Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Wikis the death of Lotus Notes

IBM has got it all wrong with its latest strategy for Lotus Notes. Trying to zest up the old fella, IBM has tacked on social computing features, but it’s missed the Web 2.0 platform that will hammer in the last couple of nails in the Notes coffin, namely Wikis.

I’ve been a Lotus user and supporter for a good decade. It enabled me to develop a website that would be the foundation of my business, MediaConnect. Without Lotus Notes and it’s ease of development, my business would never have got off the ground.

We dumped Lotus last year, to move to the more prevalent and far more flexible LAMP platform, but even having done so I was never able to find a platform better suited for doing what Lotus has always done best – that is building departmental, hack-your-own apps.

As such, I’ve been hanging onto Notes as our Intranet platform, but I’ve finally found a way to move on, and that’s Google’s recently acquired Jotspot platform.

I’d played with Jotspot before and been moderately impressed, but it wasn’t until I recently started delving into its markup language and app-building capabilities, that it became very apparent to me that this was the future.

Let’s face it, most intranets and indeed most websites are simply a collection of documents. That’s what made Lotus so perfect, being a document-based database. To hack up an app you simply built a wysiwyg form, modified a view and you were away.

Wikis are even more simple. You just type.

However, I’d always considered wikis to lack power until I lifted the covers of Jotspot. I’ve also been checking out competing wikis like the offering from Australian company Atlassian, and I’ve finally found the direction that has enabled me to put to bed Lotus.

Social networking and social bookmarking are trendy, but thats not how real collaboration is done. Someone should have taken a good look at Wikipedia and how successful that’s been in terms of what Notes is really all about, knowledge management and collaboration, before they got carried away with trying to build corporate equivalent of MySpace or delicious.

RIP Lotus Notes. Long live the wiki.

Filed under: Wikis

Google identity issues

A couple of weeks or so I blogged about how Google had switched on Docs and Spreadsheets for Google Domain for Your Apps.

It appears I managed to do so in the midst of testing, as other people in my company couldn’t get it to work, nor were they able to invite me to edit docs.

Today, I tried to log in with my hosted domain address and I got this:

Locked out!

Then when I tried top open GMail having previously been used my hosted domain mail, I got this message:

Switch now!

This has never happened to me before, I’ve been able to log in under both my standard Google ID as well as my Google Apps for Your Domain identity simultaneously before. Clearly, Google are playing around with their identity systems and trying to work out how to handle this.

I’m firmly of the opinion that Google Apps for Your Domain is a killer app for Google is small business and they need to move on it and allow users to take that identity across all apps. What I’d really like to see is a master identity and for you to be able to associated your different Google identities to it, and then use a drop down box when in apps to switch between them. For example, I have three different Picassa accounts, one for work, one for personal and one dedicated to a hobby and it’s an absolute bitch when I want to switch between them because I have to log out which kicks me out of Email, calendar as well.

Identity is an often forgotten part of Web companies strategy but its crucial and no one yet has nailed it.

Filed under: Google, Identity Systems

GMail down and it’s killing me!

UPDATE: I’m finally back up. At some point GMail came back, but my Google Apps for your Domain mail account took at least three hours.

I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour, trying to access my Google gmail, calendar, etc, etc without luck.

TechCrunch has written a series of posts noting that Google has been having quite a few tech problems of late and it does provide some cause for concern. I’ve become almost totally dependent on Google products and when they grind to a halt, so do I!

Tamara, who I sit next to here at work, refuses to give up Outlook and we have constant back and forth over the respective merits of our email solutions. Right now, she’s laughing.

GMail is Down

Yesterday, I was writing up the IT component of our business plan and I wrote the following:

” MediaConnect Australia’s goal is to operate a wholly online on-demand IT model, using a combination of web applications. This allows our staff to access their information from any computer at any time, minimises risk caused by IT malfunctions, and effectively removes the need for inhouse IT expertise, enabling IT to be delivered at a low-cost while still delivering high value.”

Calendar Down too

Days like today are a bit of a reality check…

Filed under: Uncategorized

On the money with iPhone launch, Pandora buyout next

It’s always nice when you make a prediction and it comes true, so just wanted to say I told you so.

