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.


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:


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:


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


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…


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.


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?


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


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


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

Yammer Gets Bronx Cheers from the Blogosphere. Why?

Yammer, as much of the free world seems to now know, won “best of show” at TechCrunch50. Yammer is an enterprise 2.0 company. The blogosphere had a fairly negative opinion about this. I read a number of these posts, and the table below outlines the reasons Yammer was viewed negatively:

Links to source posts: Dennis Howlett, Rafe Needleman, Rob Diana, Mathew Ingram, Svetlana Gladkova, Chris Cardinal, Chris Brogan, Jennifer Leggio, Bernard Lunn, Joe Duck, Stephen Baker, Mike Gotta, Fred Wilson, Duncan Riley, Liz Gannes

It’s a diverse collection of bloggers, and they each bring different perspectives. But there was enough commonality that I bucketed the reasons into the five groups you see in the table.

The reactions surprised me a bit – although there were positive reactions too. Let’s break down these five buckets.

Another Twitter Clone

Understandable reaction. We’ve seen Plurk, Identi.ca, Rejaw, etc. So I get the weary “Yet Another Twitter Clone” reaction.

Key difference here is the market Yammer is pursuing: enterprise. That makes all the difference in the world.

  • For Identi.ca to succeed, people would have to stop using Twitter (see Louis Gray’s post for analytical back-up to this point)
  • For Yammer to succeed, the more people use Twitter, the better.

Twitter ain’t enterprise, and I’d be surprised it gets there anytime soon. But using Twitter makes people understand the value of microblogging, which in turn helps Yammer.

Twitter/Others Will Do This

Given Twitter’s problems with keeping the service stable, I’d be shocked if they had also been putting in cycles figuring out how to go after the corporate market.

The other key difference is this. Enterprise is a different world than consumer. Probably one of the better explanations of the differences was by Mike Gotta, in discussing microblogging inside the enterprise:

“Within the enterprise, it is highly probable that IT organizations will classify these tools as messaging platforms (I would BTW). As a messaging platform, these tools would have to support security, logging, audit and archival functions to satisfy regulatory, compliance and records management demands.”

To succeed in the enterprise, you really need to focus on the enterprise. Twitter is having a field day in its growth in the consumer world. Wachovia just added their Twitter account to the website Contact Us page. Keith Olbermann is now on Twitter. Twitter should really focus on the consumer market, and own that.

Yammer is more likely to bump up against SAP’s ESME and Oracle’s OraTweet.

Extortion Revenue Model

The extortion is based on the fact that Yammer is free for sign-up and use. But if a company wants to control it, access to the administrative functions costs money. So companies will feel compelled to pay in order to manage the goings-on inside Yammer.

I’ll admit it’s a pretty creative enterprise pricing model. It seems to address two issues that bedevil enterprise software vendors:

  • How do I get a company to try my software
  • How do I prove employees will use it and get value from it

Companies don’t pay until they’ve seen employees use it and get value from it. Not bad, and it really wouldn’t be that hard for a CIO to tell employees to stop using Yammer (and block the site).

It is sneaky, but it’s also a clever way to address the adoption and value proposition issues that enterprise software vendors will always face. Atlassian Confluence achieved a solid share of the wiki market via viral adoption. Atlassian doesn’t have sales people – it’s all word of mouth.

Workers Won’t Adopt

This is where Yammer faces the toughest road. Getting people to microblog. Twitter is available to the hundreds of millions of people around the globe who might be interested. And it’s gotten a very small percentage of them.

Inside the enterprise, you need a much higher adoption rate. People already on Twitter are natural adopters, but a lot of employees will still have the “why would I do that?” reaction.

The “sell” has to compare Yammer to existing communication modes:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Forums

Note that relative to Twitter, Yammer has immediate context and built-in users. Context comes because the internal messages will generally center around work that colleagues have a stake in. In other words, they care more about each Yammer message than they do about individual tweets out in the wild.

The other thing is that managers at the departmental level can join and start using Yammer. On Twitter, if you don’t follow an A-Lister…so be it. On Yammer, if you don’t follow your boss…you’re going to miss something.

Cloud Computing Is Scary

This is an ongoing issue for the entire cloud computing/web apps world. Amazon S3 and Gmail’s recent outages highlight the issue.

Salesforce.com experienced outages back in late 2005 and early 2006. They were a blow to the software-as-a-service sector, but the company appears to have righted the ship since then.

