The Idea Dude


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why you need Sparky and Chief if you're Web 2.0

Saw this on the Discovery Channel Store. It's a set of cubes with stick men inside of it and they interact with each other when you put them next to each other. Every Web 2.0 entrepreneur should buy a couple and take them to analyst meetings and media interviews. This is exactly the social phenomena we see at MySpace, TagWorld, Wikipedia and of course TheGoodBlogs. All Web 2.0 is doing is providing the tools to make it easier for people to have ad hoc conversations and sharing a common grounds and interest, be it a blog, a podcast, a video or chat. Creating communities requires a focal point, stimulus, collaboration, trust and contribution. Focal point because you need something in common to draw your members together. Stimulus because there is an energy minima that you have to overcome to ensure there is enough momemtum to keep it going. Collaboration because refinement is a collective activity. Trust because you start building relationships with other community members. Contribution because members stay because of the emotional equity they build over time either because of the relationships they've built, the time that they've spent or the comfort zone that they created.

If IM and email were invented today, would they be regarded as Web 2.0?

And no, I don't get a cent from you buying any Cube Worlds. After all, it is Web 2.0.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Death of a hired man

Being in such esteemed company, I sometimes feel I need to keep up with the quality of the tech blogs around me. But I started this blog because I wanted to put down my thoughts on business, strategy, leadership and all good things that make tech teams successful beyond the technology. Most of my legacy I left behind was not a portfolio of patents or a cutting edge code, but it was a group of people under my guidance as their CTO/VP, these folks went on to greater things hopefully in part because of what I managed to impart upon them during our journey together. I didn't teach them to code in Java, I taught them to lead, to challenge, to be fearless (even when they were fearful). So perhaps an occasional diversion will show the other side of TheIdeaDude. We are, after all, multi-faceted beings.

I love to learn even from my 14 old son. This weekend, while helping him out with his home work, we came across a poem by Robert Frost, called the Death of a Hired Man. It's a sad poem but the title spoke to me. I started TheGoodBlogs after turning down some great offers partly because I didn't want to be just a hired hand (even if it was at an executive level). It was time to see if I could steer my own destiny despite how frightening it was. Part of the poem I loved was "I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud, will hit or miss the moon" I guess our small sailing cloud is TheGoodBlogs.

Another profound but unrelated part of the poem was I know just how it feels to think of the right thing to say too late. It is amazing how someone can express something so simply and yet create such resonance within the reader. Perhaps blogging means being able to say the right thing even if it seems too late.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There's beauty in the long tail

I stumbled upon an article by Mark Cuban on blog pimpin. I'm not a fan but it is a good commentary worth reading. He claims self promotion in the Blogosphere is out of control. I think there's an element of truth in that. There is definitely a blogger demographic that exhibits a kind of swarming effect. Find the top story of the day on Techmeme and blog about it. Or simply blog about a celebrity like Mark because he is controversial and he gets googled as much as anyone else. It's not so much that it's wrong to blog about hot topics and celebrities, especially if you have a real opinion. But it's wrong if you're only doing it to get your google ranking and reputation up. That's not the spirit of the blogosphere in my mind. You may find a huge omission of the entertainment category at TheGoodBlogs. We tried. The effort to find 20 good blogs on entertainment is far more difficult than you think. Our short exercise in futility yielded countless blogs that were the same pictures of Paris Hilton, Tom and Kate in Italy, and other celebrity sitings with no interesting information and forget about opinion, there is usually none. A good entertainment blog is hard to find. We will have that category one day but right now it needs a few good blogs.

At TheGoodBlogs we usually don't have the time or the luxury to surf for long periods of time, so keeping an eye on the widget has become my window to the world. I do cherish the long tail. Every day, I learn about what's hot in Web 2.0, being a parent, I laugh and cry with the Moms. I marvel at the pictures at the food blogs and always look to the marketing category for tips and tricks of the seasoned professionals. All in all, it becomes a well-rounded experience, like walking in a tiny unexplored village that has craftsmen and art not found anywhere else, like going from Disney to some quaint Bavarian village. There's beauty in our TGB backyard. While not every blog is going fit my tastes all the time, all the blogs will undoubtedly please me some of the time.

Just lovin' it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Less is more - the Art of Web Design

I was checking our blogs and came across an entry from one of our members in the Marketing/PR category. Alas, I lost the link, being preoccupied in fixing a software bug. Nevertheless, the gist of the argument stuck with me. The blogger's issue was that marketeers whether at a trade show or on website should know better than clutter up the message. It was the lack of knowledge on the power of whitespace and how it was rarely used. Too often we feel we would lose our viewer's attention and proceed to ply him/her with a zillion quotes, options, features in the hope that he/she won't go away. Rather it is to take a single concept so powerful with a compelling simple message and draw the viewer into your experience by not supplying all the details. The simplicity of the Google search page is an example of clean design and they resisted to go to the Yahoo paradigm that more is better.

Taking the lesson to heart, we revamped our front page (sometimes staring at the same homepage numbs any pain that may be there!) Too many features, quotes etc. Rather, it should have been... if you have a blog that sizzles, we could ignite it to be a raging masterpiece!

The ad that won the Cannes Grand Prix this year was an ad for Lego at the top of this post. If it looks obscure, it represents a submarine! I think these Lego ads were better.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Haydn Shaugnnessy is an active member of TheGoodBlogs. He has been great critic and supporter of TheGoodBlogs. So I'm pretty excited to see he has launched a new aggregation site called Wripe. I know it's a culmination of a lot of thinking, questioning, experimenting over the past few months. In short, it represents Haydn's passion as a journalist, blogger, news editor and everything to do with digital online information. He'd love you to stop by and send him some comments on what works and what doesn't.

