug pictures come thorugh big, bright and beautiful on FriendFeed, especially compared to Flickr pictures…

SmugMug pix on FriendFeed, courtesy of Dave Cohen:

Dave Cohen SmugMug Pictures

Dave Cohen SmugMug Pictures

Same pix, this time Flickr on FriendFeed:

Dave Cohen Flickr Pictures

Dave Cohen Flickr Pictures

Great advertisement for SmugMug…and the little guy is cute regardless of the photo service…

*****

Noticed a change in my Google Reader shares these days…I’m tending to share blog posts that I haven’t already seen a few times on FriendFeed…that means fewer TechCrunch shares…more emphasis on those nuggets that haven’t seen wide circulation yet…

Figured people were seeing the big blogs enough already…

*****

I got to do a guest post on Louis Gray’s blog this week…really good reactions out there in the blogosphere, which was great…blogger Barry Schwartz thought enough of the post that he wrote his own post in response, Am I Losing the Connection?

Unfortunately, Barry got the author wrong…he overlooked the “guest post” announcement at the start of the post, and naturally figured Louis wrote it…from Barry’s post…

  • Louis Gray wrote a blog post named Bloggers’ Interactions With Readers Decrease With Prominence
  • Louis Gray documents what are “interactions:”
  • “It’s these two dynamics that cause some bloggers to head onto the next stage,” explains Louis.

Sigh…I am happy the post resonated, but it’d be nice to get a little recognition…so I left a comment on Barry’s post a few days ago:

Barry – glad you liked the post. One small correction – I actually wrote that particular post. Louis was kind enough to let me guest post on his blog.

As for losing your connection to the industry. Look to people like Fred Wilson and Louis Gray as examples. I don’t think any blogger should feel the need to connect with every reader. Just like connecting anywhere else – pick your spots, right?

Despite the comment, Barry hasn’t updated his blog…Barry – you’re losing touch with your readers!…

Well, I’m not alone…Rob Diana wrote a piece on Louis’s blog, Can Microblogs Just Talk to Each Other?…Dave Winer thought it was Louis’s post…such are the benefits and perils of guest blogging…

*****

According to Allen Stern, Mahalo employees are busily writing articles for Google Knol…Unsure of Google Knol’s future impact on his company Mahalo, Jason Calacanis is making sure they have plenty of articles with links pointing to Mahalo pages…

*****

Plan to buy an iPhone this week, if they have inventory

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Weekly+Recap+072508%3A+Twittering+into+the+Mainstream%22&public=1

Unclear on the Concept: People Complaining about Comcast Monitoring Social Media

The New York Times has an article today about Comcast using social media to respond to customer complaints. Comcast is definitely at the forefront of this move to engage customers out in the wild. Comcast’s efforts have previously been documented on ReadWriteWeb. New York Times coverage helps move the concept, and Twitter, closer to mainstream adoption.

What caught my eye in the NYT article is that some people are concerned about Comcast doing this. They feel like Comcast is acting like Big Brother. According to the article, 20 year-old Brandon Dilbeck blogged about his dislike of ads on Comcast’s programming guide. A Comcast representative found the post (Google blog alert perhaps?), and responded to him via email.

Hey dude! Your blog had some impact! Isn’t that cool?

Well, no. The blogger apparently thought it was weird:

Mr. Dilbeck found it all a bit creepy. “The rest of his e-mail may as well have read, ‘Big Brother is watching you,’ ” he said.

Here’s what I don’t get. Blogs are publicly available. Anyone can find a blog and comment on it. Sometimes, your blog posts result in actions you wouldn’t have expected. This is the power of Web 2.0.

If you’re going to write publicly, how on earth can you be concerned about Big Brother? Sure, if Comcast had monitored his email or phone conversations, that’d be Big Brother (and illegal).

But to air your concerns publicly and have someone from the company read it? If you’re concerned someone would actually read your post, then don’t blog. I’m actually surprised this 20 year old was concerned. The Gen Y folks are supposed to be pretty open about everything in their lives. Maybe Mel McBride is right when she made this comment on FriendFeed with regard to Facebook:

I’m just getting tired of dopes buying into the surveillance of their personal history, daily activities and personal associations as a “convenience” – wake up people.

