Category Archives: Web2.0

Should FTC file Facebook Antitrust?

facebook-opolyAt almost 500 million active users and half of all internet users worldwide, Facebook is a “natural monopoly”.  It comprises over 75% of the internet users in the US.  If you are making social applications or games Facebook is effectively the only  game in town.

I am a big fan of Facebook and we are developing games for the platform.  While many  ruminate over the implications of Facebook’s privacy changes I am much more concerned by the implications of other policy changes towards businesses.

Some of my compatriots might worry about the reorganization of notifications and requests, but the elephant in the room is Facebook’s Credits.  Credits are an initiative to take control of the monetization of all apps on the platform by taking a Apple-sized bite of 30% of every transaction. This will effectively erase any profit for many companies.

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Yelp! needs Help?

Yelp and GoogleYelp has been growing at a good clip and in the last couple days touted how well they were doing. This growth was probably a big factor in Yelp’s rumored $200 million valuation on its fourth round in February. A lot of this growth has been fueled by the excellent SEO that they receive as a result of a partnering arrangement with Google.

I noticed recently that Yelp isn’t as prevalent in my searches. Where Yelp used to show up almost every time I Googled a restaurant, instead it looks like Yelp competitor Citysearch is Google’s new review partner.

We haven’t seen a press release yet, but if Yelp has lost its relationship with Google this could lead to a downturn. While they may have the best reviews, that will mean little if people can’t find them. Could Yelp’s recent crowing be a scramble to paint a pretty picture before the decline?

The Free Economy

Internet GrowthIt comes to no surprise to many that I am an ardent follower of the economic trends and business models that are evolving online. Among other things this affords is a perspective on what happens when you take traditional media and services and move them online where the cost of production and friction for consumption starts to approach zero.

When we amortize most work over millions of consumers it becomes practical, and sometimes more profitable to make the product “free” and support it through advertising or ancillary sales. Because of this trend there is a growing expectation among some people that all content should be “free”.
Continue reading The Free Economy

Sleeping with the GPL

GNU wants UToday there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about what uses of GPL’d software might compel a company to open source their software. Having run into this issue at Disney, Sony and several startups, this article is meant to clarify my own understanding as well as hopefully help a few others make informed decisions. Please note that I am not a lawyer and this article must not be relied upon as a substitute for reading the GPL and obtaining specific legal advice from a licensed attorney.

While there are many less restrictive licenses (MIT, BSD, MPL, etc.) the GPL is perhaps the least understood and most feared by business. To an extent this confusion shouldn’t be a surprise. The FOSS ( Free and Open Source Software ) movement is made up of an array of activists that have slightly different ideals. Since to an extent law relies heavily on intent and consistent treatment, the inconsistencies in this approach muddy the waters. When over time the leaders of the movement make contradictory statements regarding the scope and intent to the GPL, this injects Fear Uncertainly and Doubt (FUD).
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Getting It

Blind Men with Elephant“It” is a paradigm shift. A concept that may be elusive, visceral and something that we need to understand completely to be part of the conversation. We see the symptoms in sales statistics and market reactions and try to understand it in terms of what we already know.

The changes happening to the societies of the world due to the advancement of Moore’s law and the Internet into every facet of our lives represents this on a titanic scale. The problem is that this paradigm shift does not fit in the box we understand. In order to understand it we frequently have to look for the things that change on a macro level. What are the currents that are shifting the sands? Where is that sand going?

To come up with comparisons we have to look at the telegraph/telephone as a precursor and realize how profoundly it changed the world. We then realize that even that shift pales in comparison to what we are experiencing today.

Getting our feet under us in this whirlwind of currents is difficult. In order to start understanding we have to examine the foundations of enterprise, social interaction and even assumptions of why we do things in our daily lives. We track the currents and try to predict where the next wave will hit.

This is an interesting time we live in, it can be a lot of work keeping up, but it can also be a lot of fun. Part of the fun is running into other people who get it. These meetings are often a fervent exchange of ideas and feelings as we negotiate a common understanding of the most exciting thing we have ever witnessed. We challenge each other and grow. Stitching together what is happening is in an imitation of blind men trying to describe an elephant.

There is a patchwork of understanding, a mosaic picture of convergence that is coming into focus. The world is changing and the new shape is just starting to emerge. The only constants are change and our basic human needs. To those that are awake to the possibilities this represents opportunity. The world has become a canvas for us to paint on.

What is Community?

CommunityJeremiah Owyang posted a question about how we define “Online Communities”. In referencing Jake Mckee’s post on the subject he wonders is Twitter a community?

