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Louis Gray branches out into his own start-up – Paladin Advisors

On his blog, Louis Gray spills the beans on stealthy start-up work he’s been doing the past few months. He is a Managing Director of New Media for Paladin Advisors. Here’s the description of Paladin Advisors:

Paladin Advisors Group is a strategic advisory firm for startups and enterprise companies who are looking for guidance in their marketing, public relations, sales processes, customer influence, Web and social media.

While Louis focuses on web-based social apps in his blog, his work with Paladin includes the enterprise.

For enterprise companies, my focus has been on integrating social media and blogging into their strategies, aligning on messaging with PR, marketing and customer service.

Congrats to Louis, and I love to see him diving into the start-up world himself. The Paladin site is under development, but you can follow Louis (@louisgray) and Paladin (@paladinag) on Twitter.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 073109

From the home office in Honolulu, Hawaii…

#1: Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle is out. See where 45 technologies are in the cycle (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/19Uw6k #e20

#2: Does Silicon Valley noise detract from long-term value creation? http://bit.ly/188Trx by @andrew_chen #innovation

#3: CNET: A Google Wave reality check http://bit.ly/34fv21 I, for one, love seeing the painful process of development, even at Google.

#4: I think we need a recount: EvanCarmichael.com ranks the Top 50 Geek Entrepreneur blogs http://bit.ly/YT1nn I come in #7 behind @louisgray

#5: The Atlantic: The Truth About IQ http://bit.ly/1l0qfR “Being branded with a low IQ at a young age, in other words, is like being born poor”

#6: The science of hunches? http://bit.ly/CDTJi by @berkun Like his take about the importance of emotions in the decision process

#7: Creating psychological distance f/ a problem is key to increasing your creativity. Make it abstract http://bit.ly/f7XUy #innovation

#8: BofA to Shut 600 Branches Due to Surge in Online & Mobile Banking http://bit.ly/14S4mg I never go in branches. Purely web + ATM.

#9: Ever wonder why we swing our arms when we walk? Research finds it’s more efficient than keeping our arms still http://bit.ly/O0Pwj

#10: Our friends’ 3 y.o. son cut the ribbon on remodeled SF playground today. He has spinal muscular atrophy, & can now play http://bit.ly/Z3DZR

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 051509

From the home office in Pleasanton, CA…

#1: Fast paced start-up seeks Project Manager – Spigit job opening (posted to Craigs List) http://ff.im/2WcXy

#2: Spigit customer Pfizer is in today’s 24 Hours of Innovation (http://bit.ly/rkQiO). Preview their upcoming video: http://bit.ly/Rg6u0 #24hoi

#3: Why Do So Many Big Companies Suck at Innovation? asks @BobWarfield http://bit.ly/1qkRW

#4: Reading: 56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail http://bit.ly/3lw6Ju

#5: Annals of Innovation: How David Beats Goliath http://bit.ly/1aikhU by Malcolm @Gladwell, The New Yorker (via @dpritchett)

#6: Webinars are a lot of work. Much creating and researching. Then practice and deliver it. After you do it, lots of work putting it out there.

#7: Digging the new NYT real-time feed. As soon as a story or opinion piece is published, it hits the timeline: http://bit.ly/19cj3P

#8: Smart post: Are you building an everyday app? (the LinkedIn problem) http://bit.ly/sa1IV via @louisgray

#9: Fun with Wolfram Alpha. Type in pi. One of the options lets you look at more digits, then more digits, then more digits…

#10: Playing Candyland with the kids on this Mothers Day. Key is to draw that Ice Cream Cone pink card. Sure path to victory.

The 10/20/30 Presentation Approach Fails in Social Media

Photo credit: Presentaiton Helper

Photo credit: Presentation Helper

Guy Kawasaki has a well known blog post from 2005, The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, in which he articulates why less-is-more when it comes to presentations. This post is really good for in-person presentations, and continues to be well-received as seen by the blog links to the post and Google search results.

The tenets of Guy’s post include:

  • Only 10 slides, because the audience will only be able to follow that many
  • Target 20 minutes of talking
  • Font size no smaller than 30 point

The post is part of a larger canon regarding presentations. For maximum effect, keep each slide simple, with few words and no bullet points. Graphics are a better way to present concepts, with the presenter narrating heavily. These principles have vastly improved presentations in-person or on a conference call.

