Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Happy New Year

We absolutely, positively maintain this is the last Christmas we’re going to work though. Squash has been holed up in our cubby hole since Christmas, whacking away on our MediaConnect sites and contibuting the odd blog post here, but we’re going to take a week off in Queensland and “recharge”. Actually main purpose of the trip is to check out the beautiful Coolum resort where we’ll be holding our February Kickstart Forum. But while we’re there, may as well get in some R&R. So posts to here should be sporadic at best for a week. To all you Web 2.0 companies out there, don’t flip till Squash gets back.

Happy New Year to all!

Filed under: Self-indulgent wanking

Click fraud an early warning

Remember when Bob Metcalfe predicted that the dot com bubble would pop, largely because banner ads sucked. He got the date wrong but for the most part he was on the money. Since then, of course, pay-per-click targetted online advertising has come along on its proud, white stallion and saved the dot com damsel from distress.

However, that knight in shining armour, might have a few chinks in its plates. ‘Click Fraud’ is finally getting some attention, via this Wired article and this Paul Kedrosky blog post. Wired reckons up to 40 per cent of ad revenue is click fraud generated. Are we at all surprised?

The Web 2.0 community has every right to be shit-scared about this. It’s not quite in the Metcalfe prediction league yet, but it’s an early warning. Slice 40 per cent out of Google’s revenues and suddenly it’s numbers aren’t looking nearly as pretty. Factor in the impending competition from Microsot and Yahoo, which is sure to drive click prices down and the situation looks even bleaker. Consider the fact that just about every Web 2.0 startup is banking on being acquired by one of the companies that will be affected by this, or else are looking to ad revenues themselves and you’ve got an entire ecosystem balanced on something that, Squash reckons, is going to look increasingly precarious.

What these article show is that pay-per-click is a fundamentall flawed concept – eventually Squash reckons it has to be replaced by, if not pay-per-sale, then certainly pay-per-qualified lead. How many Web 2.0 businesses are looking at delivering those kind of outcomes?

Filed under: Online Advertising

Squash: Highly critical, remotely level-headed

My God, Squash has been pidgeon-holed. Adam Weinroth, who created blogging software EasyJournal has thrown us into a genre of bloggers he’s dubbed “doubtcasters”.

As much as Squash wants to chunder at the thought of having anything to do with another x.casting term, we don’t hate Weinroth’s article. In fact, we might even show it to mum.

Filed under: Self-indulgent wanking

How dare anyone claim that Web 2.0 is wanky

To quote Steve Gillmor in a recent Gillmore Gang podcast, trying to explain something or other related to his concept of GestureBank: “An environment where the user is in control of the conduit of gestures to the cloud, rather than the cloud essentially polling through search”.

Thanks Steve, it all suddenly becomes so clear.

Filed under: Piss take, Web 2.0

Apple sues “meat boy” for revealing trade secrets

UPDATE: iPod ‘ear bud’ headphones cause hearing loss. Apple recommends users stick raisins in their ears instead.

 Apple has launched legal preceedings against a 14 year-old-boy for revealing it’s plans to launch edible MP3 players before the official announcement at the upcoming MacWorld.

Big breaking news at ABC Hawaii today was the fact that a 14 year-old boy received a piece of meat instead of the iPod he was supposed to be getting for Christmas.

Apple is understood to furious that the boy and his mother have gone public with the news before Steve Jobs got the chance to announce the i-Pod edible at MacWorld.

Squash’ sources reveal that Apple may now well shelve the edible i-Pod plans because Jobs thinks the potential impact of the announcement may be lost.

We understand Apple was to launch three new i-Pods at MacWorld. i-Pod Meat, i-Pod Oreo and of course the Apple i-Pod Apple.

Squash can also reveal that all three new i-Pods featured a new revolutionary multi-interface design allowing you to stick any form of cable, including USB, Firewall, SCART, Serial Ports, power cables, etc into the new i-Pods.

“Hell, you could stick your old fella into these things, if that’s what you wanted,” said the Apple source, although it is believed such an action would break the i-Pod Oreo and would generally void warranties.

Asked if the new edible i-Pods actually played music, Squash’ source confirmed that: “Hell, no, it’s just a piece of food in an i-Pod box. But that’s what makes this concept so revolutionary. Who says that an MP3 player actually has to play music.”

“We felt that Apple defined the MP3 category and therefore, as such, we could be a bit more liberal in defining the boundaries of the market. It’s such a shame that this innovation is now going to be binned because of the reckless and illegal behaviour of a couple of press-whoring attention-seekers.”

Squash’ lawyer mates reckon the Apple legal action has flimsy merits, but noted that hasn’t stopped the company before.

Filed under: Piss take

2006 play-by-play – the ultimate set of predictions

You’ve seen every body else’s 2006 predictions, but to be quite frank, they’re crap. Here’s the definitive play-by-play of how 2006 is set to unfold.