Now for Apple to buy Pandora within 12 months.

Filed under: Uncategorized

MyBlogLog will fizzle

10 million kudos to the guys behind MyBlogLog. They couldn’t have executed their startup any better and they’ve reaped the rewards!

But I don’t see Yahoo! making MyBlogLog fly. It’s the cool widget of the moment, but I see it as only an interim solution.

Logically, MyBlogLog COULD BE massive for Yahoo! The social networking stuff is nice, but not as nice as the user demographic information that it will enable the Internet giant to collect on MyBlogLog users. Imagine taking all that data about what sites your visiting, combine it with much of the intelligence you can mine out of the profile data users enter, and you’ve got about as much info on a user you could possibly want that would potentially enable you to serve up powerfully relevent advertising.

The question is will MyBlogLog be taken in that direction?? Will Yahoo! also tie into the puzzle delicious, flickr, myyahoo, yahoo search, yahoo toolbar data. They should be salivating at the prospect!

But people are likely to be far less comfortable turning that kind of data over to big Internet companies. I wasn’t too worried about the stats that MyBlogLog was collecting on me, after all what were they going to do with it? But am I worried about Yahoo! having that data? Maybe, and I hardly ever get caught up with privacy paranoia.

The next big problem with MyBlogLog is it’s not integated, where you really need integration and that’s first and foremost through the comments. How many MyBlogLog ‘Recent Readers’ have you click on? How many links have you followed from people who have left interesting comments? That’s where you need integration.

I was very interested in a comment Nic Cubrivolic left on my post regarding TechCrunch’s Forum.

What I would like to see is tighter integration between blogs, forums, social networks, etc. so that conversation on a topic taking place anywhere can all be bought together no matter what the source of the opinion is.

This is exactly what we need and MyBlogLog won’t be in a position to deliver it as a part of Yahoo! Yahoo! is clearly interested in bringing all MyBlogLog user’s under the Yahoo! identity management system just as Google is doing. But nothing based on a proprietary identity management system is every going to be able to deliver the kind of openess we need. Microsoft couldn’t achieve it with Passport/Hailstorm – there are just too many competitive issues at play for any single, big vendor to own that piece of the puzzle.

OpenID is the great hope and it would be wonderful to see that get some traction. If it did, then we can start talking about true distributed social networking.

I’ve already previously written a post about how I think WordPress can be a big player in the social networking space and it would be fabulous to see WordPress.com adopt OpenID as Technorati has. WordPress and SixApart would be wonderful OpenID hosts because your blog then potentially becomes your identity. If this ever happens then it might finally make distributed intelligence business models like edgeio take off.

For me, an open identity system just makes too much sense for it not to happen.

Filed under: Social Networking, Yahoo!

Google Docs ties with your domain

If you have a Google Apps for your Domain account, you can now log into Google Docs and Spreadsheets using your Google-managed user names.

We’ve had our domain hosted with Google now for a few months, but I’ve held off moving away from my gmail user account because I like the single sign-in factor I have with that. The big obstacle for me was not being able to log in to Docs and Spreadsheets with my MediaConnect username as I spend a bunch of time in that app every day as it has become my primary word processor these days.

However, last weekend I thought I might try logging into D&S with my mediaconnect login and it worked no problems at all, although its still not linked to in top left-hand corner of my email.

I wonder why that is? I hope it’s because Google has something bigger planned that simple integration of D&S and GAFYD (and Google can we please get some nicer names for these two apps).

I’m absolutely dying for Google to integrate Jotspot into all this. I have very much come to the conclusion that is the app that brings all this stuff together for SMEs.

My frustation at the moment, is that Zoho has pretty much done this with its recent ZohoWiki, which does tie together its spreadsheet and docs, and furthermore they tie it together further via their Virtual Office product. About six months ago, I came to the conclusion I had to back one horse on this front and chose the Google path, one because of their size and two because I’m so in love with GMail. When they release Google Calendar and Apps for your Domain I was feeling pretty good about that decision, but right now when we’re looking to really built out a corporate intranet faciltiy I’m dying for that Wiki piece of the puzzle to drop into place.