Before we answer that question we have to define what a “Community” is? As has been pointed out by Robin Hamman, “Community” “has dozens if not hundreds of distinct definitions”. In practice we shouold go by the most common definition that covers the specific context. If we go to the dictionary we find a definition of “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (e.g. “The Business Community”)”.

The key’s points here are:

1. Common Interests.
2. Perception of being distinct and separate.

When we examine Twitter and find that the common interest is Twitter and the activities on it, and that the perceived distinction is of those who use/get twitter and those that do not. So yes, by definition, Twitter IS a community.

That said, groups of followers within Twitter may NOT be a sub-community since they do not identify themselves as being separate from Twitter itself. We are not the “following Scoble” community.

Of course all this “definition” talk begs the question, how should we forge this new online vocabulary? Like any lexicon it will develop on its own via adoption patterns. When creating definitions I lean towards either adhering to already established meanings, or inventing new words entirely. This makes words less confusing when we use new meanings in conversation.

What is SPAM?

SAPMTo a previous post, MaxS commented that my reaction to SPAM was different than his and particularly to that of teenagers and young adults (Millennials).

SPAM is in the eye of the beholder. The point of the other article is not whether we should consider one thing or another SPAM based on frequency or other metrics, but instead that we should pay attention to how our perceptions of the source color our assessment.

There is a double standard that we take for granted. We classify companies and people of authority differently in our minds than we do friends. The type of interactions we expect are completely different.

Regardless of the generation if someone radically changes the interaction context on us (turning mentoring or friendship into marketing) then we are going to view that as betrayal of our perception of what we have signed up for. I give you permission to be my friend, not sell me a car.

In the end while we may each have different ideas of what constitutes SPAM it all comes down to unwanted or inappropriate interactions as colored by our perception of the source of those interactions. Appropriate interactions build trust and “Social Capital”, inappropriate ones tear it down.

Moore’s Law vs. Dunbars Number

Johnny MnemonicMoore’s Law wins.

In a recent twitter conversation Jeremiah Owyang asked the question, ” Did we break Dunbar’s Number of 150 members per social network? Or are tools more efficient?”

The reality is that we have been pushing Dunbar’s number since we first invented the little black book. By offloading much of the social context data into long term storage we can maintain much more meaningful social interactions with a larger number of people. We can also pick up stale relationships and rekindle them much easier.

So what does Moore’s Law have to do with any of this? Our mobile phone and Social Network contact lists are this generations black book. We may not quite be up to the level of Johnny Mnemonic, but the reality is that we are already augmenting ourselves. For now the interface is our eyes and keyboard/pad.

Some of us are already living in the future…

Who is the Long Tail?

Long Tail BookWe have been making a lot of noise about the long tail for a while now in our little world of Web 2.0 and it struck me this morning while reading a post by Gordon Haff that we don’t really talk about where it comes from.

The long tail has many forms, some obvious ones being older and niche music as well as practically all of the blogoshpere. I disagree with the idea Alex Iskold posted that, because the individual content contributor isn’t making money, the long tail is in trouble. Making money is not necessarily first and foremost for many of the people producing content for the Long Tail.

I just finished reading Moneyball where Michael Lewis relates that Billy James was ecstatic at having sold 64 copies of his first Baseball Almanac. This was done out of passion and a need for recognition, not greed. This type of attitude is pervasive in the Long Tail.

The Long Tail is real and here to stay not because the people creating the content for the long tail are making money, but because someone else has figured out to monetize access to it as part of their service. The Long Tail was always there, and is growing because the internet makes it so easy to share content and get positive feedback.

I know that I do not have a large audience, but blogging still holds value to me. Even if the numbers are low its still a fun to look at Firestats and realize that other people are getting what you are talking about.

We are the Long Tail.

Drupal is Growing Up.

DrupalFor little while now I have been dabbling in the open source content management framework Drupal . Drupal promises ( in time) to allow practically anyone to be able to set up and mange complex social web sites with more features than a swiss army knife.

Today a friend of mine Darius asked me for my thoughts on my recent participation in the DrupalCampLA BarCamp. This gathering of self proclaimed Drupal geeks was one of the better events I have been to. The thing that makes all gatherings worthwhile are the people that you interact with.

On this level DrupalCampLA far exceeded my expectation because I came in contact with some real pioneers that are genuine and working hard to bring the platform up to a usable level for everyone including big business. Much credit to Crystal Williams who with AOL and a group of volunteers put together a great event.

