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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

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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

Hey Toluu Heads! Check Out the New Hover Boxes!

Toluu, everyone’s favorite blog discovery app, released a cool feature Wednesday morning. Hover boxes that show the last five posts for a blog:

Just put your cursor over any link to a blog, and the hover box appears. Anytime a blog is displayed in these places:

  • Profile
  • Matches
  • Feed Lists
  • Subscribers View

Discovery of interesting blogs just got that much easier. No need to click on the blog name and land on Toluu’s page for that blog. With a quick scan, you can determine your interest in the blog by reading the last five blog post titles. Founder Caleb Elston explains why this feature was rolled out:

We decided to build in this functionality when we found ourselves passing by feeds because we didn’t want to wait for the page to load or have to hit the back button if the feed wasn’t so interesting. Since we weren’t always willing to take a risk on a feed to see if it might be cool, we knew other users wouldn’t either.

And…the five blog posts listed are all hyperlinks that will take you directly to each individual blog post. My suggestion for Caleb – set the links to default as ‘open in new window’. I’d like to keep my Toluu window open so I can return to it.

Also, I think I see some FriendFeed inspiration for the new hover boxes…

As usual Caleb, really nice work on this feature. Both useful and usable.

If you haven’t tried Toluu, here are a couple posts that describe it:

If you need an invite, just leave your email in the comments below. I’ll shoot one out to you. And you can check out my Toluu page here.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Hey+Toluu+Heads!+Check+Out+the+New+Hover+Boxes!%22&public=1

Good Move = Kleiner Perkins Drops Web 2.0, Goes After Alt Energy

I just read a nice piece in Fortune, Kleiner Bets the Farm. The article describes Kleiner’s big move into alternative energy. And this move comes at the expense of investments in new Web 2.0 companies.

Kleiner’s halting investments in Web 2.0 generated quite a discussion last November. Tom Foremsky reported the firm’s change of heart to kick off the discussion. In that article, he wrote this:

The firm is one of the trend setters in Silicon Valley, with a long string of massively successful investments over several decades. And Silicon Valley VC firms always invest in trends, rather than companies.

Which is what makes Kleiner Perkins’ new investment focus so interesting. And a good direction.

$4.00 Per Gallon = Better Green Tech ROI

Now that filling up your car requires $50, $60, $70 or more, consumers are much more interested in changing energy habits. And businesses are going to be whacked hard as well, with the costs inevitably costing us more money everywhere. Yeah, we’re ready for some changes.

I’m no expert in the field, but a common problem with generating alternative sources of energy is the high cost of production. But now with oil prices going through the roof, those alternative sources of energy suddenly look better.

Here’s one example: hydrogen fuel-powered cars. Hydrogen is a clean, abundant source of energy. But it’s not yet commercially viable. In 2003, gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a plan to foster the production and adoption of hydrogen powered cars. President Bush echoed this idea in a 2006 Earth Day speech:

It (hydrogen) has the potential — a vast potential to dramatically cut our dependence on foreign oil.

Good news, right? Well, the reality has not yet met the aspirations. First, there’s the cost of hydrogen fuel. Research Capital analyst Jon Hykawy had this to say about hydrogen-powered cars:

In my view, the hydrogen car was never alive. The problem was never could you build a fuel cell that would consume hydrogen, produce electricity, and fit in a car. The problem was always, can you make hydrogen fuel at a price point that makes any sense to anybody. And the answer to that to date has been no.

And this year, Govern Schwarzenegger had to retreat from his ambitious hydrogen and electric car  goals.

Which leaves us with $4 gas.

At some point, oil prices will cross over the economic threshold for other energy sources to become economically viable. Waiting until then will be bad, because commercial development of these alternatives will take several years. We need to get our collective asses moving to drop our dependence on oil. We need new investment dollars flowing into that sector now.

Web 2.0: Feature or Business?

We’re several years deep into the Web 2.0 revolution. Allen Stern at CenterNetworks asked How Many Web 2.0 Services Have Gone Mainstream? The answer? Not many. How many have had an IPO?

That’s not to say that Web 2.0 is going away. Anything but. What does seem to be happening is that Web 2.0 is being integrated into the traditional big software and Internet players. I did product marketing for BEA Systems’ Enterprise 2.0 apps. Not some small company, but a big name Web company adding Web 2.0 to its existing portal platform.

There will be Web 2.0 businesses that succeed. Most seem to be acquisition bait. Some will break through in a public offering.

The low cost of entry to create Web 2.0 businesses has democratized company creation. If you want to be snarky, you might say that just means a bunch of crappy apps have been created. This is true. But from a capitalist point of view, all that creativity is healthy because some good companies come out of all that.

Web 2.0 companies have become easier to create, and funding has generally not been a problem.

As Kleiner Perkins Goes, So Goes Venture Capital?

Going back to Tom Foremsky’s quote, is Kleiner Perkins the first of what will be several firms to change focus to alternative energy? My impression is that alternative energy is at the stage of two guys hacking together a computer in their garage. Some interesting experimentation, but clearly there’s a need to ramp things up dramatically, with attention, experimentation and financing.

Go Kleiner Perkins. And I hope other VC firms are following suit. And don’t worry. Web 2.0 will be fine.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Good+Move+%3D+Kleiner+Perkins+Drops+Web+2.0%2C+Goes+After+Alt+Energy%22&public=1

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