Good luck, Haydn.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Steering a global economy

BusinessWeek carried an interesting article on how governments are struggling to come to terms with the global economony. It states that the cost of imported goods and services will exceed federal revenues, i.e. Americans will soon pay more to foreigners than to their national government. This is never more clear than the recent US legislation effectively banning online gambling. The motivation was not of a moral nature given that certain states have casinos and state lotteries are legal. But the reality is someone figured out that $6 billion dollars were flowing annually out of the US and none of that flowed into federal coffers. I wonder if anyone figured out the net outflow or inflow of other online ecommerce operations like eBay and what would governments do if they realized that a bulk of their wealth was being channeled out of their countries with little or no tax at all.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why Google should buy

I watched the Blogosphere react to's launch this week. They were victims of their own hype and many influencers seem to walk away disappointed. However, look past the teething problems, lack of content and the need for user-experience tweaking, lies a very potentially compelling technology. The fact that many didn't get it might be a good indicator of either being still too early or being a potential market disruptor. Tagging pictures and video is a chore that is neither done well if done at all. That fact that the technology comes from face recognition technology probably means they have multiple patents sewn up. Take what they are doing and apply it to Google images and maybe this is where Google could expand its dominance in the search space. Tagging is not always efficient, how do you show that two handbags are similar because of their buckles in a group of several hundred handbags all tagged the same way. Other potential suitors maybe Amazon or eBay where there are millions of items potential items that do could with visual filtering in addition to textual filtering.

On a similar note, it is interesting to note that they were able to reinvent themselves after realizing that as a face recognition technology, the accuracy required to gain adoption was not acceptable. While we may laugh when presented with 5 people who are not my Uncle Bob but may look like him, I think consumers may react differently with 5 different dresses, watches or other items that we may also like. As a visual recommendation engine, it is one of the most exciting and potentially useful technologies in the Internet for some time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

57 million blogs and growing

Technorati has released their State of the Blogosphere quarterly report. Firstly, hats off to them for sharing the data. Much of that information could have been kept priorietary but they chose to make it public. It's important information, seeing that they track 57 million blogs with about 100,000 new blogs every day. The blogosphere is becoming like the big bang theory, an ever expanding gas that grows without any current signs of abatement. What I found interesting was the following:

  • 1.3 million postings per day, doubled from last year but showing signs of a plateau.
  • The head of the long tail is dominated by mainstream media (like New York Times) and not your traditional bloggers.
  • Based on their concept of authority, the top bloggers (4,000 of them) have over 1,000 posts, have blogged more than 530 days and average almost 2 posts a day.
  • The next tier (26,000 bloggers) have over 380 posts, blogged more than 455 days and average about 1 post or less a day.
  • Third tier (416,000 bloggers) have less than 159 posts, blogged for less than a year (average 260 days) and blog every other day.
  • The rest of the 57 million follows, ergo, a massively long tail.
  • English blogs only represent 39% of the blogosphere with Japanese the second dominant language at 33%.
  • Blog activity spikes with world events.

It confirms what most of us probably knew all along, reputation and brand in general doesn't happen overnight, either you inject a lot of dollars and PR to cause the spike (there's an amazing example of this at Fast Company) or like most of us, it's by a steady and consistent process of posting and building our readership, one reader at a time, day after day. The results should not depress new bloggers but rather the message is blog because you enjoy sharing your thoughts, insights, feelings, whatever. It is after all a log, a chronological stream of consciousness which reflects who you are and what you think about. If you deviate from this, blogging becomes a chore, a business process (with little reward), a job instead of an outlet for your passion for writing and a channel for connecting to like minds.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Is TheGoodBlogs a disruption?

I traded some emails with well-known disruption consultant Michael Urlocker. He challenged me to answer three simple questions with honesty and humility. I chose to do that here and put my stake in the ground for all to see.

  • Is it an important problem that we are solving? We thought it was, enough so, we abandoned our careers and took out loans to build this. If word-of-mouth is about passing news from person to person, than we're probably the only solution out there actively doing it in a distributed manner i.e. every time a blog is viewed. We don't wait for someone to carry your post or put a comment on your blog entry or grab all the content to put on our portal.
  • Is it a frequent problem? Our addressable space is 97% of the blogosphere. If Feedburner, Technorati, Sitemeter or anyone who carries significant statistics were to reveal their numbers, it would point to 3%-5% of their population being responsible for 50% or more of their traffic. Even if conservatively there were 10 million active blogs out there, our potential market would be over 9 million bloggers.
  • Is the customer already trying to solve that problem, but can't do so adequately with current tools? I would believe the answer is yes. I doubt anyone would say no to getting more mindshare, readership, dialogue and brand. Of the 97% of bloggers out there, they're definitely not doing it for the money. If anything, it takes a terrific amount of time and energy for very little return.

Michael also said successful disruptors look inferior to mainstream markets in which they focus on. That may explain the fact that despite some emails placed from well-connected sources none of the major tech tabloids carried our launch. A-listers perhaps really don't care about long tail. It is after all the nightmare they wish they never wake up to. We had more success from our own TGB community and perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt from that. You definitely know who your friends are.

I hope I answered those questions honestly, I can't say I'm objective (not when you spend 70 hour weeks doing this.) I even feel guilty that my blog has definitely taken a TGB bias, (which believe it or not is unintentional), it happens to be what I think about all day.

Disruptors are not unlike prophets of old. They either bring about profound changes or get stoned. Let's hope TheGoodBlogs is not the latter...