Salesforce.com has a market cap of $6.9 billion. Yammer doesn’t.

But Yammer doesn’t have the database-of-record mission that Salesforce.com does, so the threshold for Yammer is lower. Still, ideally for Yammer, people will message about critical issues for their companies, not just what they’re having for lunch. So Yammer’s scalability, security and reliability will be important.

Cloud computing still has a sell-job of its own, but I like the way Anshu Sharma put it:

“No one (at least not me) is suggesting that on-premise software will disappear – its just that growth in enterprise software will come from SaaS and not on-premise (which is growing at about 4%). Venture capitalists like Emergence Capital and Humbold Winblad are voting with their dollars!”

A lot of action is around SaaS, it’s a question of how long the adoption curve will be. Yammer is counting on this one.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Gartner puts out updates on something it calls the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. The hype cycle tracks the market views of various technologies, which go through predictable cycles:

  • Technology Trigger
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations
  • Trough of Disillusionment
  • Slope of Enlightenment
  • Plateau of Productivity

In July 2008, Gartner released its latest view regarding the hype cycle. This one included both microblogging and cloud computing, Yammer’s model:

Courtesy marketingfacts on Flickr

Courtesy marketingfacts on Flickr

Neither microblogging nor cloud computing is anywhere near mainstream uptake. Gartner pegs that at a 2 to 5 year horizon.

The companies that are in now, though, will be best positioned to figure out what drives the Plateau of Productivity. It takes time to learn a market, get some positive customer stories and gain a wider customer base.

I’ll be watching Yammer.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Tag Clouds for Our Lifestreams

We are marching down the lifestreaming road. There are a proliferation of lifestream apps, such as FriendFeed, SocialThing, Strands, Swurl and others. Lifestreaming is getting hotter, and there’s some thought that lifestreaming will be the new blogging:

Sites and social tools like these and many others encourage more participation on the social web than ever before. Although the social participants on these sites are often more active in socializing than they are in blogging, there’s still that need to stake out your own piece of real estate on the web. But we wonder: does that really need to be a blog anymore? Perhaps not.

It’s a great concept, one that Mark Krynsky has been chronicling for a while at the Lifestream Blog.

An area I think that is ripe for inn ovation here is the ability to find the meta data from one’s lifestream. On FriendFeed, people will have multiple services that fill up their lifestreams. A couple issues that crop up on FriendFeed are:

  • Figuring out whether to subscribe to someone
  • Catching up on what particular individuals have been streaming

Because there is one thing that has been noticed with all this lifestreaming – there’s a lot of information generated (or “noise” as some might say).

So here’s my idea:

Create tag clouds for our lifestreams

What do I mean? Read on.

FriendFeed Lifestream

I’ll use the lifestream service with which I’m most familiar, FriendFeed. Here are the tag clouds I’d like to see for each user’s lifestream:

  • Blog
  • Music
  • Google Reader shares
  • Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Digg
  • etc…

And I’d like to see tag clouds for what users Like and Comment on. Because on FriendFeed, Likes and Comments have the same effect as a direct feed of someone’s lifestream: they put the content into the feed of all their followers.

So via the tag cloud, I’m can quickly come up to speed on what someone is interested in.

Let’s Make Tagging Easy

I don’t propose that users suddenly tag their own streams. Rather, let’s leverage the work of others.

It’s de rigueur for Web 2.0 apps to include tagging. Bloggers tag. Social bookmarkers tag. Music lovers tag. Why not pull the tags applied to the source content into the lifestream?

Here’s what I mean. My blog has plenty of tags. These tags are included in the RSS feed of my blog. So any feed that includes my blog should include these tags. Let’s leverage:

  1. The tags that people apply to their own Web 2.0 content
  2. RSS/Atom feeds that include tags

For some background on this, click here for a page on Technorati that talks about tags in feeds.

By leveraging the tagging work already resident in user-generated content, one can quickly build up a tag cloud for lifestreams.

An Example: Google Reader Shares

Google Reader is a good example. People ‘share’ blog posts they read via their Google Readers. Sharing lets others see the articles that someone finds interesting and useful. And of course, those blog posts that someone is sharing have tags.

Here’s what the tag cloud of my recent Google Reader shares looks like. I’ve simulated the tag cloud by using Wordle for the tags.