But I do have much faith in the Jotspot team. I think what they were creating with Jotspot was stunning and I have every faith that they can produce something special now they’re in the Googleplex.

P.S. Would Yahoo or even MS hurry up and buy Zoho. These big Internet heavyweights should look at Zoho and be shamed and red-faced as to the suite of web tools they’ve produced compared to what Zoho has pumped out. Unfortunately, I think for all their brilliance Zoho really needs a popular mail client to make everything come together on a personal productivity basis.

Filed under: Google, Online Applications, Online Spreadsheets, Online Wordprocessing, Web 2.0, Zoho

Is TechCrunch the new Industry Standard

I couldn’t help but be overcome by a sense of deja vu when I read Michael Arrington’s already much-discussed Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles post on TechCrunch today. As an editor, I quickly recognised the generic style of piece you tend to roll out every time you start to worry that your readership or advertising base is about to evaporate.

When I was editor of channel mag ARN, I wrote a number of such pieces when the direct model seemed like it might be the death of the reseller community. Chin up chaps, it’s all going to be alright in the end. The channel, despite many dire predictions, continues to evolve it’s way through troubles and ARN lives on!

When I was editor of Network World Australia magazine and our advertiser base started to dissapear on account of Cisco ruling the world, I wrote an editorial about the need for healthy competition and a strong, diverse networking industry. It wasn’t long after that the magazine was closed amidst a rash of networking consolidation and rationalisation.

Even now, writing for tech journalists on ITJourno, I still regularly do my best to champion my readership and our industry, in the face of declining advertising and the ever-increasing threat of new media models. It’s just what you do as an editor, both out of genuine belief in your readership and also a sense of self-preservation.

You do sense that Michael is starting to worry a little that the TechCrunch gravy train may be on the verge of being derailed. He shouldn’t worry about criticism of TechCrunch’s reporting of the failures. But he is. “I also opened up a thread in the Forums to discuss whether or not the TechCrunch DeadPool is a bad idea. Let me know what you think,” Arrington wrote in another post today.

He’s right to worry about it too. Every negative piece TechCrunch runs affects the perception of the health of the sector and therefore the amount of cash flowing into it. But all-in-all, TechCrunch has done a pretty admirable job of handling this inherent conflict-of-interest and in their coverage of the negative stuff. Of course, it’s always far easier in the good times…

Which brings us to The Industry Standard. TechCrunch is a phenomenon and what Arrington has created is amazing. But The Industry Standard that John Battelle and his troops created was even more amazing. Unfortunately, though, when your market suddenly dries up, it really doesn’t matter how amazing you are – you’re a goner. The Industry Standard editorially was never better than when the whole thing started crumbling and its magnificently chronicled the whole crash before it too went down with the ship.

I do hope we don’t end up saying the same thing about TechCrunch. There’s no industry I’ve known, like the Internet industry when it’s running hot and no more enjoyable discourse than what springs from the coverage of same.

We can take hope from the parallels between TechCrunch and The Industry Standard and Web 2.0 versus Web 1.0. The Industry Standard was a grand publication, with a massive headcount, big editorial and marketing budgets while TechCrunch is run pretty indepdently by Arrington with a little bit help from his friends. The arse could drop out of the Web 2.0 market nad TechCrunch could still be run profitably. The same can be said of many of the startups. Piss off the stupid VC dollars, cut 90 per cent of the overhead and you have a lot of little businesses that can do ok.

Yet, on both counts, I guess the question is, is it worth the bother? Would Michael Arrington bother with TechCrunch if he was only making a modest profit from it. Would all these little startups bother with the stupid hours and the lack of stability if all that was on offer at the end of the day was a modest payoff. Certainly VCs won’t. “One very well known Web 2.0 investor tells VentureBeat he’s made his last Web 2.0 investment,” said a post on the subject on VentureBeat.

Ever since, I began this blog as a Web 2.0 “reality check” a year ago I’ve harped on about the need for companies to have some idea about how they’re going to turn a dollar and to at least have a pretense of a business model. The network effect is all well and good, but you can have all the useage in the world but if its not monetisable, IT MEANS NOTHING. The businesses that had network effect that came through Web 1.0 also had very monetisable products and audiences (ebay – auctions, google/yahoo – online advertising, amazone – ecommerce). It’s not hard to rattle of a gazillion sites that had enormous eyeballs but couldn’t turn the necessary bucks from them. At least these days, you can always make some money if you have traffic, but whether it’s enough to keep this industry in the style it has become accustomed to, is another matter.