But they’re terrible when it comes to social media. At best, they force readers of the presentation to guess what the presentation is saying. At worst, they cause people to come away with the wrong impression of what is being said. This week saw an example of that.

Fred Wilson and Twitter’s Search Plans

Fred Wilson, the Union Square Ventures venture capitalist behind Twitter, gave a presentation titled Startup culture, the Internet, and Television. Included in that presentation was this slide:

fred-wilson-slide-twitter-search

Now Twitter is the subject of much speculation. And this slide seems to show something about their future. Search + matching users + featured user. Of course, all we have to go on is this slide. This comment on Fred’s blog foreshadows what would happen next:

Good example of the Great Deck Paradox. Given a great deck should provide context and visual cues rather than the contents of the talk itself, a great deck by itself is pretty unintelligible without the talk. Still, the key point came across: guidelines for success in TV = guidelines for success on the net.

Fred’s slide was picked up in a post by Eric Berlin on Louis Gray’s blog.

A Case of Misunderstanding

In the post, Eric does a nice job of breaking down the implications of what’s seen in the screenshot from that slide. There were no notes that accompanied the slide on SlideShare. The slides were an aid to the true content of the presentation, Fred’s talk. Unfortunately, there was no audio included. So without notes or audio, the slide has to stand on its own in venues like SlideShare.

It turns out the analysis that Eric did ob the slide was wrong. Not so much on the analysis itself – that was top-notch. But on the premise behind the analysis. Namely, that the slide was showing the future direction of Twitter.

In a follow-up post, Fred wrote that bloggers were getting the wrong impression of the slide, which was some alpha version floating around Twitter. Here’s what he said about Eric’s post:

But it gets even more nutty. Today I saw a story on louisgray.com that assumes the title of slide 22 “Where We Are Going” implies that the search results page I showed was about where Twitter is going. And then it goes on to evaluate the business model implications of the page I showed. Well the post is pretty interesting, but it’s based on a false assumption. The “We” in “Where We Are Going” means TV users and the TV business, not Twitter.

Let’s trace this:

Incomplete information on slide -> Blog post based on incorrect assumption -> Fred Wilson refuting posts

Could Fred have added some content on the slide or a note to mitigate the possibility of misunderstanding? Yeah, probably.

Recognize Two Separate Audiences for Your Presentations

In How to Integrate Social Media in Product Marketing, I noted this issue about presentations put up on services like SlideShare and Scribd:

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own.

In terms of product marketing, this is important for making sure you effectively get your point across. Here’s an example of what I mean, from the presentation How to Double the Value of Your Social Software:

example-of-self-explanatory-slide

The left graphic is a good visual aid. My voiceover is shown on the right. If you want to combine in-person slides with social media-ready slides, the little talk bubble on the right can be a custom animation that doesn’t appear during your narration of the slide until the end. You get the minimalist approach during the presentation, readers get the context afterwards.

That’s from a product marketing perspective. But as this incident with Fred Wilson shows, it’s a lesson that applies to any presentation you put up on social media sites. Perhaps Guy will update his 10/20/30 Rule to reflect the ways in which people consume information in 2009.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My God, I Actually Am a Geek – My Blog’s First Anniversary

macinate

Photo credit: macinate

Yup, it’s been a year. Where does the time go?

Let’s go to the wayback machine for a look at my first-ever post on this blog, Feed the Beast on February 9, 2008:

My initial foray into blogging. Not sure what form it will take, nor can I establish a consistent theme for it. But the most important thing is to…

FEED THE BEAST

Blogs generally will not get much readership. Sad fact. This one may be lucky to get anyone beyond myself. But I know for sure that if the you maintain minimal content, infrequently updated, NO ONE will ever bother. So you need to keep the posts going. Just post, baby! If you do it enough, you’ll find your blog “voice”.

True words from a newbie.

There are probably a billion things I could write about this…um..momentous occasion. Mostly important to me though. Rather, I’ll recount a few things, and end it with a big ol’ graphic.

Why I Blog

First off, a fair question to ask of anyone who blogs regularly without ads on the site is…why? Well, it’s not to make money. One reason is what I wrote in this earlier post about why professionals should blog. But I also have two personal reasons.