Social media: If you write it, do it or video it, people can find it. That’s the great opportunity for all of us.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Unclear+on+the+Concept%3A+People+Complaining+about+Comcast+Monitoring+Social+Media%22&public=1

Google Knol: A Massive Blogging Platform

Google opened up its Knol service on Wednesday July 23. From the Google blog:

The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web. An enormous amount of information resides in people’s heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.

Allow millions of people to freely write up their own thoughts and contribute knowledge. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…

You know what Knol is? It’s a blogging platform. A hosted, multi-author blogging platform

As Mathew Ingram notes, Knol is compared to Wikipedia and Mahalo. Here’s how I’d break down the three services.

  • Wikipedia is a wiki
  • Mahalo is an editor-controlled links aggregation site
  • Knol is a giant blogging site

Wikipedia is a collaborative effort toward creating a single information page. Mahalo is handpicked information created in a top-down fashion by experts. Knol is a bunch of separate blog posts on a given subject.

I Wrote My First Google Knol

To find out more about Google Knol, I decided to write up a knol. My knol is Using FriendFeed to Increase Blog Readership. I took my old post Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day, and got rid of the comparisons to StumbleUpon and Digg. The knol focuses on how FriendFeed is actually good for bloggers.

I figured that post was a good one to start with. It got Likes from FriendFeed co-founders Paul Buchheit and Bret Taylor:

The post was also (ironically) quite popular with Stumblers. So I cleaned up the references to other sites and added some things around attention optimization.

Yup, I was ready to rock-n-knol.

Knol = Blogging

The process of creating a knol was really easy:

  1. Go to knol.google.com
  2. Click on “Write a knol”
  3. Sign in with your Google account
  4. Start writing

I thought there might be some sort of test to prove my expertise, or some approval period while someone checked my credentials. Nope.  It was just another Google Accounts sign-up.

The process reminded me of signing up for wordpress.com and starting to write. Here’s the knol blogging interface:

Once I got in there, it was just like blogging. I wrote my paragraphs. Created section titles. Added graphics.

I did assume a somewhat more professorial tone in the knol than I do here.

Knols Allow Some Wiki-Like Collaboration on Blog Posts

The overall Knol site is not itself a wiki. But there are wiki elements available for individual knols. Three collaboration options are available, set by th author:

  1. Wide open editing by anyone who is signed in
  2. Moderated editing – all edits must be approved by the author
  3. No editing – no one except the author can make changes

So there could be knols that are set up as true community build-out efforts (#1 option above). That’s pretty much Wikipedia. The difference is that there may be several knols on a given subject – some by solo authors, some by a group of collaborators. Wikipedia has only a single page per subject.

Knols Allow Comments – Just Like Blogs

People can make comments on your knol. A good discussion can occur around a subject. This is just like a blog.

Knols Allow Ads – Just Like Blogs

An author can elect to allow ads to appear beside the knol. I did this, signing up for Google AdSense for the first time in my life. I don’t expect to earn a penny, but I want to see what ads run there.

Blogs, of course, can also have ads.

Knol Includes an Author Profile – Just Like Blogs

When you create your first knol, Google automatically creates a second one for you: your profile page (link to mine). A really nice feature that, again, is a hallmark of blogs (the About page).

Aside from a  bio, the profile page includes a listing of the knols that someone has written.

What’s the Difference Between Google Knols and WordPress.com?

Really, there’s no reason the content of knols will differ that much from blogs. I searched for “back pain” on Google Knol and WordPress.com. Here are two results:

The knol is the more scholarly of the two. But the wordpress.com blog holds its own in terms of information.

There are two key differences from what I can see:

  1. Brand. Knol is branded as an expert/knowledge site. Blogs are that, but also include a lot of opinion and first-person experiences.
  2. Ranking. Readers can rate a knol on a 1-5 star scale. These rankings will help the best content emerge at the top of search results.

Google knols may also have better “Google juice” than most blogs. Search Engine Land suspects knols will inherit a Google page rank advantage in search results.

Try Writing a Knol!

