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The MySpace Platform

By - February 05, 2008

Facebook, watch out, the big guys are in the house…having MySpace launch a platform means real competition, and that is good for folks who were worried about Facebook changing the game on them once revenue became a reality.

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Respect Talent, No, Wait, Screw That, Talent Wins

By - January 27, 2008

Dave Winer has a good post about how talent – in particular, writers and “content creators” – have forever had a raw deal from corporations who profit on the back of the creators’ work. Dave posits that this is about to change, thanks to many trends, including the commoditization of distribution, means of production, and audience aggregation (well, I may have added that last one).

I certainly agree change is in the wind, and started FM on the premise that independent creators of great sites on the web deserve not only the majority of the revenue fostered by their work, but complete control over their intellectual property to boot. Well said, Dave.

Mail That Baby, Baby

By - January 20, 2008

I was going to wait to post this till the start of a mobile posting campaign that Microsoft is very kindly launching, but I just can’t let it wait (for those who might care, Microsoft is going to underwrite a bunch of FM authors, including me, posting mobile stuff like photos and maps and voice posts). Anyway, I was in JFK airport and I saw an arresting image in a Pitney Bowes ad.

Dumb Baby

Now, what does Pitney Bowes do? Well, turns out I have some knowledge in this area, as my father, ever the itinerant entrepreneur, tried to compete with Pitney in the 80s by creating a better postage meter. He didn’t get very far. Pitney is the Microsoft of postage meter companies. They own the market.

So they are doing a corporate campaign, apparently, and somehow, they came to the conclusion that slapping postage on a newborn baby – wait, let me say it – a not very pretty newborn baby – is somehow a powerful statement of corporate purpose. (That bracelet is actually a postage label).

Now, am I off here, or does this simply offend at too many levels to really go into? Do they really want to be seen as “putting a stamp” on newborn babies? Are they out of their minds? Anyway, a funny ad, a funny photo, taken as I was, perhaps, a bit funny myself, given I was two beers in waiting for my delayed flight…

Memo to the Writers Who Want To Start Their Own Company

By - January 12, 2008

Guys, it’s a great idea. But don’t make the same stupid mistakes your bosses made and claim you need $30 million to do it.

Did it cost $30mm for Ninja, RocketBoom, WebbAlert or Diggnation to make serious money? Nope, it did not. Don’t take VC money and fail. Do it smart, lean and right on the web. In short, don’t do it in a packaged goods way. Do it conversational.

Update: I know that these guys want to make traditional movies, but there are so many new ways to finance movies as well. You don’t need to finance the company to the tune of $30mm to do it…

Computational Advertising

By - January 10, 2008

I think humans are required anytime you want to connect a brand with a person in any kind of meaningful way. But “computational advertising” is one way to optimize that connection, for sure. This talk by Yahoo’s A. Broder does look interesting (via Greg).

PS – Greg is starting at MSFT next week. Great hire, and congrats Greg!

It's Time For Services on The Web to Compete On More Than Data

By - January 04, 2008

The recent kerscobuffle around data portability got me thinking out loud about what the value of a social network really is – and by extension, any service that might claim to have “lock in” around our personal data.

For years now, a core (unresolved) issue in the Web 2 world has been data portability – with most of us – including me – arguing vaguely for the right to take our data where we want, when we want, without undue interference from the service that helped us aggregate it.

As the debate deepens, it seems there are two camps – first, the camp that says Facebook has either A. a right and/or B. an economic necessity to create a walled garden for our data. The second camp argues that Facebook – and any other walled garden – is A. Stupid or B. Greedy or C. Both.

I think I’ve been pretty consistent in my support of the less-than-nuanced second group of campers.

But I’m not entirely sure the debate is framed correctly. It assumes the key question is about whether or not the data can be ported. Instead the real value creation of a service is what that service allows a person to *do* with that data, once it’s found its way there.

To frame the discussion, think about the idea of competing on the lowest price. This has always been a major point of pain in retail commerce – how can I compete on price if my costs of goods sold is the same (or, shudder, *higher*) than my competitors? My answer is to change the game: Don’t compete on price. Compete on *service*.

