Open is the new closed!

OPEN
Image by mag3737 via Flickr

It is sad the one of the internet stalwarts doesnt understand simple things about the web:

Open is the new closed!

Keep your products open & provide useful features – people will never move. GMail is open, I can move out of it anytime but I dont because it has compelling features and they do a fabulous job with google labs testing features that stick! GMail had 43% growth!

Yahoo was a leader when it came to mail, address book, calendar & groups(Its high time they removed eGroups tags/logos, grrr) ! They have been going down the wrong path of tightly integrate their products without open end points! Whoever wants to download the fat Zimbra client on my desktop! Pretty sad! Yahoo has such fabulous properties, they don’t know how to tie them up and make money! If someone from Yahoo is reading this leave a comment or shoot me an email, I have 5 low hanging fruits that would make you money! An insider tells me that Product management teams at Yahoo are based out of California and run the show! And boy do they suck!

Please Yahoo wake up & put up a fight! I feel like I am watching a Bollywood flick and waiting for the hero of the movie to throw punches back and he is getting beaten pretty bad!.. What an anti climax!

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Ideas to Toss: RSS to twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Information consumption patterns are changing, RSS adoption is plateauing(at 11%) & microblogging is taking off. I believe microblogging will have a better adoption than RSS because its more loosely tied & subscribe/unsubscribe mechanism is easy & quick.

There is a need for a tool/standard that does the following:

  • Import an OPML feed of RSS feeds & provide a list of twitter feeds to subscribe to
  • Support OPML like format for twitter so one can bulk subscribe/unsubscribe users
  • Import/sync an address book & add twitter fields for my contacts
  • Support for URL’s like micr://twitter.com/arjunram that will open up a microblogging client

This will make users suggestions easier & better. Is there a business model that is evident right away? May be not but its something to think about..


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Twitter reaches an inflection point!

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

As I woke up to the news that twitter has launched its people search I was pretty excited. Kudos to twitter for stablizing twitter and finally launching feaures. They were taking shit for trying to stabilize!

John Battele seems to think that this will help reach its inflection point! Well after trying the feature I believe it already has! I found around 30 connections of mine already part of twitter. People from unexpected quaters like my ex-bosses to people who rarely use technology. A varied audience. I would not have expected these people to visit twitter.com let alone joining it! This lets me to believe that people have already taken notice of twitter.

While I like the feature and how fast it was I think there is room for improvement. Of the 30+ connections that I found, I only added 2! I had already sent connection requests to a couple. And after carefully checking each connection out, I realized that a bulk of them either didnt have status updates and not too many followers. I hope twitter introduces a feature to filter active/inactive users based on some criteria. Also given the fact there are people from different walks of life on twitter, it is time for twitter to support groups!

But this experience of mine leads me to believe that there is credibility in the report that 30% of the users are new or unengaged(Twitter grader put up). In my experience it seems to be higher! Its close to 65%. I am sure that in the coming months social pressures would reduce that number as more people get engaged.

Twitter is going through what blogging went thru in 2005. Back in 2002 when I started blogging the conversation was intimate and intense! I was smitten to blogging back then because ideas flowed in. but as the conversation dilute due to noise level in blogging the conversation became less exciting for me. This led me and other people to blog infrequently and move onto other platforms. Twitter being one of them. Will the same happen to twitter? Will people move to friendfeed?

The conversation will always happen, the question is which medium will they exist on. The big difference between twitter and blogging is the ease in which one subscribes and unsubscribes. With blogging subscribe/unsubscribe took a lot of effort and you need to be infront of a computer. With twitter its much easier & its possible to do the same on a mobile phone. This should reduce the impact of people wanting to move out. But twitter has the subscription spam associated with it & for open messaging platform that is prone to abuse. I find value in knowing who subscribed me and hence I get a notification whenever someone subscribes. Twitter recently suspended a whole bunch of accounts reducing my follower count by 10%. This problem would magnify when new users come in. Fortunately spammers have not abused the open msging interface (@userid). Once they start doing that .. we are in for a lot of trouble!

I will keenly watch how twitter evolves over the next few months but the conversation right now is pretty engaging and exciting πŸ™‚ What do you think? Leave a comment here or continue the conversation on twitter here

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Intelligent Web! Time for Web20 services to give dividend!

Now that a majority of folks have come to the conclusion that Web 2.0 is in the final chapter (whether or not I agree with it is an entirely new post), the discussion has started to heat up towards the the next big thing. Some call it the data web, the semantic web or web30. Web20 was about harness the crowd (the wisdom of the crowds) and gaining from the cream of the data. To me the next big thing is the what I call the Intelligent Web. Any service that intelligently mines the data that we have collected so far and acts intelligently (algorithmically) to provide value.