You can see my interests lately: Enterprise 2.0, FriendFeed, social media. If someone wanted to get a quick sense of the things they’ll see by subscribing to me, this tag cloud answers that. And if someone is curious about the specific posts I’ve been sharing that relate to a subject, they could click on one of the tags and get a list of my Google Reader shares.

Curious, I ran the same analysis on the Google Reader shares of four people I follow on FriendFeed: Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, Sarah Perez, Mike Fruchter. Here are the topics they’ve been sharing lately:

Robert Scoble clearly is following the iPhone and Google. Louis Gray was following the happenings at Gnomedex. Sarah Perez is pretty even in her interests, with FireFox, social bookmarking, FriendFeed, Twitter, search and photos among her favorite topics. Mike Fruchter has been reading up on Twitter and social media.

Just like that, I’ve gotten a sense for their interests right now. And if those were true tag clouds, I could click the tag and see the Google Reader shares. Robert Scoble is really good at tracking useful relevant things. Clicking the ‘iPhone’ tag and reading his shares would be a quick way to understand what’s goin.

Tags + Wordles

As I said, most user generated content comes with tags these days. So pulling these into the feeds and representing them in a tag cloud would be a fantastic move forward in creating lifestream tag clouds.

But what about Twitter? There are no tags on tweets. Not a problem. FriendFeed and other lifestream services could do a Wordle-like tag cloud. Tally the most common words in someone’s tweets, represent it as a tag cloud. And make the tag cloud clickable, which would essentially run a Summize Twitter search of the user’s tweets for a given tag.

Use Existing Metadata to Solve Two Problems

The key here is to not make it onerous on the end user. Tag once, re-use everywhere. If desired, users could be given the option to add tags to their own lifestreams. But the core idea is to eliminate double tagging work for users.

If this could be done, you’ve got a visual representation of people’s lifestreams. And an easy way to find the specific entries in a lifestream that relate to a topic.

Lifestreamers – would you want something like this

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Getting Overly Focused on Your ‘Regular’ Blog Audience

This week, I had one of those “lucky” blog posts, How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out. What do I mean by “lucky”? It caught the eye of someone, which led to all sorts of goodness. I’ll come back to this.

The path of success for the blog post was different than some of my other more-read posts, by which I mean FriendFeed. If I go back to the posts which have gotten the most views – direct and syndicated – FriendFeed has been incredibly important to making that happen.

So naturally, if a blog post doesn’t get a lot of uptake there, I think, “well, not one that resonated a lot out there.” In fact, I sometimes feel lulled into a sense that FriendFeed is pretty much the barometer for how a post is viewed out there:

  • Get a lot of Likes and comments on the feed URL or someone’s share? Rock on!
  • Not too many people care about the post? Take satisfaction in your own writing and move on.

That sense isn’t wholly without merit. FriendFeed has a lot of smart, engaged people who love a good discussion piece.

But I can see how sweating that too much might undermine your sense of blogging. I’m thinking of those for whom blogging lost its luster recently, such as Colin Walker. He also became fatigued with social media.

The absolute greatest thing about FriendFeed for bloggers is that you “know” your readers. You see what they think in their comments. You get feedback via Likes. You follow them elsewhere on FriendFeed and gain an understanding for their perspectives and interests.

That feedbback loop can be a bit double-edged. Over time, I’ve developed a pretty good sense for when a blog post will work well inside FriendFeed, and when one will get a lackluster reception. I plow on with my posts regardless, because I write what interests me. But that sense that something will receive limited interest can be a touch dispiriting.

But then you get these out-of-the-blue successes, these “lucky” posts, and you’re reminded that there are readers all over the place, not just FriendFeed.

I’m going to describe three blog posts that really got me a good reception, only one of which was a FriendFeed-only phenomenon.

Three Blog Successes

FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index: I start with a blog post that achieved success within my favorite haunt, FriendFeed. And no surprise. It was about FriendFeed, and it caught a vibe that was powering FriendFeed. We were all meeting really cool people there, and this was a way to find even more users with similar interests. Between my feed and Louis Gray’s share of the post, there were 79 Likes and 68 comments. Plus action around many other shares of the post. And the post led to a really cool app produced by felix.

This post brought home to me the power of FriendFeed. For me, it’s still something of a benchmark for uber successful posts there. Outside of FriendFeed? Not a lot of clicks.

Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?: Written from the perspective of both a smart phone and Apple luddite, this post examined what was known about the two smart phones. It got a good reception on FriendFeed. Then the post was picked up by MacSurfer.com. I don’t know that site, but it apparently has a lot of readers. Because a lot of them clicked through on MacSurfer’s link to my blog. Since then I’ve enjoyed some nice search engine traffic thanks to that link.

Suddenly, I found a completely different audience than the social media friends I have on FriendFeed. Apple fans.

How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out: Published this past Monday, the post got a comparatively small reception on FriendFeed. As I mentioned before, you develop a sense for what blog posts will play well on FriendFeed. I kind of knew this one wouldn’t. My enterprise 2.0 posts usually are smaller affairs there. That’s cool. I write those posts anyway because I work in that sector and the subject interests me.

And then luck struck again. The post caught fire with the enterprise 2.0 crowd. Enterprise 2.0 A-Lister Dion Hinchcliffe tweeted my blog post to his followers. Views started picking up. He then asked to publish the blog post in Social Computing Magazine. I said ‘yes’ of course, and it was the lead story for the day.

Again, I found a whole different audience outside FriendFeed. Enterprise 2.0 professionals.

So What to Take Away

I write this as a reminder to myself that there are a lot of audiences out there, and that it’s easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on what your friends on FriendFeed find interesting. If I wrote exclusively about enterprise 2.0, might I question whether anyone cared based on lower response levels on FriendFeed? And I wonder if other bloggers feel this?

As Colin felt the burn-out from social media and blogging, the thing that was best for him was to take time off. Another person who shares some of Colin’s feelings is Alexander Van Elsas. For Alexander, rather than step back from it, he has established himself as The Guy Who’s Questioning This Whole Social Media Thing.

Louis Gray had nice advice to bloggers verging on burn-out: Relax, Bloggers: Nobody Is Keeping Score, and There’s No Quota.

To that I’d add this: Stretch your creative limits. Maybe you were on a tear for a particular topic, had some success, and now find the well running dry and reader engagement dropping.

Time off is certainly a good remedy. But how about another idea? Writing something different. Try a new set of topics. For instance, perhaps there’s a tangentially related set of topics to social media. Cloud computing. Data portability. The bases for human interactions over time. Enterprise 2.0. Or go well outside that. Energy. Politics. Parenting.

Sure, you may not get a lot of clicks. Maybe the reserve of “conversation capital” you’ve built up will be quickly depleted. However, you know that’s a real possibility because you’ve switched directions on your audience. That gives you the mental safety zone to experiment and to get the creative and analytical juices flowing again.

Remember why you started blogging in the first place. Explore topics that interest you.


See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Getting+Overly+Focused+on+Your+%E2%80%98Regular%E2%80%99+Blog+Audience%22&public=1

Applying Circuit Breakers to a Social Media Mob Mentality

Cyndy Aleo-Carreira has a good post out today, When FriendFeed Creates a Mob. The post describes the activity on FriendFeed related to a Thomas Hawk post regarding the director of visitor relations at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In case you’ve missed it, here’s a quick summary:

  1. Thomas Hawk was shooting pictures at the SFMOMA
  2. The director of visitor relationships told him to leave
  3. After pleading his case, Thomas was kicked out of the SFMOMA
  4. Thomas blogged about it, asking people to Digg the story to get it maximum attention
  5. Many people on FriendFeed dugg it, and currently the post has 3,780 diggs

In her post, Cyndy points out that we’re only hearing one side of the story: Thomas Hawk’s. I can’t blame Thomas for that. He was only blogging the incident from his point of view. That’s what blogging is about. But she and Jeremiah Owyang both argue that the use of the guy’s name and calling him a “jerk” (it was originally “asshole”) meant that the post transcended a normal beef, like Comcast not handling someone’s moving well. It was personal, not a slam against a faceless organization.

Was it a mob mentality that took hold?

For the record, I did participate in this:

I trust Thomas Hawk’s point of view, so I was comfortable with the Digg and the Like. Noting the Digg count was probably a bit much. Generally, I thought of it as an authentic telling of an event by Thomas, and wanted to show my support. But I pretty much left it there. I’m not a photographer nor have I had any problems at the SFMOMA.

Also, if the SFMOMA director came out with his own explanation of events, I’d Like that, digg it, share it. I’m not out to tar and feather the guy. Rather, there is a greater issue of individual liberties versus the protection of artists’ rights and individuals’ privacy here. A worthy area for discussion and examination, as Steven Hodson points out. I’m glad that Thomas wrote up his experience, and that it got attention. It should.

