Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finance online

A great video from Scoble featuring Aaron Patzer, ceo of Mint who won the $50k prize at the TechCrunch 40. Also pretty scary to a European in terms of accessibility of personal information.

 

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News Cloud

Newscloud combines user-uploaded stories with votes to create a constantly changing news home page based on user interaction.

 

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The future of news?

A new blog called NewsRoomNext by Michael Tumolillo has an interesting post giving advice for journalists in the online age.

Two of the most interesting tennets are:

  • Every piece of content should function as an independent business that can be embedded in whatever Web site wishes to host it;
  • Advertising needs to integrate with every piece of content and go wherever it goes;

 

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The future of ads?

Kevin Kelly writes a long piece about "choice ads" - or what John Battelle calls "sell side advertising".

The idea is that site owners ( in Kevin's mind, everybody!) will pick the ads which work best for them and get paid for those which perform. It does need a Google or Yahoo! to build out the payment architecture, but surely it's just a matter of time, he argues.

 

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Google shares on a high

Google's shares reached an all-time high, valuing the company at nearly $175bn, just a few billion short of leader Wal-Mart, notes Tech Trader Daily. This, despite the small disparity in revenue - $11.5bn compared with Wal-Mart's $377.8bn.

What is driving the climb, the site speculates, is a couple of investment comments - one showing financial services firms cutting back advertising but leaving search advertising intact, the other suggesting Google has a 9 to 24 month lead over competitors in several important technology areas.

 

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Microsoft to buy into Facebook?

Forrester's Charlene Li reports that Microsoft is close to acquiring 5% of Facebook for between $300m and $500m. That would value to fast-growing social networking site at $10bn - or $238 for each of the 19 million monthly visitors. Based on the total value of US advertising per adult ($2,500 - $250bn divided by 100 million adults) that would equate to 6-10% of all advertising. Feasible, she says, if people spend as much time on Facebook as they potentially could.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Google vs. Facebook

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch talks about a "top secret" meeting at Google where plans were announced to tackle the Facebook challenge head on. Read more here.

 

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Second Life embedded

Robert Scoble praises startup SceneCaster which he says will allow people to embed "scenes" into web pages and Facebook and so on. This he says has several advantages which may make Second Life more accessible to commercial organisations - in particular:

  • large numbers of people can enter a scene
  • linking to scenes becomes really easy

The service, which isn't officially launched until tomorrow, is one company missed off this year's Demofall 07 - a pity says Scoble.

 

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Antidote to feed overload?

FeedHub is a new service, showing for the first time at the Demo conference, which aims to be a custom version of TechMeme. The idea is that you load your feeds and then train it which posts are most relevant and it then acts like Techmeme to identify the most important one.

Scoble has some concerns:

  1. how big is the market? (how many people have 800 feeds?)
  2. how will they make money? If by ads, won't that put off the customers?
  3. what about the attention information they will get?

 

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Google presentation

Google's long-awaited presentation application has been launched. It's not very fully-featured but it's a start and no doubt Microsoft will be watching with great interest.

Update: I think I missed one of the really important things here: it's the online collaboration companies like Webex who should be the first to worry about Google Presentation as it makes simple presentation sharing over the internet with nothing to install really, really simple....

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Sharing Google

Google has launched "shared stuff" which is a system for sharing web pages with comments to a page on the web connected to a public profile. A response to Facebook? Maybe. It's really like a stripped down Google Notebook.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gadget Ads

Google is launching Gadget Ads, rich, interactive advertising in Google's "gadget" widget format which can run anywhere on the Google ad network. The main difference, apart from the flexibility of the rich media environment, is that these ads can be added by users to other sites or to iGoogle pages allowing a viral dimension to advertising for the first time. Interesting move. Jeff Jarvis thinks this will put Google in competition with the publishers it has always claimed to have a symbiotic relationship with.

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News widget

A new widget from the Washington Post provides some insight into the kinds of widgets which could be developed to add value to news in a distributed world. It shows at a glance the major issues and candidates for the US presidency and has a time slider which allows you to compare coverage on each topic by candidate.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thunderbird emerges

Mozilla is floating off Thunderbird, its email program, to allow it to follow its own development path, which may include becoming a communications hub for social networks like Facebook, reports PaidContent.

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AdSense goes mobile

Google's AdSense has launched for mobile devices

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Google presentation

Google's long-awaited presentation application has been launched. It's not very fully-featured but it's a start and no doubt Microsoft will be watching with great interest.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Designing for the Web of Data

Tom Coates is designing for a web of data. He works for Brickhouse, a Yahoo! experimental unit. He explores the challenges of helping users navigate paths through the web of data, which he defines as data connected through APIs. The human facing web and the data behind the scenes are getting closer and closer together, he says.
Websites are now only part of your product - Twitter is available on various platforms and 90% of all activities is through its APIs. The product is everywhere the network goes.

Therefore it is important to design for recombination. It should "play well with others". Why? Because it will drive people to your service, people will pay for them, to put yourself in the middle of an ecosystem and because you can become better for less work. In short it's the network effect.

He talks about Fireeagle (a code name). It's a service about location - it allows people to capture their location and share with their friends and with software. They have an API which will allow other software to use the information to provide local information and services.