For me, writing a knol was a lot less pressure than adding to a Wikipedia entry. It was just like writing a blog post. Now I am conscious of the purpose of knol, and don’t expect to fill it with my blog posts. But perhaps over time people will be less wary of adding opinion to knols. From the Google blog post introducing Knol:

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

Note the inclusion of opinion in there. Once you open that up, you’ve fundamentally got blogging. Knol might be good for people who don’t want to maintain a full blog, but would love to write a few articles providing knowledge and opinion.

Go take a look at the knol I wrote (link). Please rate it. Comment on it. I’m curious what all that interaction looks like.

And then go blog your own knol. If you do, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Google+Knol%3A+A+Massive+Blogging+Platform%22&public=1

The New Facebook Newsfeed: Slow. Over-engineered. I Like It.

Facebook recently rolled out several changes related to activity streams and commenting. As TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington noted, these changes represent the “Friendfeedization” of Facebook. The changes include the ability to import activities from other services (e.g. Twitter, blogs, Last.fm, etc.).

Before looking at these changes, let’s take a moment to understand Facebook’s market position. Recent numbers indicate that Facebook continues its tremendous growth. Mashable’s Adam Ostrow reported that Facebook had a terrific June in the United States:

According to Nielsen Online, Facebook swelled to 29.2M unique visitors in the US, up more than 10 percent from May.

It’s clear the site continues to do well with larger numbers of mainstream users. But among the tech cognoscenti, there is a different view of Facebook. Dave Winer wrote this on FriendFeed:

Am I the only one who doesn’t give a flying fcuk about Facebook?

There were a number of concurring comments. And that’s fair. I really haven’t been on Facebook much in the last several months.

But Facebook is definitely working to improve the experience on its site. Now one might argue that with mainstream users’ growth, what do they need to do? From my perspective, they need to make the site more interactive.

So we have the new changes. Let’s look at them.

Services Import = More You, More Activity

Definitely a component of the FriendFeedization. Having been on FriendFeed for several months, I’ve gained a healthy appreciation for others’ content: Flickr photos, Last.fm music, blogs, tweets, direct posts of cool and funny stuff. It really is like people are TV channels on FriendFeed.

Bringing these into Facebook is a great complement to the usual apps and group joining that seems to dominate the newsfeed. It will be nice to see more of the things my friends like.

Hopefully it will help the level of activity on the site. Compared to FriendFeed’s Mississippi River of content, Facebook is a quiet brook.

Newsfeed Rules Make the Activity Stream Pretty Quiet

Facebook has rules that govern what content makes it into the newsfeed of members. This is a difference to the wide open flow of Friendfeed. In FriendFeed, users control the noise. In Facebook, the site controls the noise. And according to TechCrunch, those noise control rules will be updated. It will be harder for many apps’ activity to make it into the newsfeed.

Great for managing those annoying app updates. But not so good for fostering increased interaction around users’ activities, as only a fraction of them will get through. A half-commitment to lifestreaming.

Maybe it’s just me, but my newsfeed is dominated by Facebook photos. Keep those in there, but I’d like to see a greater variety of entries show up.

Commenting = Great Addition, Wish It Was More “In the Flow”

This is the most direct FriendFeedization feature: commenting on the activities of friends. I really love this feature. Previously, it was see something in the newsfeed, then go post a message to the person. Nice that it’s all bundled together now. Conversation around activities.

I already received some benefit from the feature. I now know of a website that will tell me where iPhones are available. How’d that happen? I commented on an item on my Facebook newsfeed:

My friend Amy isn’t on FriendFeed. But her status update, my question, and her response, are exactly the kinds of interactions that regularly occur on FriendFeed.

One observation about the commenting. After someone responds to a comment on their entry, the ‘comment’ button disappears. No chance to follow-up commenting in the main newsfeed. You can see this in the graphic above. There’s no ‘comment’ button to click.

You can go to the user’s profile page and post a follow-up comment. So it is possible to continue the conversation, but Facebook takes it out of the newsfeed flow.

One other point versus FriendFeed. In Facebook, you get notifications of comments on an item. This contrasts with FriendFeed’s “bounce to the top” approach of seeing new comments. Notifications are just fine for me.