But Cyndy’s post does cause me to wonder how one would stop a mob mentality taking hold on FriendFeed, or any social media site.

When Mob Mentality Overwhelms Our Information Filters

In a recent post, I wrote about the emergence of a new role in social media: Information Filters. Particularly on FriendFeed, but on other social media sites as well, we rely on others to surface content that is interesting to us. They do this through their Google Reader shares, Diggs, direct posts, Likes, comments, etc. Some people have a natural talent for this, and they become powerful information filters for others.

I’d say that Information Filters are the primary line of defense against any mob mentality taking hold. Through the various ways they share or don’t share, Information Filters hold strong sway over the agenda of what is discussed.

What would a mob mentality look like?

  1. Our Information Filters buy-in to a “get this guy” mentality and start spreading the word as rapidly as possible
  2. The sheer volume of links, Likes and comments overwhelms the more thoughtful discourse that typically marks FriendFeed

#2 above in particular is where things get dicey. You’re no longer relying on your usual Information Filters. The frequency with which you’re seeing an issue show up becomes the measure of its importance, not the trusted referrals of your Information Filters.

Three Options for Applying Circuit Breakers to a Mob Mentality

Off the top of my head, I can come up with three ways to slow down a mob.

  1. Automatic restrictions: Like the New York Stock Exchange’s trading curbs, FriendFeed would automatically apply the brakes to a URL that gets to much play on the site. New shares of the site link stop bouncing to the top of FriendFeed. New comments and Likes no longer cause the link to bounce to the top. This, of course, would be terrible. Really good posts would have a tough time going viral.
  2. FriendFeed staffers intervene: Similar to the automatic restrictions, except it’s done manually on an ad hoc basis. This is better because truly egregious cases could be addressed, not just an “hot” story. But it puts the FriendFeed folks in a really bad position. As soon as they put the kibosh on a story, the howls of censorship would begin and the vibe of FriendFeed would tank.
  3. Our information filters exercise judgment: This is the right call. We rely on our Information Filters to find content that is interesting, sharp and correct if facts are used.

Information Filters = Circuit Breakers

As noted earlier, Information Filters are people adept at finding interesting content and sharing it. Interestingly, Mona N is exactly on of these people. She finds all sorts of unusual things that people love. I know I do. So her pumping up Thomas Hawk’s SFMOMA blog post was a case of an Information Filter saying “Hey, this is really important information for you to know and act on!”

By virtue of their role, information filters can also act as the brakes should things ever get out of control. Why?

  • They tend to have a large number of followers
  • Many of their followers are frequently reading what they share
  • The ongoing conversation they have with others establishes their “cred” when it comes to discussing new ideas, opinions and news

People who are Information Filters can simply not share whatever it is everyone else is talking about. The lack of their participation reduces some of the heat that can surround an issue. They can also more actively put a stop to an overly emotional mob that forms. With posts, comments, blog shares, etc. People will listen to them. Their participation this way can allow cooler heads to prevail.

It Is Social Media After All

On FriendFeed, Derick Valadao left a great comment on Cyndy’s post:

To those who would say behaviour like that stated in the article isn’t group think I have to disagree. We voice our opinions here on popular entries because we think it will be the right thing to say. We want to affirm the sentiments of the post (for the most part). I have yet to see a social network that can combat against this phenomenon. When we reward opinions with popularity or regard we inevitably create this phenomenon. That of why I appreciate small voices in the crowd who are willing to go against popular opinions. Now we should ask ourselves how we can build that into a social structure if we ever intend ok bringing credible interesting stories to our community.

I look to our Information Filters to play an important role in Derick’s call for a social structure. Having users, particularly those who have been “voted” as our information filters, dampen the creation of any mob tendencies fits well with the idea of social media. It is all about the users. We really should sort these things out ourselves.

It does put the onus on those who enjoy positions as information brokers to elevate their game, and to think hard about the effect they have on the people and organizations they shine a light on. Jeremiah Owyang has a new post out Tracking the Toronto Explosion on Twitter: Opportunities and Risk. I’ll close with a quote from his post:

The community (myself included) must be mindful of what’s real and what’s not, over hyping or spreading false information [that] could impact lives.


See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Applying+Circuit+Breakers+to+a+Social+Media+Mob+Mentality%22

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