Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Meme-in-a-minute

I really wanted to blog about the Parakey/Facebook deal yesterday as I’ve got a lot of thoughts on it – but just wanted up to blogging a thoughtful piece and instead went to bed, to try and get over this flu.

24 hours later and I find myself on a rare blogging rampage – I’ve just spat out four posts – yet I’m not going to bother with a bunch of my Parakey thoughts, simply because 24 to 48 hours later the moment has passed. The meme is dead and to expand on the subject now would simply be blogging into a void.

That really annoys me about blogging – and of aggregators like TechMeme. I think the “follow the crowd” nature of the Web 2.0 blogosphere  and the associated attention-deficit-disorder that it suffers from doesn’t allow for what could be far more thoughtful and interesting conversations if memes were allowed to expand and grow over a longer time period. Very seldom do you get blogging back and forth between multiple participants, each time raising the level of discussion and insight.

In fact, I’d suggest that the way things are right now – that the “conversation” mantra is a bit of a misnomer. A conversation infers ideas and dialogues going backwards and forwards, when what we really have is everybody shouting as loudly as they possibly can, all at once.

The irony is this is the way that “old media” works. It simply jumps from hot button to hot button, news story to news story. The blogosphere, or at least the Web 2.0 blogosphere that I inhabit, isn’t any different. There isn’t a conversation going on here, it’s simply reporting with a little more room for passing opinion that is generally rushed and seldom really developed. Blah.

Next time, someone craps onto me about blogging as “conversation” I’m going to challenge them to show me an example where they’ve engaged in a conversation that has gone anywhere near the type of exchange that would be worthy of that descriptor.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

Influence goes beyond one’s own arse

We adopted the “influence” buzzword last year when we re-branded our Face the IT Media Forum as the Influence Forum. Since then, we’ve increasingly tried to think in terms of influencers rather than just media, because clearly the influence universe is expanding.

This is such a fascinating area because it’s so new and really difficult to make sense of, which is why I’m keeping such a close eye on something like BuzzLogic. Other’s are having attempts at making sense of all this and the Edelman PR crew came up with a Social Media index.

There’s definitely merit to the idea of trying to rank and measure new influencers on more than just a technorati ranking, but I don’t think this index contributes a lot. The index applies scores based on the number of Facebook friends, Twitter subscribers, Linked In and Flicker ratings, etc, etc

For me, the obvious failing is that all of these hip, cool, trendy services being measured all fall under the same Web 2.0 hypeware and I would suggest if you had a look at the various audiences related to each, there would be massive cross-over between each. ie If I read the Micropersuasion twitter, I’ve probably also a reader of the blog and may have made a social connection via both Facebook and LinkedIn.

The truism that every web startup has a similiar number of “beta users” who simply jump from each new project to the next, extends to Influence. The “sphere of Influence” doesn’t grow the more Web 2.0 services you line up alongside a particular Influencer.

In fact, the most influential influencers are those that provide a bridge between the microcosm that is the Web 2.0 world and the rest of the community that the other 98 per cent of folk inhabit.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

Will 3 years be too long for a Web-meshed OS?

News leaking out from Microsoft about the next version of Windows – to be called Windows 7 internally – which is due out in three years.

One of the highest-trafficked posts I’ve ever written on this site was this piece – Abandon Vista. We don’t need another desktop OS -about the need for a very-different operation system to what is installed on our computers today. Indeed, from what I’ve read about Parakey, this is much more up-the-alley of where I believe the desktop needs to be positioned – as a device truly meshed with the Internet where online/offline is a seamless experience.

This quote from the slides talking about Windows 7 lead me to believe that Microsoft is thinking in this director:

“deliver value beyond the OS including subscription offerings.”

To me, a Web-meshed OS provides such obvious ways for Microsoft to make money via these value-added services like online storage and backup,  advertising and web apps, all of which are ripe for the subscription model that Microsoft has longed for. Microsoft through its legacy on the desktop has the potential to be able to create a better seamless experience between the PC and the internet than any other company, but the fact that its talking about a three-year window to its next major release to me is quite incredible.