Owing or maintaining a data source is a really good source of competitive advantage - more so that building services, he argues. The important thing is that you need metadata - any kind of metadata. He thinks you can't have too much.

He is a second speaker to urge the use of visual hierarchies to reflect importance.

Soundbite: "Twitter is a way of accessing error messages on the web - it's more than that: it's a way of accessing error messages on IM."

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The Experience Stack

Matt Webb is on stage to talk about adaptive design. His talk is arranged in alphabetical order. "I wrote down all the things I'm interested in and coerced them into alphabetical order."

By the time he gets to "P" he says this: products should be:
  • shelf demonstrable
  • explainable in a sentence
  • for an audience
  • identifiable
  • measureable
  • predictable (because they have an ethos)
Web services should be the same way, he argues.

Recommendations: the website history of the button.

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Building communities

George Oates and Denise Wilton on stage talking about community. George, principal designer of Flickr, discussed the origins of the site which started out life as an application with network interaction. It migrated to the web to take account of asynchonous requirements of the user base, but she says they are thinking of adding back the messaging functionality in the future. It was a game-based environment (with about 10,000 players) which sounds remarkably like the way that Facebook is developing. It migrated to photosharing when the company began to run out of money.

Denis talks about b3ta: "we started with what is now called viral content, but what was then called fucking around". We did things to the site to make sure people understand what we are about.

How does Flickr do this? The staff would watch what was going on the site and help out if they could see someone was struggling. The staff would add these as friends so that at least they knew someone. We always tried to make it obvious that there were humans here - down to labelling the buttons. Flickr has 10 million users and there are over one billion pictures on the site. Keeping the human face on the site is more and more difficult as the site gets bigger. Flickr users act as hosts.

Denise says people underestimate the hard work involved in building the community and making it develop in the way it was intended. "My biggest contribution was sitting day after day writing posts and steering people in the right direction." The way that you present the site - visual design and writing - very much dictates it's direction.

George: When a community really takes off there are users who take on the same language of the site and help to guide and police it.

George: "We have a long history of zero user testing". Now Flickr uses the blog and forum topics to open up discussion about the new features. The feedback is very strong.

Denise: What do you do if people rebel?

George: We persevere. We try hard not to release shit code.

Denise: You have to remember that there are people on the community which spend more time on it than you. You are not the boss, you are the guardian.

Geoge: You move from host to steward. When things go wrong it is really important to apologise for that.

What is the difference between on- and offline communites? asks Denise. Less and less as Flickr gets bigger, says George, though the main thing is speed.

Denise cautions against responding to flaming in the same tone as the users do. "Walk away from the computer and calm down."

Flickr is about to launch a geographical based version of "interestingness".

George wraps up: keep taking photos.

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Good vs Great Design

Cameron Moll, interaction design manager of the LDS Church in Utah, is on stage. He is talking about Good vs Great Design. He recommends the book How Designers Think. He argues that user productivity should trump machine productivity. It's quicker to boil water for one minute and 11 seconds than one minute and 10 seconds - because it's quicker to push the "1" button three times. He argues strongly that sites should emphasise what's important by bringing out the most important functions rather than having everything with the same emphasis.
His presentation is on his website.

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User Centric design

I’m at d.construct 2007 in Brighton and Peter Merholz, president of Adaptive Path is speaking. He discusses the problem of design as a pyramid with technology at the bottom, features in the middle, and at the top experience. Too often companies stop at either technology or features but it is experience (elegant simple solutions to complex products) is what marks out the great products. Apple famously exemplifies this, but “even” Microsoft is “getting it” with the latest version of Office (though as a Mac user he hasn’t personally tried it!)

Thank God for the wii, he says - “now I don’t just have to keep pointing to the ipod as a great example of user experience”.

Products are people too, he says. There’s a lot of research which shows that people interact with products the same way they do with other people. TiVo and Wii both have personalities provided by the manufacturers. We want to make cool products so what is it that makes people cool? They have integrity. The answer is what Tim O’Reilly as “designing from the outside in”. You need an “experience vision” - Kodak’s “you press the button, we do the rest” from 1880.

Palm succeeded where all others failed because it had a clear vision of where it was going - it designed the experience first, then added the features and finally decided on the technology.

Once the vision is written, adding a list of experiential requirements is a really useful way of developing the solution (allowing you to manage trade offs).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Microsoft fights back

PaidContent has the details of several MS initiatives designed to fight back against Apple and Google.

 

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Surviving the cut-and-paste revolution

Steve Rubel has some advice for web publishers on how to ride the next wave of web development: make everything embeddable. Specifically....

  • Think web services not web sites
  • Connect people
  • Make everything portable
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Silverlight search

Microsoft has launched a beta search engine called Tafiti ("to research" in Swahili of all things) which uses its new Flash competitor Silverlight to show off AJAXy collaboration features. It looks very good, though how useful it would be in day to day use, I'm not so sure...

 

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Embeddable maps

Google maps are now available as embeddable "widgets" in the same way that YouTube videos are. Up to now programming has been needed to make use of the Google Maps API in order to include maps. Now you just cut and paste the html and away you go. John Battelle has some words of caution about the t's and c's though...

 

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