I do agree with the consense that Web 2.0 won’t be a bubble in the form of a solitary sphere floating through the air that suddenly pops when it’s pricked like Web 1.0. But I do think there’s a big danger it’s going to go the way of a bubble bath. You start off with a ton of hot water, froth and fun, but as things cool down, the froth starts to slowly dissipate till you end up with a soapy film on lukewarm water that’s comfotable but not very stimulating. That’s when most Web 2.0 folk will reach for a towell and try and find a jacuzzi just as they did after Web 1.0.

If Michael Arrington really wants to positively keep driving along this industry, I call on him to start writing about some of the companies generating real profits. Let’s give investors and the industry as a whole, some evidence that there is real money to be made. TechCrunch profiles almost always talk about user numbers and traffic but how often is the question asked when will you be profitable, what are your profit projects, how much money are you losing/making now.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Endless love for Amazon and niche brands

I love Amazon. I think they’re the most innovative company on the planet.

It doesn’t surprise me at all then to see them launch Endless, a new speciality shop for handbags and shoes.

I’ve often wondered why more online sites don’t launch multiple brands. A big, all encompassing brand will never appeal to everyone. You use different brands, different marketing, different campaigns to reach to different audiences.

When you’re talking online products, you can instantly launch a new brand by simply applying a new skin. Design the site from the ground up to appeal to the audience your after rather than trying to do clever marketing trying to sell a brand that will probably never be accepted by some demographics.

As online sites are increasingly commoditised, the competition will become a branding and marketing war like it is in most other mature industries. E-commerce is more mature than most online spaces, so it doesn’t surprise me to see a move like Amazon’s take place there.

TechCrunch asks will we see Amazon launch an array of new brands. My assertion would be yes, and they won’t be the only ones…

Filed under: Uncategorized

Does TechCrunch really need a Forum?

Had to pass comment on this one, because it’s one that I’ve given a lot of thought to.

TechCrunch has just put a forum online. My question is shouldn’t a mature blogosphere really make Forums redundant or else does this indicate the limitations of the blogosphere.

To explain further: The whole wonder of the blogosphere is distributed thought.  It means you don’t need to go to a Forum site to ask a question or express a point of view. You just do it in your blog. Anyone can comment. They don’t need to be a Forum member. It’s better indexed by search engines so more likely to get found. You can earn AdSense dollars by posting even if it is only a bit of beer money (or one beer maybe).

That’s the rationale, right. Problem is, there’s this little matter of audience that has kept big media companies alive for so long. You can write something on your blog but there’s no guarantee anyone is going to read it. You can however post something on a popular forum and be guaranteed that a couple of hundred or perhaps a couple of thousand people will tune in.

Forums have scalability problems. You get too many people posting and they become impossible to keep up with. Blogs and RSS feeds are for more scalable and larger volumes of information is much easier to manage.

The perfect aggregator should be the answer to the critical mass advantage of Forums. The ideal publishing environment gives a ready-made audience to all publishers but has the manageability inherent to RSS.

The tech space, and in particular the Web 2.0 space, has a number of really good aggregators and I do believe if you really want to get your voice out, you can do in that space. If there is a place therefore that a blogosphere niche is going to make Forums redundant it’s here.

In the end, I’ve found, it comes down to talent. If you have a Forum that has a bunch of knowledgable, respected and authoratitive people posting, then people will visit the Forum. If those people decided to write their own blogs instead, people would go to the Forum far less and start visiting their blogs. For both reasons, I can’t really see the need for the TechCrunch Forum, nor do I think it will ever really flourish.