Since the begin of the web there has always been a tussle between the algorithms and the people & the pendulum swings from one side to the other depending on the scenario of the time. We saw it swing back to the people with techmeme’s announcement that they will employ editor(s). Web20 was the power of the people (techmeme was an exception πŸ˜‰ if you compare it to the darlings of the web20 world – digg, flickr, delicious etc. ).

During the next web – the intelligent web , the pendulum will shift to the algorithms!

Here are some services that are already out there are available out there that provide value to me today: Picasa & Shazam. These two services are a sign of things to come..

Shazam is a application that I use on my iPhone. It listens to a music clipping and identifies the song/track for me. It is particularly useful when one is out shopping with their significant other πŸ˜‰ It works pretty well and helps me expand my music horizons and recapture old music that I have lost track off. It identifies the track using finger printing technology based on its 8 million song database (which seems to be expanding). This is a prime example of harnessing the power of the data.

Picasa: I used to be early adopter of flickr and I am still a paying user of flickr, but the service has not improved much since it launched (yes they launched video & have geo support! I love the work that they are doing to identify regions using data collected,) but nothing that would make life easier to an end user. Might need another post about how yahoo screwed up an opportunity to integrate and innovate with flickr & delicous. In comparison google launches services and starts to integrate them wonderfully (An antitrust suit might follow in a few years! Mark my words). I am digressing

Picasa recently launched facial recognition and does a fabulous job. The icing on the cake is the speed in which it does it. No wait for hours to identify faces, no dump assumptions and wrong tagging. It takes a little effort to tag the pictures for people’s faces but its provides immediate value! Heres how: When recognizing a face you can tag it to an existing contact or create a new contact. Seamless integration! This makes sure that I dont miss contacts my address book. Simple intelligence that changes my life! So much so that it is compelling me to think about moving from flickr.

What if Google took this to the next level and based on the number of pictures identified per person determined my closet contacts. Case in point, I hang out with my brother a lot and my uncles a lot lesser. It already does something similar with gmail (most contacted people). Now what if you combined the two together? Loads of value! But the scary part is I dont want google to know too much about me! This is where the anti trust angle comes into play. It would make a whole lot of sense if I could connect this to my plaxo address book!

It is time for web20 services to start mining the data that they already have and providing specific value back to the user. You are taken my data now give me back information. Not the bare basic stuff! Give me data that I can use elsewhere! Flickr give my the places I have visited most with lat/long. Delicous give an APML file with my favorite tags! Give me information or you are going to perish.

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Developing for the other world

Most Webservices that are catered to the “always on” mentality. While that is certainly true in the USA and other european countries it is certainly not true even for the best in places like India. Electricity is still not “always on”. It can be “mostly on” at best! I live in an apartment where if electricity goes I’m covered for 16 hours so my electricity is “almost always on”, but that is not true for the rest of the country!

Internet in this part of the world is again “mostly on”, server outages happen often and is unavailable for hours together! Bandwidth is metered if ur on a 1mbps connection, slower connections however have the unlimited option. Internet is still expensive in this country I pay about 3000Rs / 75$ per month for 10gb. So CNN pls think again before u automatically start playing a video on money.com! You just lost me! Broadband still accounts for 10% of the internet population in India. Think about the rest of country!

Mobile is “always on” in India my phone is connected for unlimited bandwidth for 400Rs / 8$ a month! The speed isn’t too great but gets the job done. A mobile phone is so vital in this country that coffee shops are providing cell phone charging ports while u sip ur latte!

Given the importance of mobile and “mostly on” Internet access the “cloud” becomes vital in this part of the world! I am willing to bet that most broadband users in this country carry high end mobile phones with GPRS which means there is good probability that they would be willing to pay a nominal fee for accessing their data! Gives micropayments a whole new meaning! Apple lost a tremendrous opportunity when it screwed up it launch by pricing the phone higher than the US market! What were they thinking! Nokia has
Made major in roads here bcos they understand the local market!

3G is scheduled to launch next year (hopefully) and if priced right the adoption levels would be crazy! Mobile operators, cell phone makers, VAS providers are going to make a killing!

So if u have webservice that has an international audience keep this in mind , you will audience will be loyal and happy πŸ™‚ but mostly done right the oppurtunity to make money!

Gotta go charge my phone .. Cheers!

I am writing this post on my iPhone while Internet and electricity is down :
πŸ˜‰

Has Conversation on the web lost its intimacy?


Image via b_d_solis

Now that I have your attention.. Here it goes ..