First, I’ve got a journalism family background. My Dad is a journalist. My wife is a (now former) journalist. My sister edited the school paper. I edited my grad school paper.

When I was writing and editing for my b-school paper, I really enjoyed it. After school, I moved on to banking and thought, “there goes my writing.” I didn’t have an outlet for writing. And I really didn’t consider blogging…after all, what would I say?

Once I took a job doing social software product marketing for BEA Systems, I decided I needed to be more of a participant in…social software. So I started blogging a year ago. And I’ve loved having this outlet ever since.

The other reason is that I learn best by participating, not by listening or reading. When I put a blog post together, I feel this vague pressure that comes from knowing people will read it. That elevates my resolve to know what it is I’m writing about. I pay greater attention to articles I read. I get much more analytical.

And the act of writing itself is a great organizing activity for me personally.

That’s why I blog.

Two Blog Periods: Before Louis Gray, After Louis Gray

There are two periods to this blog. The two months before Louis Gray wrote about it, and all the months thereafter. When he included me in his Five More Blogs You Should Be Reading, But Aren’t post of April 7, 2008, this blog got traffic I never would have expected. I wrote about that experience in When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched… and inexplicably that post hit Techmeme.

From that point on, I really wanted to know about this blogging thing. So I dove in fully and committed to writing. And thanks to master blogger Louis for putting me on the map.

Is This an SEO’s Dream?

A post that continues to deliver visitors, day-in and day-out is How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-workers. It’s my actual farewell email to colleagues at Identrust (eFinance). It was on a lark that I posted it on a Saturday afternoon in March. Since then, that post has risen to the #1 spot when someone searches ‘farewell email’. Which happens a lot, it turns out. Particularly the past few months, unfortunately.

Not sure how many of these visitors care about my thoughts on technology. But glad to have them here.

Notice a Trend?

Four of my bigger days have come from these posts:

  1. When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched…
  2. Tim O’Reilly Course Corrects the Definition of Web 2.0
  3. Karl Rove Is on Twitter
  4. Before There Was Twitter, There Was Dave Winer’s Instant Outliner

Write about a well-known person, and see what happens. I see why celebrity news is such a draw.

By the Numbers

OK, here are the stats for the past year:

  • 217 posts
  • Traffic, direct and RSS = ~140,000 (WordPress does not aggregate feed views, so this is my guestimate)
  • Comments/trackbacks = 1,276
  • Subscribers = 587 (according to Google Reader, I don’t directly use FeedBurner)
  • Technorati = 100 (as of today)

What Was I Writing About This Year?

Below you’ll see wordles for each month of this blog.After doing this, I really like the way it highlights your blog topics at a glance.

Some notes as I look at the wordles:

  • Check out April through August. One word stands out: FriendFeed. Yeah, I had the FriendFeed Fever.
  • December and January have seen a bit of a Twitter bender.
  • Throughout: social, social, social.
  • ‘Enterprise’ has been prominent the past few months, which is still an area rich with opportunity.
  • Last several months have seen a rise in ‘people’ and ‘information’. Good.

my-blog-keywords-by-month

And that wraps up this anniversary edition of the blog. Let’s do it again in a year.

FriendFeed: Social Network? Or Uber Information Management Service?

friendfeed-logo

Item #1: Tamar Weinberg posted this on FriendFeed the other day:

I’m starting to see a lot less regular interactivity on FriendFeed. I see *activity* though — people posting their own stuff. Commenting and Liking content? Not so much. Case in point: my own FF stream. Two weeks ago, it was a lot more active than this past week & I barely changed anything.

Now Louis Gray wondered if this comment reflected a case of the blues. I’ll disagree with him there. But before I get to that, let me add a couple other comments I found interesting.

Item #2: Shaun Farner posted this on FriendFeed:

We’re turning FriendFeed into Delicious. What happened to the feed part?

I just feel like things are more likely to be ignored if they aren’t posted directly to FF. Kinda lame. I check FF for activity constantly even if I post something on a different service.

Item #3: And then Mona Nomura, who can garner 50-like posts on FriendFeed better than anyone, wrote this:

Actually, I’m the opposite. Been diggin’ Twitter lately. ;)

As I read these, and reflect on my own usage, this is the question I ask: FriendFeed: Social Network? Or Uber Information Management Service?