Facebook Is Still a Little Strange to this FriendFeed Addict

FriendFeed is very good with presenting content and letting users make quick interactions around it. Facebook isn’t quite that. Consider this exchange. My sister had an update in the Facebook newsfeed from one of her apps. Here’s how that conversation went:

My sister’s update: Helen has updated the Cities I’ve Visited map, by TripAdvisor.

Me: Which city?

My sister: Which city, what? ;-)

So I’d have to add the TripAdvisor app to my profile, then navigate over to my sister’s profile, and figure out what my sister updated. Painful.

Facebook Is Slow and Heavy

Facebook is very slow. Every page takes forever to load. Facebook’s slowness is a restrictor plate on interactions there.

Robert Scoble talked with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about this, and posted this comment on FriendFeed:

Mark Zuckerberg and I talked about FriendFeed today. He says he likes the search engine here. Explained that Facebook’s scale is slowing them down. Says that 90 million users make things go slow.

In that FriendFeed thread, Duncan Riley points out that Google Search is lightning fast with billions of users. But to be fair, Google Search doesn’t need to access everyone’s individual rules, settings and apps loaded specifically to everyone’s page. Doesn’t make the slowness any better though.

Facebook Status Updates Are the Best Comment Fodder

The status updates are great because they provide a natural basis for conversation. The things people do are those things which they’re most likely going to talk about. As the experience with my sister’s TripAdvisor app shows, commenting on actvities with apps is a little more painful.

One of my friends did include a blog post about Pandora and the iPhone in her newsfeed. I clicked on that, read the post, and came back to the newsfeed to make a comment. Felt very FriendFeed-ish.

I ‘Like’ the New Facebook Newsfeed

All that being said, I do like the new newsfeed.I have a whole circle ofd friends who do not hang out on FriendFeed. And the stuff that makes up their streams is different from those I follow on FriendFeed.

It’s a slower pace over on Facebook, but that’s OK for what it is. I use FriendFeed to learn information and points of view. I use Facebook to keep track of all those other little life details.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+New+Facebook+Newsfeed%3A+Slow.+Over-engineered.+I+Like+It.%22&public=1

My Cameo Appearance on Louis Gray’s Blog

I had a chance to do a cameo blog post over on Louis Gray’s blog. You can see it right now, Bloggers’ Interactions With Readers Decrease With Prominence.The gist of the post is this:

One observation to make is this: the level of interaction seems to vary by the blogger’s level of established reputation. As a blogger gets more well-known on the Web, the level of interaction declines.

This was my first-ever guest blog post. I’ve seen others do it. Pretty neat, ain’t it? Here are some things that occurred to me as a I wrote it.

Louis’s blog is a lot bigger than mine. Per Technorati, Louis is a Top 5,000 blogger. A much bigger audience than mine. He’s a regular on Techmeme. I always want to put my best content here, but I have some coverage if a post doesn’t get much traction. People who read this blog know me, and have a sense of what I’ll write n the future.  Over on Louis’s blog, there’s a much bigger audience. They’ve come to expect a certain quality. Louis’s expectations became my expectations.

The chart below is the one I used in the guest post on Louis’s blog:

Louis is a Stage 3 blogger. With that, some of the crazy experimentation I like to do (such as my stick man representation of social media interactions) is not appropriate on his blog. I was cognizant of that.

I picked a subject that is consistent with Louis’s overall blog. The role of bloggers, and their interactions is the kind of subject that Louis regularly covers. I wanted a post that fit his “brand”. So I didn’t write one of my Enterprise 2.0 pieces, because that’s not something he covers.

I took forever to write it. Weirdly, it just took me longer to finish up this post than it usually does. Probably for the two reasons listed above.

A lot of fun, and I thank Louis for letting me rent his blog for a day. Go check out my post on his blog:

http://www.louisgray.com/live/2008/07/bloggers-interactions-with-readers.html

UPDATE: My guest blog post made it onto Techmeme: http://www.techmeme.com/080722/p142#a080722p142

Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?

I’m in the market for a new phone. And I’m pretty damn easy.