1. When Oprah Winfrey conducts research for her Robert Scoble episode, she mishears something about a rumour about Microsoft or Google buying Opera. Thinking she herself may have suddenly become a Web 2.0 takeover target, she quickly decides to buy Opera herself, renames it as the Oprah browser, changes the colour scheme to lilac, and it quickly become the default browser choice for every female on the planet as well as the celebrity browser of choice.

2. Everyone wakes up to just how buggy Web 2.0 is and the Kool Aid brigade, quickly rush out a patched version called Web 2.1. Realising that no Web 2.0 companies have any kind of business model behind them, Web 2.1 is based on Paypal donations, on the premise that people really do want to thank web developers for “changing the world”.

3. Generation Y suddenly get a renewed taste for death metal, satanism and all things black and bad. Suddenly, Google’s “do no evil” branding renders it a pariah and Microsoft is once again embraced as the new cool.

4. Web 2.x startups start to have trouble recruiting AJAX developers because they’re all working on next-generation online poker and interactive porn sites. The Web 2.x community refuse to accept either genre into their fold, most likely because they’re making too much money.

5. Microsoft rebrands Live.com site as Death.com.

6. Everyone wakes up to the fact that Web 2.1 is just as buggy as Web 2.0 and finally realise that no piece of software, no matter how cool it is,  can be responsible for changing the world. Fearing that the Web 2.x balloon is deflating, the Kool Aid brigade rush out Web 2.5 to make it look like they’ve made a lot of headway. There’s still no business model, but it is hoped that nobody will notice based on the fact that three point releases have been skipped.

7. Oprah doesn’t think her audience gets Web 2.0, Web 2.1 or Web 2.5 and renames the “movement”, Web Makeover. Celebrities all over the place start dropping the phrase and before you know it every Internet start-up wannabe, commentator and consultant is a Web Makeover expert. Web Makeover blogs abound, incessantly linking to all the other Web Makeover blogs who also “get” just how cool Web Makeover startups really are. There are a heap of absolutely kick arse Web Makeover parties and conferences where everyone gets to reaffirm this fact to everyone else.

8. Larry and Sergey are both booted out of Google for good, for being too “old school” and Eric Schmidt finally gets to do things his way and turns Google evil overnight by buying out the rest of AOL and bending its search algorithms to favour all of its content. Generation Y thinks this is really cool and Google makes a miraculous stock recovery.  Microsoft responds by re-instating Bill Gates as CEO.

9. Unfortunately, no Web Makeover companies are making any money yet, and after failing to come up with a new business model (despite the fact that 1,238,292 blog posts were devoted to the subject over the course of the year) every Web Makeover start-up now integrates online casino and porn widgets into their applications. This would have worked but for the fact that…

10. Generation Y decides that being evil is so yesterday and suddenly, what’s hot, is religion, family and yo-yo’s. Bad boys Google and Microsoft both tank. Yahoo!, which failed to make the transition to evil, primarily because of the exclamation mark in its name, takes over as the new Internet kingpin. Microsoft rebrand Death.com as Bornagain.com.

11. Having spotted the change in sentiment a couple of months ahead of the curve, Oprah concluded that anything based on pornography and gambling wouldn’t be a good a strategic fit with her new goody-two-shoes image and in the nick-of-time she completes an Internet-sector exit, selling off the Oprah browser and all Internet related properties to Yahoo! for lots of money. She re-invests in genome research because it really is changing the world.

12. Having watched Google and Microsoft tank and now Oprah’s exit, the market shits itself and the Web-whatever-its-called-these-days bubble pops. Every Web-whatever-its-called-these-days blogger manages to find a blog post they penned on that one day when they weren’t tripping on Kool Aid and declare: “I told you so”. They then go and get real jobs and wait for the equivalent of Web 3.0. Yahoo! makes a shitload of money with online casinos and porn sites.

Filed under: Blogs, Piss take, Web 2.0

Telstra will be driven to tiers too

In his most recent podcast with Niall Kennedy, Om Malik tips that the ‘Two-tier Internet‘ is going to be a massive issue to watch in 2006 and what he says makes an awful lot of sense. Especially in Australia.

Briefly, what Malik calls the ‘two-tier internet’ refers to carrier’s and ISP’s abilities to shape wide area traffic and prioritise certain traffic. You don’t have to think very hard to realise how this could massively advantage Telstra.

While Telstra’s forays into content have for the most part been lampooned, it could end up being their single biggest point-of-advantage in the carrier/ISP wars if two-tier internet is allowed to become a reality.