An example. My local market charges far more for a good bottle of wine than many shops that are nearby. But there’s a wine guy who works at that market who knows wine cold, and who I trust. Also, the market is close to my home, and I have a personal relationship with the fellow (OK, here’s the reference to the book I’m working on – I have a “conversation” going with this merchant). Those factors, combined with a certain ambiance at the store that I really like, all lead to one result: I buy my wine at the more expensive store. Why? Because the store competes on more than price.

It’s time that services on the web compete on more than just the data they aggregate.

I think the data portability crowd is driven by this idea, in the main – once we have real data portability, personal data becomes a commodity, and services then live or die not on data lock in, but on *service* lock in. Imagine a world where my identity and my social graph is truly *mine*, and is represented in a machine readable manner. Were that the case, the entrepreneurial opportunities to create second order value are immense.

Is this the goal of Open Social? I’m not sure. Danny has pointed out how Google is of two mouths when it comes to the idea.

The problem is, no one seems ready to truly set the social graph free. Till now.

With one move, Facebook can change the face (sorry) of this debate by making it falling-down easy to export your social graph. And I predict that it will.

Why? Because I think in the end, Facebook will win based on the services it provides for that data. Set the data free, and it will come back to roost wherever it’s best used. And if Facebook doesn’t win that race, well, it’ll lose over time anyway. Such a move is entirely in line with the company’s nascent philosophy, and would be a massively popular move within the ouroborosphere (my name for all things Techmeme).

Compete on service, Facebook, it’s where the world is headed anyway!

The "VRI": Doc Wonders If Technology Can Help Us Talk With Companies

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Doc notes my post on conversations and asks why we, as consumers, are not more empowered to control our conversations/interactions with businesses who have tons of information about us and our use of their products/services.

I think what we need is something like an API. Let’s call it an VRI: Vendor Relationship Interface. Through it I could know, and see, what I’m getting from each vendor with which I “relate”. On top of that the dashboard could be built.

An interesting thing here is that I really don’t want to have a conversation of the literal kind with most of these companies, unless there’s a problem. I do want to relate with them, however. That is, I would like to request or arrange for services, pay bills and occasionally make suggestions or provide feedback. Most of that does not require wasting the time of another human being. A lot of that could be automated.

CBS Video: Not In The Conversation

By - January 02, 2008

Close readers will notice a trend in 2008 here on Searchblog: I’ll be posting stuff about conversations, and in particular how companies are doing when it comes to having conversations with their key constituents. You may recall my one of my seminal posts on this topic: From Pull To Point, in which I urged the Wall St. Journal and the Economist to join what I called at that time “The Point To Economy.” I now call it “The Conversation Economy” and since I wrote that post, the NYT has joined, and it looks like the Journal may follow. But as this post from Poynter shows, CBS News ain’t even nearly there yet, and it’s particularly interesting, because it has to do with video, which I think is a key grammar in what I am starting to call the emerging Internet Creole. From the post:

CBS Sunday Morning may be the best news show on television. A couple of weeks ago, it carried a superb piece on the art of conversation — one that I wanted to send to a friend. So, logically, I went to to look for it.

It’s not there. Or maybe it is — but I certainly couldn’t find it.

An Idea About Language and The Internet

By - December 11, 2007

I’m reading a book as I prepare to start the real work on my next book. Called The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker (wikipedia), I’m finding it a fascinating read, if at times a bit too happy with itself. However, I chose it carefully, as I’ve been developing my own theories about the interplay of language, conversation, and the future of the Internet.

I have a longer post in me about my first revelation upon reading this work, but it’ll take a full day to draft. However, for the record, it has to to with the idea of pidgin vs. creole, and the idea of search as pidgin, and the creole we all are creating, unawares, as we navigate the web.

Yeah, it’s that kind of a post.

Just to let you hardcore readers know – the ones who came to read this site because of my Search meanderings – that I haven’t entirely lost the thread.

Keep me honest, is all I ask.