Apple has now released the next version of its phone, the 3G iPhone. With all the buzz around it, it’s hard not to consider buying one. But before taking the plunge, I wanted to understand what I’m getting myself into. I also wanted to consider what many people claim is a superior phone on the market, the Nokia N95.

But first, about my being pretty damn easy…

I’m a Mobile Phone Luddite

When I bought my current mobile phone, I really didn’t want all the fancy stuff. Just the ability to talk to someone. And that’s just what I got with my Nokia Sprint phone, pictured below:

Not much “smart” about that phone. Just cheap and functional. Any phone that does the things I list in the picture above will be a quantum leap forward for me. Obviously, I’m no early adopter.

Hence, I’m easy when it comes to smart phones.

Apple iPhone vs. Nokia N95

The crux of the argument seems to boil down to this:

  • 3G iPhone offers a superior web browsing experience
  • N95 offers superior camera and actually has video

Oh, there are other things…

Apps for the iPhone are supposed to be really cool. But I’m really not interested in Tap Tap Revenge. One thing I learned from Facebook is that most of these little apps grow boring quite quickly. However, there’s always the possibility that some interesting app will be developed.

There’s also Apple’s closed platform and restrictive DRM, which means all development requires approval of Apple. But considering that I’ve been using a phone without anything that would cause such concern, I’m mostly unconcerned about this as well.

The Knocks Against the iPhone

Here are the the biggest knocks I’ve seen on the iPhone. Gotta know what could ruin my day if I buy one.

Short battery life. This consistently comes up as a negative for the iPhone. It sounds awful, especially in comparison to my current lowly Nokia phone. The battery on that phone can last for days. But it sounds like any 3G smart phone may suffer a similar battery life issue. Here’s what GigaOm said about the Nokia N95:

The battery on this device [Nokia N95] simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off.

Apple does provide tips for preserving battery life. In addition, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reports that a simple change to one feature – push email – can dramatically improve battery life.

Crappy camera, no video. There’s no getting around this one. The iPhone’s 2 mega pixel camera is woeful compared to the N95′s 5 mega pixel. Here’s a picture that Fred Wilson took with the N95:

Look at that quality! And with two young children, I think great pictures would be nice. Not to mention the ability to do easy video.

Forced to go with AT&T. This is a big one for many folks. They don’t like AT&T for whatever reason. AT&T appears to have good 3G coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area. But outside the region, coverage gets dicey. As Robert Scoble tweeted about his drive from southern California back to the Bay Area:

Out of the past 7.5 hours of driving we have had 3G for less than an hour. AT&T needs to do a much better job at coverage.

My Sprint phone actually has pretty bad coverage inside my house. So I’m not sure AT&T can get much worse, unless I was unable to get any signal. I did ask about what happens when 3G isn’t available on FriendFeed (comment on Scoble’s tweet). Here’s what Zach Flauaus said:

The iPhone’s priority is 3G, then EDGE, then GPRS. Aka: Fast, ehh… And “Oh hell no!”

So even if I can’t surf the web, I get a phone signal. OK…I probably can live with that.

The new apps crash the iPhone. Let me repeat that: NEW APPS CRASH THE iPHONE! Tim O’Reilly describes the laments of iPhone users and their crashing phones. He includes a Summize Twitter search for iPhone crash. The search reults are frightening:

  • “so it seems writing mobile applications is not such a trivial task. On the iPhone they crash like crazy”
  • “first iPhone crash since I restored it 4 days ago, I guess my strategy has worked, and coincidently it crashed on a newly installed app”
  • “Experienced my first iPhone app crash tonight. Screen turned black. After a few tries the phone came back to life but I deleted the app.”
  • “Just had my first iPhone app crash. Facebook!”

Sounds like it’s best to avoid putting apps on the iPhone for the time being. But I am hopeful about  downloading some good apps down the road.

No copy and paste. Honestly, this one doesn’t bother me so much…yet. The iPhone doesn’t support a clip board to copy things you find. My initial reaction is “so what?”. But I”ll probably want that. One example: wordpress.com’s new iPhone interface. You can post blog entries from the iPhone. As you can see in this post, I’m a huge fan of copy-n-paste. Not having this feature could chafe.