Consider this. I have a 1.5Mbps connection. Why? So my Gmail loads faster? No, even at 256Kbit/sec, GMail works pretty fine thankyou. Rather I upgraded my connection, specifically so I could watch streamed NRL replays and streaming horse racing. They’re both Big Pond video feeds. Now, if Telstra could offer me a competitive 512Kbit/sec plan but when I come to watch Big Pond video content, Telstra opens up a great big 6Mbit/sec pipe that lets me watch full-screen, television quality then sign me up, I’m hooked. While, I’m there, you can upsell me to your VoIP service and movies-on-demand (there’s got to be a Foxtel conflict somewhere down the road).

Meanwhile, I’m an independent content/app provider and I want to make sure my users get big fat pipes too. So, I have to pay off the carriers to ensure my traffic gets prioritised. Who’s the first carrier I’m going to fork up my payola to. Telstra, of course, because it still dominates the market. In turn, the user has more reason to subscribe to Telstra because more apps/content go faster.

To ensure this advantage, Telstra has to do its best to make sure that bandwidth doesn’t get too cheap. When basic broadband rates get up to a couple of Mbit/sec, most of your streaming services are going to start performing pretty well.

At a Christmas party last year, I was chatting to Steve Dixon, the local head of Riverbed, a networking company that specialises in optimising wide area traffic, and he claimed he was almost drowning in interest for his kit. Optimising wide area traffic is certainly shaping up as the hot area of communications in 2006 and the picture I’ve painted above gives you some indication as to the kinds of reasons why.

BTW, as this issue crops up in 2006, the ACCC is certain to look very deeply into it, but it’s going to be a tough argument to stop a carrier prioritising traffic (as opposed to limiting traffic). Recently, Mark Jones and Brett Winterford published a piece in the Australian Financial Review, where they questioned carriers as to the possibility of Skype traffic being throttled. In our Epitome review of the story, we questioned the value of the story, based on the fact that no carrrier was going to get away with throttling certain applications. Prioritising traffic is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, though.

Filed under: Broadband

Silicon Valley clique exposed

There seems to be a very, definite perception out there, that this whole Active Web movement is once again, for the most part a Silicon Valley, or at the very least, a US, phenomenon.

Maybe, it’s got something to do with the ‘Web 2.0′ party circuit we keep hearing about (you’ve read the posts: ‘oh, I bumped into Blah Blah the other day at conference/party’). Maybe’s it’s because of the inter-linking back and forth between your so-called Silicon Valley heavyweight bloggers. Whatever the case, it does feel like if you’re not over there in the good ol’ US of A then you’re not really in the game.

To use an example, fellow Australian blogger Paul Montgomery, wrote in his predictions for things he guaranteed would happen in 2006: “None of the GEMAYA companies will buy a Web 2.0 startup from outside the US for more than US$20 million.”

Montgomery is so confident, he claims he’ll pour a bucket of green paint over his head if he’s proven wrong.

Now, there’s absolutely no reason that this should be the case. Unlike dot com daze, where you needed access to a friendly VC to launch, this time round you can literally launch out of your garage or study. You certainly don’t need to be anywhere to have access to smart, programmers, in fact they’re a lot more affordable the further you get from Silicon Valley. And it’s not that difficult to create buzz by blogging and other e-marketing approaches. 

So I found it very pleasing to read this analysis of Yahoo acquisitions by William Slawski. William lists all Yahoo’s acquisitions since October 2003 and one might be suprised to note that among them are companies based in Hong Kong, France, the UK, China, Brazil and it also mentions the Australian Seven Network JV.

The reality is there is an abundance of companies doing some of the best new Web stuff out there. I happened to notice yesterday, for example, that NetVibes is Paris-based, while Australia’s own OmniDrive has been getting rave reviews over at TechCrunch.

Silicon Shmilicon

P.S. I hope you look good in green, Monty

Filed under: Web 2.0

Why I still think I’m right about partial feeds

This Blog Post is Brought to you by Web 2.0 Corp. Go on, flip us. You know you want to.

My most recent post, particularly the part about partial feeds attracted a bit of flack.We’re talking these comments, this blog, this blog, this blog and this blog. There may have been another spray at this blog but it was in Dutch, so I’m not quite sure whether it was a criticism or not. But considering, I’ve received SFA support for my point of view, I’m choosing to believe it was a vehement defence of my hypothesis.

Now I’ve been blogging for about two weeks, so I’m the first to admit, I’m hardly the most experienced authority when it comes to a bunch of this stuff, but I’ve spent my entire career working in or writing about Big Media, so I come from an entirely different perspective to most in the blogosphere. A large slab of you folk have been using RSS in one form or another, long, long, long before anyone in Big Media cottoned onto its potential. A lot of you are power users, who churn through an amazing amount of material and almost certainly couldn’t get through all that chaff, without an RSS reader.