I’m curious, because the two use cases are different, with different revenue models and feature sets. Which way do you think FriendFeed should go?

FriendFeed: Social Network

FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends.

FriendFeed About Us Page

ffundercats

FriendFeed is a social network, for sure. I see people posting details about their personal lives, some with nice discussions around them. I’ve got a number of people I’ve connected with purely through FriendFeed and I love staying on top of what they’re doing. That social aspect is important to me and many other active users. There’s even a weekly podcast of FriendFeeders called ffundercats.

In a post a few months back, I asked “how much of a social network does FriendFeed want to be?” Think about Facebook. It’s got a lot of “sticky” information aspects for each person. Their profiles. Their apps. Their status (which does not usually equal Twitter-like velocities). Their Wall. Their photo albums. And you can send emails to one another on Facebook.

FriendFeed, on the other hand, is a steady stream of content. Having sticky aspects to your persona on FriendFeed is tough, and the most permanent thing is the set of icons representing what you feed into the service.

So yes, it’s a social network. But heck, everything is a social network. Digg is a social network. Reddit is a social network. Hacker News is a social network. SlideShare is a social network. GetSatisfaction is a social network.

But they’re not primarily social networks. They provide other services, and communities grow up around those activities. Those communities are the social network, but they’re not the defining part.

A defining element of social networks is setting up a place you can call “home”. A place of permanence from which you then reach out to others. Alexander Van Elsas wrote this last July:

Can we live an on-line life without an anchor point? Surfing the web without some on-line place that we can call home?

FriendFeed doesn’t yet have that home yet. It is a social network, but is that it’s primary purpose?

FriendFeed: Uber Information Management Service

Being the uber information management service is something I see for FriendFeed. It’s the use case I’ve been touting on this blog a lot lately.

Social networks generally have profiles, internal messaging, status updates, comment walls – which FriendFeed doesn’t have. With that in mind, let’s look at the  recent rollouts by FriendFeed:

  1. Powerful, more granular search (link)
  2. Display the actual twitpics in tweets that feed into FriendFeed (link)
  3. Better display of content sources (link)
  4. Notifications and posting via IM (link)
  5. Post FriendFeed updates to Twitter (link)
  6. Simple update protocol (link)

Notice anything in that? A strong orientation toward improving the posting and consumption of information.

Think about it. Is there anything on the market like this? There is a mass migration of production and consumption toward user generated content and traditional content filtered by people you trust. It’s been a piecemeal effort to track all this. For the first time, there’s a service with an amazing architectural foundation for letting users track all manner of topics and media types they want, while tuning in to their preferred information filters.

The only comparable way to do this was in an RSS Reader. And that experience doesn’t even come close to that of FriendFeed.

FriendFeed’s Highest and Best Use?

Certainly the social network will continue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this sentiment expressed: “So-and-so just dumps their feeds in here, and never interacts. I’m not following them.” That’s the social network talking right there.

But if you come at FriendFeed from a different angle, the information management service angle, you’re fine with those who add their feeds but don’t comment or Like. Instead of looking at it like a social network, you’re looking at it the best way on the market to follow topics and people of interest. It’s why I add Imaginary Friends as well. I don’t want to have to go to different services to track what everyone is doing. One centralized place for that, with architectural scalability and stability, and an amazing array of user-controlled tools for managing information…that’s what I want.

The revenue model of an information management service looks different from that of a social network. To see how a social network monetizes, study Facebook’s efforts. The ad model is not so hot. Particularly when compared to Google’s ad revenue.

And remember where FriendFeed’s team came from. Not a social network like Facebook. But from the information powerhouse Google. Once FriendFeed has collected all of this amazing information and the various attention signals (Likes, comments, # times  a URL is shared, mapping individuals’ specific interests), I’ve got to believe there will be people who want that data. Ads will make sense, but so will other value-added services that FriendFeed can uniquely offer. Think of start-up BuzzGain.

At the top of this post, I said I disagreed with Louis. I don’t think Tamar’s post was any indication of sadness. I mean, FriendFeed hit 1 million unqiue visitors in December. It’s hot.