The Nokia N95 Knock: Web Surfing Is Bad

The N95 does include web surfing and email. But this is what I’ve been reading about that experience:

  • “@Jonathan – does Nokia have a decent web browser?” – Yolanda
    “@Yolanda, no, it’s crap. But there’s Opera mini (http://operamini.com) which is somewhat decent.” – Guillermo Esteves (link)
  • Question: “If you could only take one device to a tropical island would it be a smartphone or a laptop?”
    Robert Scoble: “Assuming I am going on vacation to get away from it all? My Nokia N95. Good camera to take pics and videos of me drinking MaiTais. GPS so I can get around. But hard to use for Web and Email so I am not too tempted.”
  • “After seeing, feeling & experiencing the Web on the iPhone, I Know I need one, even though I have an N95 (hate it for browsing)” (link)
  • Yes, I borrowed a friends N95for a day and they had my Blackberry. Phone quality is important to me with a hearing aid. The web browsing sux on the N95, phone was ok. The camera and video were way cool though, nice but not necessary toys.” (link)

iPhone Gets Some Real Love Though

I’m impressed by the number of people expressing their affection for the iPhone, despite its limitations.

Ryan Spoon blogged: Confessions of a Blackberry Addict – I’ve Moved to the iPhone 3G

Yahoo EVP Jeff Weiner was raving to Tim O’Reilly about his new iPhone, urging him to write something that explains why the iPhone is such a paradigm-shifting device.

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker wrote this in a generally negative piece on the iPhone: “But Mobile Safari’s tabbed browsing convinced me to trade in my principles for convenience. This job requires me to be online everywhere I go, and as far as I could see, the iPhone was the best way to do that.”

And here’s the Twitter search for “love my iPhone“. Look at all that love!

What About You?

So I’m close to making a decision. My use case is more web browsing than picture/video taking. But there are definitely issues with the iPhone.

If you’ve got thoughts about the 3G iPhone or the Nokia N95, I’d love to hear ‘em.

UPDATE: ReadWriteWeb covers the Apple vs. Nokia issue this morning as well here.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Should+I+Buy+the+Apple+3G+iPhone+or+Nokia+N95%3F%22&public=1

Weekly Recap 071808: Define ‘Frienderati’

Literati means intelligentsia…

Intelligentsia means…a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them

Guy Kawasaki’s at it again…he rolled out his latest list of the “Top” in a medium, this time FriendFeed…his Frienderati lists ~100 people on FriendFeed and their 5 most recent entries…I actually follow a number of the people on his list…

But something’s not quite right with his list…Frienderati is a derivative of the term literati…look at that definition above…Frienderati should have a hand in the “development and dissemination” of culture on FriendFeed…

But many of them don’t…Shey Smith wrote Frienderati: Making it Easy to Find Popular Inactives in which he questioned the “-ati” credentials of Guy’s list…his title hits the nail on the head, inactives…

There’s Amber Mac, listed as a “new media journalist”…her FriendFeed stream is all Twitter, and she has 3 comments and 1 Like all time…Paul Kedrosky, “investor, writer, entrepreneur”…he streams his tweets and blog posts…2 comments, 1 like all time…Rebecca Briggs, “helping the world heal from the inside out”…tweets and blog…has never commented or Liked anything in FriendFeed…

The best has to be Guy Kawasaki putting himself on the list…nearly all twitter, which he only added on July 4th…2 comments all time…and there are others with similar levels of inactivity…

In what universe are these people the ones that develop and disseminate the culture of FriendFeed? They barely know it!…Two things at play here…

  1. Guy wants to make sure there are known personalities on his list, because you can’t just have a list with us regular folk who actually are part of the culture
  2. The lifestream aggregator part of FriendFeed is still important. Frienderati looks at FriendFeed as a simple aggregation of the streams of Important People, not as a place of interaction.