And, yes you’re probably more influential than the average reader, but fact is, you’re in the overwhelming minority. And when I say overwhelming, I mean OVERWHELMING. This Yahoo research conducted in October shows that just 4 per cent of users are aware that they use RSS and of that 4 per cent about 5 per cent use dedicated news readers. Now, I’m anything but a math geek, but I can do enough of my sums to conclude that’s bugger all. And with the increased absorption of RSS into personalised home pages, browsers and email packages as well as the rise of better, more efficient content aggregators I can’t see those sums changing.

We interupt this blog posting to bring you another message from Web 2.0 Corp. Revenue doesn’t matter, we’re changing the world. Let’s flip.

So let’s look at this situation from a publisher’s view for just a minute. One of Australia’s biggest tech publishers has only just reluctantly started publishing RSS feeds, something they have been loathe to do because they are worried it will cannibalise the quite substantial revenue that they earn from advertising placed in their email shots. They’ve finally accepted that RSS is the real thing and that if they ignore that vehicle they risk losing altogether the growing amount of people using RSS feeds as their gateway to content. Now, who’s going to be the person to tell these publishers that not only do they have to put at risk their email revenues, but now they’re expected to jeopardise the other part of their business that is booming right now, which is online advertising revenue?

Yes, you can use Feedburner to put advertising into RSS feeds, but if someone wants to show me the publisher making big dollars from AdSense ads stuck to the bottom of a blog feed, then I’m more than happy to hear it.

So while RSS junkies right now form a very, vocal segment of the blogosphere, if I’m a publisher there’s no way I’m going full feed until someone can start showing me the dollars. And I’m sorry if that upsets many people’s ideological sensitivities but let’s get real and accept the fact that as the blogosphere becomes more and more commercial, and hopefully becomes a real, sustainable publishing movement, then that’s going to be the commercial reality.

The only thing I will say, is that if feeds do start to generate real revenue, and they will probably need to have big intrusive advertising like the wonderful ads in this post from our very, generous, altruistic sponsor Web 2.0 Corporation, then that does have the possibility to be a game changer for media and publishers.

(BTW, if someone uses an RSS reader because they feel that’s the only way they can get through all the material they find valuable, but a lot of the valuable content comes only as a partial feed because of publishing realities doesn’t that defeat the point?)

Thank you for reading this blog post. Web 2.0 Corporation would like to wish you a happy day and remind you that if you have a spare $20m sitting around, we know a good place you can put it.

P.S. If Feedburner isn’t acquired by Google this year, I’ll be very surprised. But then that’s a whole ‘nother blog and a whole ‘nother opportunity to bring you more riveting messages from Web 2.0 Corporation.

Filed under: Blogs, Feeds

Mounting a defence against the flogosphere

Any one that has read my writing in our firewalled ITJourno/MediaConnect sites knows that I’m fiercely passionate about writer’s copyright and that I’m appalled at the level of theft that takes place in the blogosphere, or what I called the “flogosphere” in my most recent post.

Am I’m not even talking about so-called splogs here. Even high-profile bloggers regularly paste massive slabs of an article into their own blogs, under the premise of providing context. I simply don’t get it? You simply provide a link and the reader can go read the original post themselves and that’s real context. I don’t ever see the need for more than two or three pars to be “quoted” in any blog/story/article. For me, once you step over that boundary, you’re plagiarising. You’re taking away the reason that somebody might link through to an article and thereby possible earn revenue.

This issue has got some traction over the last 24 hours, because big-time blogger, Om Malik, got the shits his content was being ripped off. Fact is, though, it’s happening all over the net, all-day, every-day. There’s simply stuff all respect for writer’s copyright on the Internet and there needs to be a fundamental change take place or it’s going to go on unabated and the tenuous economics that one day, might make blogging and independent media sustainable remain even further off in the distance.

I’d suggest bloggers all start by stating their terms and conditions of copyright re-use. How much content can be republished (eg: three paragraphs/1000 words/partial-RSS feed only) and under what terms and conditions that can occur (eg: proper attribution and link). And then I’d love to see some of the big media companies start dropping lawsuits on serial plagiarists. The content community needs a big stick of some variety or they will be powerless to enforce copyright. I’d love to see a global organisation that any content provider can become a member of which would be charged with enforcing copyright through the legal system. The software industry has one, so does the music industry.

Also, the blogosphere needs to get over it’s reticence for partial-RSS feeds. Let’s face it, if you publish a full RSS feed, you’re inviting people to rip off your content. Om Malik’s blog couldn’t have been ripped off as easily as it could were it not for the full RSS feed he offers. Robert Scoble last month wanted to “shoot someone” because they refused to publish full RSS feeds, reasoning that they were treating him like a “slave”. The subsequent discussion is well worth reading. I really don’t see how you can expect to run a commercial blog, if you value your content so little, that provide a mechanism for anyone to publish it, wherever the hell they want.

Filed under: Blogs, Content Copyright

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