In three-years the game will be over. If Microsoft doesn’t deliver this seamless experience sooner than that, someone else, like Facebook and Parakey will. And at that point, the operating system underneath the “Web OS” isn’t going to matter here not there.

Microsoft probably thinks it can patch up Vista along the way to do some of this stuff and clearly Silverlight and other initiatives indicate that Microsoft are aware of the need to go in this direction. However, like all companies with legacies to look after I can’t help wonder that if we’re dealing with hacking Vista – that somebody else with a whole lot more focus is going to do it a whole heap better.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

Beyond the Facebook hype

Almost all of my thinking in terms of Web trends right now, is around social networking. I just couldn’t get my head around it, or see the big attraction around MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn. So like I did with blogging back in 2005, I just into Facebook recently, in a bid to try and understand what all the fuss is about.

I’ll willingly to conceded that to date I’ve been massively wrong about Facebook. When they opened up the network beyond its US college core, I suggested that such a move would alienate its core user base and that its expansion was doomed to failure. I’ve previously been of the opinion that niche social networks would rule over the any big general social network. I’ve changed my mind on that one and I was obviously clearly wrong about Facebook. These guys are smart – real smart. There News Feed innovation was simply brilliant as was the platform direction.

Facebook and social networking came up a lot at last week’s Future of Media Summit that I attended – a fantastic day-long event that took place simultaneously between Sydney and San Francisco. I had intended to blog a bunch about this right off the bat, but I’ve had a stupid flu for more than a week now and it had just bowled me over by the end of last week.

I enjoyed the opportunity to ask a question of TechMeme’s Gabe Rivera’s. I’ve had a few email exchanges with Gabe as well as swapping comments and he’s a guy I respect a lot, so it was nice to see him speak even by videoconferencing. Gabe talked a bit about Facebook as well BuzzLogic’s Mitch Ratcliffe. BuzzLogic is probably the most interesting company around at the moment, I think, in the space I professionally inhabit – so having both him and Gabe on the same panel was a bit of a treat.

Ratcliffe described MySpace as a declining asset but suggested Facebook was overhyped as well, saying that while he and all his buddies had signed on, he hadn’t found much to do with the service. There was also the suggestion that Facebook was a walled-garden that would eventually be overrun by a more open approach.

Here’s my take on Facebook, for what it’s worth. Like most social services, it’s an application where the experience you get out of it, directly correlates to what you put into it. If you sign up, update your profile and then sit back and watch – you’re going to wonder what the point is. However, if you start uploading pictures, add as many as friends as you, write-on-walls and experiment with apps, there is a bunch to keep one amused and in the meantime you do grow your virtual relationships. Facebook has proved immensely useful for me professionally for finding story leads about the community MediaConnect covers as well as helping me to keep my relationships and friendships active.

But the “get what you put into it” model, means that Facebook is time-consuming. And its easy to fall off the wagon. My flu kept me away from Facebook for even just a few days and even in that time, I kind of lost the addiction.

So I see this Parakey acquisition as potentially another stroke of genius from the Facebook team. As I said, being social is time-consuming, which is probably ok if your a teenager or college student, but out here in the real world, anything that consumes more time than it saves is generally doomed to failure as soon as the novelty wears off and the realisation of how that time being invested could be better spent, eventually kicks in. What Parakey has the potential to do is make the Facebook experience much simpler. If we compute around the Facebook model, using Facebook apps, etc and then use Parakey as essentially our desktop interface then potentially Facebook can make it far easier for its users to interact and keep their profiles ticking over. As soon as you download your photos from your camera, for example, they upload straight into Facebook.

Why would we want to do that? Because Facebook is one of the few web services that truly starts with the foundation of what is essentially an  advanced “address book” and wraps everything else around that.

I now believe that Facebook stands a terrific chance of being THE social network. I don’t think that means all social networks will die, because I think niche, interest-specific networks can give their users more to do and deliver more value than any general network can, even one that is trying to turn itself into a platform. I don’t think, either that Facebook has a lock on the position – because I do agree with the criticism that Facebook is somewhat of a walled garden and that a more open solution could be the long-term winner.