The nice thing is that FriendFeed makes it easy for n00bs to find interesting people…friend-of-friend and comments can help users get beyond the Important People…

*****

I’ve never said meh

*****

Mattel, maker of Barbie, won its lawsuit against MGA, maker of Bratz. Mattel alleged that Carter Bryant, a designer at Mattel, created the Bratz concept while under contract for Mattel. Two  pieces of evidence…

  • He used a discarded Barbie body and Ken boots to mock up a concept of Bratz (via LAT)
  • He used a Mattel notebook to write about the Bratz concept (via WSJ – subscription)

I don’t disagree that employees are obligated to provide value to their companies…but the actions of Carter Bryant are probably similar to those that a lot of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have done…imagine if all the big companies came down on ex-employees for taking ideas they started while employed and building their own companies…

*****

Noticing increased use of pictures in FriendFeed direct posts…they really make a post clickable and interesting…I did a quick survey of 100 FriendFeed direct posts in my ‘Friends’ stream…46 of the 100 direct posts had pictures…

And the pictures really work…they tend to dominate the poor text-only links…however, a bunch of comments on a text-only link still is the #1 draw for me…

*****

Interesting comment by Wai Seto regarding the iPhone’s too-short battery life and AT&T…

On the power issue, I have learned that handset receive and transmit power is actually set by the network over the air. The base station can tell the handset to tune down or up real time. The rumor is because AT&T coverage is not very good (not enough base stations?), so they set this setting very high and drain most of their 3G devices pretty quick. The power setting at AT&T is believe to be higher then European operators.

I looked at Wai’s LinkedIn profile, he’s a software architect at Nokia…so I’m thinking he knows what he’s talking about…

*****

Possibly the cutest baby picture ever…

Uploaded to Flickr on July 16…by July 18, it already has 10,732 views…

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Weekly+Recap+071808%3A+Define+%27Frienderati%22&public=1

Wanted: Trackbacks to FriendFeed Entries

Thomas Hawk posted this on FriendFeed:

Want to know why the future of FriendFeed is a search engine? Try this search. http://friendfeed.com/search?q… I get more great blog post ideas and find more valuable information from this search than anyplace else on the web today.

I agree. I use FriendFeed entries as points of illumination for my blog posts. The site has really generated some terrific points of view and information. For a blogger, it’s a terrific hunting ground.

One thing I want: trackbacks. When a blog uses a link to a FriendFeed entry, I’d love a trackback to the blog included in the comments.

I used a FriendFeed entry in the blog post Using FriendFeed for E-Commerce. I’d love for that entry to show a trackback like this:

When a trackback link is added to an entry, it has the same impact as a comment. It bounces the entry to the top of people’s FriendFeed page.

Why do this?

  • Blog post amplifies the entry. Give it the full comment treatment.
  • Acknowledges FriendFeed’s growing role in information creation, distribution and consumption.
  • As a creator of FriendFeed content, I’d love to know how it’s used out there, just like a blogger.

What do you think? Useful?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Wanted%3A+Trackbacks+to+FriendFeed+Entries%22&public=1

Using FriendFeed for E-Commerce

The secret sauce of FriendFeed is the development of a trusted network of referrals and commentary by users. People add users to and prune users from their subscriptions based on how well interests align. Once you subscribe to someone, you develop a good feel for their interests and perspectives over time.

This process lowers the barrier to accepting information from someone, as you learn to trust him or her.

In other words, fertile ground for e-commerce.

Seth Godin had a nice post a few months back, The truth about word of mouth. Here’s a quote from that post:

The truth about word of mouth. It’s hard. Sure, it’s hard for you. Your brand doesn’t get as much as you like. But that’s not what I mean. It’s hard for the consumer. A few people like to blab and babble. Most people don’t. They lay low, because they’re afraid or shy or just not used to talking about brands and products or experiences.

Getting people to talk about products they buy is the tough. Yet that kind if information is exactly what most of us are looking for. According to the Keller Fay Group, 80% of us trust recommendations from family, friends and influential persons over all other forms of advertising and marketing.

Think about your own buying decisions. Don’t you love it when you can get a solid recommendation on a product from someone you trust?

This got me wondering…does FriendFeed have an opportunity in the e-commerce space? Not as a direct seller of goods. But as a trusted referral network. With some added features, there’s a nice revenue opportunity riding the rails of the affiliate marketing world. And users would get better info on products.

But first let’s look at a previous effort here, Facebook’s Beacon.