Bangalore had its 7th version of the ‘Barcamp’ unconference! Yes you heard it right, thats 7 in 2.5 yrs! I attended the first one in April of 2006. Kudos to the group for keeping it going.. But the coverage of this event has got me thinking about the conversation on the web .. I am only using this event as a example to illustrate my thinking..

Back in 2006.. The event coverage for Barcamp was great.. Tools like ustream.tv, seesmic, backtype and twitter were not in place. Blog was still in fashion, flickr and tags were being used liberally and one would even find youtube videos of the event.. Tracking the conversation would be as simple as tracking google’s blog search and flickr. Youtube videos were linked to blog posts. The conversation felt intimate and networking was great!

The conversation on the web has obviously evolved and is a lot more distributed today. A variety of mediums are being exploited but various tools that address the need. But it feels like the very purpose of these is being defeated .. It doesnt feel INTIMATE! (It is an entirely different story that the coverage of bcb7 was below average to say the least, the twitter feed was pretty good but thats pretty much it) Arent they tools supposed to enhance the quality of these conversations? How many people outside the valley use these tools?

Or is it just that the there is a need for a tool to tie these together to provide the whole picture? Tracking an event takes a whole lot of effort! Here are a few steps

  • First organizers need to standardize on the tag for the event!
  • Need to evangelize the use of the tag!
  • Register the tag/userid on hashtags, twitter & whole bunch of places!
  • Register with upcoming.org/eventful.com for the event.
  • Broadcast live (like techcrunch’s live feed for TC50) or get someone to broadcast it (like scoble on qik.com)

For someone to follow the event the end user has to do the following ..

  • Subscribe to upcoming.org/eventful.com
  • Refresh the following windows every few seconds
  • twitter search
  • google or ask’s blog search
  • flickr & youtube search
  • backtype search
  • seesmic / 12seconds.tv search
  • During or after the event the user does one or more of the following:
  • Subscribe to blogs/twitters/seemic/users that your discover
  • Mark as read items in blogs that you have already read due to your search windows!
  • Mark links on delicious/magnolia
  • Add friends to various social networks
  • Add friends to various IM clients
  • Keep checking blogs/twitter to see if the podcasts have been released (Oreilly’s where conference!)

WHAT A PAIN! At this point, tracking an event just adds to my information overload. I have to work way hard to track an event (Whether or not I am attending it)

I think Marissa Mayer from Google stated it nice when she said she looks at web models as either push or pull!

Unfortunately following an event on the web is a pull mechanism right now rather than being a push mechanism after one expresses his interest!

Make no mistake about it .. This problem only gets harder as more niche tools for personal journalism expand.

I would luv to hear how you follow conferences on the web.. Would you like to see it evolve? If so how? Please share your thoughts! Wonder how the scoble‘s and Loic Le Meur‘s of the world track conferences.

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How scoble could have gotten his data from Facebook!

OK, so I’ve been released from my NDA. I was alpha testing an upcoming feature of Plaxo Pulse β€” this feature has not yet been released and now that my account has gotten shut down it’s not clear whether it will be released. It is a Facebook importer that works just like any other address book importer.What does it collect?
Names and email address and birthday.

So Scoble wants to export his friends and sync up with plaxo. Here is how he could have done it:

Tools that he would have needed:

  1. Facebooksync (217 people already use it!, Review here!)
  2. Macbook Pro (Which he already owns http://scobleizer.com/2007/11/16/caught-in-apple-restart-hell/)
  3. Plaxo sync tool Names and email address and birthday.

Run Facebooksync which downloads the contact information (Name, email, date of birth, photos) and syncs it up to your Mac address book. The plaxo sync software that is running will sync his addressbook up with his Plaxo account. I do this all the time.

So whats the big deal? Why the hoopla? Everybody is all over this issue. I even twittered scoble with this suggestion. May be he hasnt looked at the twitter stream yet (he mentions that he looks at only 10% of his tweets) so I am going to give him to benefit of the doubt! He is usually good at analyzing before crying foul! Hope he sees this post!

However there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, who owns your/my data? I believe this is issue that needs to be addressed and people are going after the biggest target. I am proponent of me owning my data! If you as a company are making money out of my data then the right thing for the company to do is to let me export my data and use it the way I want it. But its just not facebook, its everybody Yahoo, linkedin, google!

I do believe Chris Saad’s Dataportability.org is the right way to go! The same is true for attention data and apml. I have even suggested that browsers need to support apml natively.

I am no facebook junkie but I think the issue of data portability has to be addressed by all companies.. You use my data to make money then u let me export it! Period! As end users we need to get companies to sign agreements with us when we sign up.

Am I smoking doping or am I just missing this point? Chime in!