The efforts of WorkHabit and Bryght to get this platform usable and maintainable go above and beyond. By using their consulting as a way to fold resources back into the development of Drupal, they not only moves the platform forward, but in the end give their clients better value in a platform that grows with them.

That said there is also a lot of money being spent by the likes Ethan Kaplan over at Warner Brothers Records who have put themselves out on the beading edge by using and pushing the platform for real commercial sites. This is a big risk in many ways since they and a few others really are blazing a trail.

Before you run off and start using Drupal be aware that although it is definitely suitable for many small to medium web sites, configuring and using it is significantly more difficult than WordPress and it does not yet scale to the level of MySpace or Facebook. Drupal is also potentially a real performance hog if you don’t pay attention to how modules interact.

My takeaway from DrupalCampLA is that Drupal is a good content management platform with a alot of features and a thriving community of developers. It has a long way to go, but it is the developers and people like Jonathan Lambert at Workhabit that will eventually evolve Drupal into a scalable and maintainable enterprise grade solution for real development. If your development curve and needs matches that of Drupal you should give it a try.

Another side observation is that for many applications Drupal is a better solution than Rails. The reason is that the development community is much more open about sharing modules that you can build on. Starting with a content management system as its core means that CMS is core to any module created. This is a big benefit for anyone that uses it and instantly increases the value.

The velocity of exposed and usable community development outstrips the difficulty of developing in PHP. At this point, while I dislike PHP, it is already scalable (with work) and I believe will through Drupal and some Rails like frameworks be the only logical choice for social web development in the next few years.

Twitter Housecleaning..

TwitterWhen we “follow” people in Twitter we either want them to be part of our virtual co-presence and conversation or are subscribing to broadcasts we find interesting.

If you use Twitter and you are noticing a high noise level then its time to ask yourself if the people you are following enrich the conversation. If not, it is time to clean out your following and refocus on what Twitter does well. It may not be Twitter that is the problem, but who you are Twittering with.

I just dumped a bunch of follows off my list and will drop more in the next week. I feel better already!

Truemors and Guy’s clay feet.

Truemors
From time to time I have read Guy Kawasaki’s blog. It was usually engaging, informative even if I didn’t always agree. It also exposed sides of the venture beat that I wasn’t familiar with. I came to respect Guy and still do.

When Guy started his new project truemors.com I was stunned. Truemors was pitched as a place to post inside scuttlebutt. In effect a place to post rumors and gossip. This was the last thing I would have thought Guy would get into.

This shock prompted me to email Guy to quench my curiosity. To my surprise Guy started to correspond and I started to get the feeling that what had transpired was only partly a change in Guy.

After some reflection I realized that a big part was the crumbling of a personal mythology that had developed around Guy’s blog. When we expose parts of ourselves on the web others develop a mental picture of who we are as people. The higher the signal to noise ratio (more quality/less crap) the more respect and expectations.

In this instance I had developed respect for Guy that was tied to the perception of Guy as a VC and analyst. A perception that he had such insight as to be able to see the forest for the trees. Truemors struck me as trivial and fluff. An idea that I would have discounted and rejected.

Of course the reality is that trivial and fluff with the right twist can be more viral and successful than something that took years to develop and millions of dollars. In many ways the paradigms have changed and it truly is the little guy in his garage that can come up with the next great thing for very little money. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.

Spam?

When I added Guy on Facebook I received a message to try Truemors. Mind you I get messages from time to time from other developer friends who are developing Facebook apps to tryout their wares and don’t think anything of it. Once again I apply a double standard for Guy.

I told myself that it was because Guy wasn’t commenting on others work or talking about the next great thing he was involved with. Guy was selling Truemors to us. In my mind he had violated a trust. The critic is not allowed to be a promoter.

In my mind Guy was now trading social capital for the success of this enterprise. The earned respect and myth being traded for a chance that you might try his application. That it might be enough to help put Truemors over critical mass.

So of course I send Guy a message, what gives? In Guy’s reply he asks “I have to do what I have to do, right?”.

Guy was right; you do have to give it your all. He wasn’t being any more spam than my other friends, he was simply promoting again. I once again realized that it was my perception that was coloring all of this. I had been affronted when he dared stray from my preconceptions. Guy was simply using his assets to help his investment succeed. This was business.

In the end I have to thank Guy for an education. Once again (as has happened many times before for me) I have learned that people are people. Putting someone on a pedestal clouds our vision of the real person. I would rather know the person than the myth.

One more thing, Guy, good luck with Truemors.