Facebook Beacon: Misfiring on Three Counts

Facebook rolled out Beacon last fall. The idea is that you can broadcast your purchases from online retailers back into the Facebook newsfeed of your friends.

Well, Beacon was excoriated. Two reasons for this:

  1. Beacon’s user control and notification process were terrible
  2. People weren’t sharing a lot of external activity into Facebook, making it seem weird to have that suddenly occur

A third problem with Beacon, even for people that wanted to share product information, was that the product information passed through the newsfeed pretty quickly. If you happened to be interested in the product at that moment, great. But if you were in the market for a given product later, you couldn’t search for information about what your friends bought.

FriendFeed: All About Sharing External Things You Like

FriendFeed’s whole vibe is different from that of Facebook. You’re supposed to bring your outside interests into the site. Commentary and opinion is the order of the day. Interactions revolve around those interests, and accompanying commentary and opinion.

Why not extend that mentality to products that people buy? We already see things with a product orientation coming through FriendFeed:

  • Books: Book recommendations come through via Goodreads. For instance, Here’s a discussion around the book Spook Country. Users will also directly post recommendations, such as this one for Community: the Structure of Belonging.
  • Music: People stream in their Last.fm and Pandora music selections. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong got a nice discussion going.
  • Movies: We see people’s movie tastes through NetFlix on FriendFeed. Here’s some discussion around the movie Hancock, with Will Smith.
  • Amazon: Amazon wishlists tell the world the things a user wants. Often these are books, music and movies. But a lot of interesting other products come through as well. Here’s a discussion around the Nikon D300 camera.

People are already sharing product-related stuff on FriendFeed. Which has incredibly high potential. Here’s what I mean…

Push vs. Pull Marketing

Louis Gray asked this question recently on FriendFeed:

I’ve seen a lot of stories lately around behavioral targeted advertising, and privacy. But in theory, wouldn’t you rather see more relevant ads? Isn’t this a good thing?

Many of the responses were suspicious of the tracking or didn’t think ads could ever be that relevant. Here are a few responses:

Jill O’Neill: “No. If I need to buy something, I’ll track it down on my own.”

Dobromir Hadzhiev: “I’m with @Jill, nothing beats the research, ads are and always will be annoying.”

Amanda Chapel: “Some of this stuff would make Joe Goebbels blush.”

Bwana McCall: “In my 16 some odd years on the internet, I have to yet to see an ad that I wanted to click on.”

A lot of good opinions, and they bolster the argument that making trusted product recommendations available when someone wants them (“pull marketing”) has advantages over running ads (“push marketing”).

This is why I think sites like FriendFeed, and even Facebook, have enormous potential in the world of e-commerce. They can become the source for getting recommendations and asking questions about products.

What Would FriendFeed Need to Make a Play in E-Commerce?

Say you’re an  expecting first-time parent. You want to buy a crib. Right now, that’d be a little daunting on FriendFeed. Here’s a search for the word ‘crib’. Lots of stuff there, but it’d be tough to use that for making a purchase decision.

Here are some things that would help users find products that their friends have purchased on FriendFeed:

  • An ‘Add to FriendFeed’ button at the checkout of e-tailer sites
  • A special designation of these streams from e-tailers as ‘PRODUCT’
  • The ability for users to hide all feeds with the designation ‘PRODUCT’
  • A tab on FriendFeed set up specifically for all feeds designated ‘PRODUCT’
  • Search of all ‘PRODUCT’ feeds
  • The ability to click a link on the product name, and be taken directly to that product on the e-tailer’s website

Once a user lands on the e-tailer’s site from FriendFeed, FriendFeed gets a cut of any purchases by that user, a la standard affiliate marketing agreements.

Users would get a much better way to find products they want. Just like the blog posts and articles that stream through, each person would likely specialize in product categories that fit their interests and knowledge. You would come to trust the recommendations of different users for different product categories. You’d have the person who knows cameras. Who knows home decor. Home entertainment systems. Running gear. Toddlers’ toys. Womens’ shoes. Flowers. Etc…

What do you think? Would you use such a system? I would.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Using+FriendFeed+for+E-Commerce%22&public=1

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 660 other followers