I do think most FriendFeed usage will be the consumption of information, less social interaction. Tamar’s post just reflects some of that.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=FriendFeed+Social+Network+%22Uber+Information+Management+Service%22

BackType’s Co-opetition with Disqus, IntenseDebate

friendfeed-add_edit-svcs-comments

Disqus “makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.”

IntenseDebate lets you track your own comments and those of people you follow.

BackType “is a service that lets you find, follow and share comments from across the web.”

Right now, it’s pretty easy to say that Disqus competes with IntenseDebate. Then you read what BackType is doing, and you think, “and they’re competing with Disqus and IntenseDebate too”. Well, they are, they aren’t.

It’s complicated.

I tweeted this last night:

“Just added BackType to my FriendFeed. An interesting competitor to Disqus and Intense Debate.”

That tweet set off a great discussion on FriendFeed. Two folks jumped in. Louis Gray, who has several posts up about BackType, had a couple insightful replies:

“It is a comments tracker and search, not a comments replacement system.”
“My point is that you would not install BackType on your blog. BackType is a superset comments tracker. It finds my comments on Moveable Type, Disqus, Blogger, WordPress, you name it. Then I can search it or follow people. Show me how you would replace your comments on your blog with BackType code and we have a discussion.”

And Phil Glockner added some great food for thought:

I agree with Louis that I don’t think BackType is competing directly. I do think their service overlaps with something centralized commenting systems already do, which is to.. well, track comments across various blogs and other places. BackType opens the scope by supporting tracking your comments wherever they are, in whatever form. But unlike Disqus and ID, it most definitely isn’t a centralized comment service. In other words, Backtype is not the engine you would use to create new comments.

They both really brought home the differences between BackType, and Disqus and IntenseDebate (ID). Disqus and ID are software applications that do a lot of comment management things for bloggers. Spam protection, threading, comment rating, reblog, etc. But I think there’s more to the story here. FriendFeeder Rahsheen puts his finger on it with this comment in the discussion:

I can’t actually put backtype on my blog and have people leave comments in it, but as far as sharing where I’m commenting…it pretty much owns

That’s where the line between competitor or not gets fuzzy.

Is Comment Tracking Geared for Bloggers or Blog Readers?

When I wrote my tweet, I was thinking about BackType from the perspective of a commenter, not a blogger. What I like about Disqus and ID is the ability to see all my comments across the blogosphere in one place, and the ability to track what and where others are commenting.

If I use Disqus for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on Disqus-enabled sites. If I use ID for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on ID-enabled sites.

But if I use BackType, I see comments by people everywhere! This is because BackType is a bottom-up approach: “Hey commenter! Just provide your commonly-used comment auth credentials, and we’ll find your comments!” It’s an incredibly simple, elegant approach to tracking comments.

BackType tracks comments made via Disqus, and I assume ID as well. For instance, I can see Robert Scoble’s comments on Fred Wilson’s post My Techmeme Obsession on both Disqus and on BackType. But only on BackType will I see his comments on the TechCrunch post A sheepish apology.

So if I’m interested in tracking Robert’s comments across the blogosphere, which site should I use, Disqus or BackType?

BackType also pulls in comments made on Digg and Reddit, as Louis Gray wrote about recently. Even better! So as a user, where should I spend my time?

Disqus and IntenseDebate Will Compete on Other Bases

The reason I say that BackType is in “co-opetition” is that part of the value prop for Disqus and ID is the ability to have a centralized place for your comments, and to follow those of others. It’s not their only value, but it is part of the story.

If things like ad dollars built on site visitors is something these guys are looking at, then there is definitely competition. It’s a battle for attention.

But I believe there are going to be some interesting revenue models for Disqus and ID beyond site visitors. And that makes it less of a competition. BackType founder Christopher Golda made this comment on the FriendFeed discussion:

Thanks for the comments everyone — we don’t believe we are a competitor with either Disqus or ID; in fact, we recommend both. Anything that improves the quality of comments is complementary to BackType :)

Focus on the last part of that statement. If Disqus and ID improve the experience for commenters and bloggers, it ultimately is for the good of BackType. I’m not convinced there won’t be some competitive overlap, but I can also see the distinct value props of Disqus and ID relative to BackType.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22BackType%E2%80%99s+Co-opetition+with+Disqus%2C+IntenseDebate%22&who=everyone

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