In fact, looking at the postings already, I’d already say it’s struggling. You’re getting lots of threads being started but very few of them are really active. Can’t say the time I spent reading the Forum, threw up any incredible insights, and I think I’d have been much better served

Had I been the TechCrunch folk, I think they would have been much better served trying to do a better job of aggregating blogs. They can outniche Techmeme. I’m going to be bored shitless of techmeme over the next few days as CES dominates, because I don’t really have much of a gadget fascination and if TechCrunch stuck to aggregating Web 2.0/Internet blogs, it would certainly increase the value of the site to me. If I were Gabe thats a direction I would have definitely have taken with his technology – let publishers/blogs manage their own whitelist of relevent blogs and add an “In other news” widget or page to their site via his aggregation platform.

By the way, this is an area I’ve put a lot of thought into because its been central to where I’ve taken my 1Eyed project. Online sports conversations are dominated by Forums and so trying to take on that established way of communication with a blog-based model has been very challenging. It will be interesting to watch what happens at TechCrunch when the challenge works the other way around.

Filed under: Uncategorized

10 things I learnt about blogging in a year

Last Christmas, having taken a month or so off from the day job, I decided to take up blogging so that I could work out for myself what all the fuss was about. A year later and into a fresh year, I thought I’d take a look back at the past 12 months and see what I’ve learnt, after all that was the whole point of the exercise.

1. Content is king. This is my number one rule for all media and it applies to blogging as well. Unless you have appealing content, nothing else matters, unless your content to tap out pieces that only your mum and your dog will read.

2. Good blogging takes time. Lots of it. When I was most fervent in my blogging, I was spending up to three hours per day to do all my reading, posting comments and writing up two to three posts per day. I got the results, but it absolutely wiped me out after a while.

3. Stats are addictive. During this period, I got compulsively addicted to checking my blog stats. It’s easy to say stop caring about them. But when I did, I tended to stop caring about blogging.

4. Blogs are the best social network. I’ve tried MySpace, I’ve tried LinkedIn. Neither have made a squat of difference to me. My blog on the other hand, has led me to make connections with a huge number of smart, interesting people and have opened up some wonderful opportunities for me. For me, social networks are just mini-blogosphere’s waiting to grow up.

5. Aggregators are key. If you’re trying to build up your traffic, then techmeme, reddit, digg are the best possible means for getting your content out beyond your current band of readers. If building traffic is your game, you need to understand how each of the aggregators work and how they can be used.

6. Success can be built quickly. On my second blog post, I was lucky enough to get linked to by Robert Scoble. It was only a matter of months later, that I managed to achieve something I never thought would have been possible – to knock Scoble off the top of the WordPress.com blog list. Longevity is great but people are always looking for a new voice.

7. Stand for something. If your trying to build a blog, then you’ve got to have a tagline? If you don’t have a meaningful tagline, it probably means you don’t really stand for anything. Which means you’re not really giving the reader a reason to subscribe to you or keep returning to your website.

8. What’s your niche? Mainstream media should be afraid of blogs because they can never compete at a niche level with blogs. Again, if you want to build a successful blog, find a niche you can own and be recognised for.

9. Participate. Don’t just blog. Post comments on other people’s blogs. Participate in the wider blogosphere. Outside aggregators, it’s the best way to market your authority and therefore your blog. Again, it takes time, but you’ll be a better and more successful blogger for it.

10. Your blog will always love you. I’ve had a couple of periods that have lasted months where I just haven’t blogged at all. Generally, they’ve all coincided with big MediaConnect launches. Blogging is a distraction. Don’t try and kid yourself that it’s not. Don’t let blogging eat into time that you really should be spending with a) your family or b) your work (if blogging is your real job then that’s you’re excused and yo should probably never take time off) because your blog will be there when you return. And thanks to the wonder of RSS, you’ll probably have more readers than you think that are just happy that your back in the saddle.

There you go! Nothing earth shattering or anything that hasn’t been said before but I figured having racked up a year, it was a worthwhile exercise to look back and see what I’d figured out about this blogging business. I like to blog. I learn from it. It a useful career tool, as well. In both my career roles as an entrepreneur and journalist, it’s something I should be doing. But if I don’t worry about traffic, anymore and if I can’t blog, I can’t blog. If your a non-professional blogger, with little desire to go even semi-pro, then that’s probably where most of us get to in the end.

It’s all good! I’m looking forward to 2007, I think it’s going to be awesome!

Filed under: Uncategorized

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