Whatever the case, Facebook is something anyone in media and the web needs to implicitly understand – if you don’t get it yet, keep working on it until you do – there’s something beyond the hype. Just how much is yet to be resolved, but based on the moves Facebook has made so far, I’m not ruling anything out.

Filed under: Facebook

Web 2.0 needs Squashing again

Just on my last post – Paul Montgomery’s headline really gave me the shites.

“Cyclingnews: Aussie Web 1.0 success story”

This blog has already run under the tagline, ‘Stop here for a Web 2.0 reality check’ and the very first blog was an eloquent examination of why Web 2.0 was a “load of poo”. I still feel it sets a benchmark in so many ways.

Anyway, some where along the way I kind of just stopped fighting it, but more recently it has really started to peeve me again. And the cyclingnews.com story has stirred up all of those feelings again, so prepare yourself for a rant.

Web 2.0 inherently suggests that so-called Web 1.0 is bad. It’s outdated, outmoded, passe. Now, I know Monty didn’t have any intention of suggesting such things with his blog about CN but if you listen to the podcast he links to, cyclingnews.com gets panned for being ugly and very un-Web 2.0.

Yet, guess what? It’s still the undisputed category leader. It’s the one wearing the yellow jersey to use its own parlance. But how can a site that is so Web 1.0 be crapping all over Web 2.0 sites.

Because content has, and always will be, king. Your Web 2.0 frills are well and good, but they mean nothing without a compelling proposition behind them. 10 years down the track there will be a plethora of dead social networks, mash-ups, user-generated content sites. But you know what? You very rarely see any media business that does awesome content go away – no matter how unsophisticated they’re delivery of that content is.

Most every new social network or user-generated content site I see profiled on TechCrunch has bugger-all content and certainly not enough to justify anywhere near the amount of VC dollars or attention they get.

Is it just me or do you get this feeling things are starting to spiral out of control again? Consider the old Squash as back. IMO there’s never been more of a need for the Web 2.0 reality check.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

The magic is in the motivation

A lot gets talked about what makes Silicon Valley so special. After all, there really aren’t that many tangible obstructions to stop a company in Sydney, Moscow or Calcutta from going large these days with this very virtual, global business environment we inhabit today.

But the thing that is always overlooked when ever people consider performance – whether that be of a business, a sporting team or an individual – is motivation and other such psychological factors. Yet, I’d suggest it’s probably the most important factor of all. For example, when I do my footy tipping, I tend to do a lot better when I tip on psychological factors rather than playing form. Yet despite that, for some reason, I always fall back into tipping based on how team’s performed the week before.

But the truth of the matter is no matter how great an athelete you are, how much intelligence you have, or how wonderful you’re product is – if the motivation and drive isn’t there – it just won’t happen.

I’m riffing about this, because this week on MediaConnect we reported on the fact that an Australian publisher, Knapp Communications, sold its cycling news website for a tiday $AU5 million. That’s not a strikingly, obvious big deal but it means a lot to me because I know Gerard, who owns Knapp, and I’ve watched the site grow and prosper over time.

And you know what? That deal got me really revved up. When someone you know gets a nice payday from building something you’ve seen grow, it does inspire you. Paul Montgomery, who worked for Knapp, expressed similiar thoughts on his blog last night. I’ve had the opportunity to have a chat to Gerard about the sale process and Monty pulled out some of the numbers from the Future press release, and that whole, big world of mergers and acquisitions seems a lot realer now.  When you’re not an experienced entrepreneur, who’s build and sold businesses before it’s defniitely too easy to get dragged into the day-to-day mire, rather than focusing on big picture issues and growth.

Something like this happening on your doorstep tends to both focus and motivate you.

So getting back to my original proposition – you start to imagine what working in the Valley is like, when this type of things happens on a daily basis. Proximity to capital and resources may have something to do with it, but I’m quite sure the “magic” of Silicon Valley is what’s going on in people’s heads.

Anyway, well done Gerard and the cyclingnews.com crew!  Aussie, aussie, aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

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