Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Form Builder is key to online suite

Google Docs unveiled a much nicer version of its form builder and semi-detached it from spreadsheets.

I believe a Form Builder to be one of the most important applications in any online productivity suite. On a desktop you’re adding your own data but when you go online you’re going to want to allow others to add data to your workflows. It once again goes to show that you can’t just transplant desktop apps onto the web – you need to reconsider what makes up a online productivity suite because they should be very different beasts.

Anyway, I’m glad that the Google Docs team appear to understand the importance of their Form Builder. From their blog post on the new form builder and additional feature enhancements titled: ‘Forms move out of their parents basement’, engineer Andrew Bonventre notes: “Just wait until Forms is old enough to drive… Oh, the places we’ll go!”

I’d love to be able to create multi-page forms with different paths based on the user’s answers.

I’ll also point out for heavy docs users, an absolutely critical new feature that has been added to spreadsheets. The ‘importrange’ function allows you to import data from different spreadsheets. For one, this means you can have a spreadsheet that makes use of more than one form but we’re also going to use it to build a master scoresheeting document that pulls data from the various sheets used by each department.

Filed under: Content Aggregation

Digg-ing a legal hole for itself

Today, I watched an incident unfold that was enough to convince me that Digg is a legal minefield waiting to happen.

In short, a ridiculous rumour was posted to a gaming website, subsequently dugg, and went ballistic, clocking up more than 800 diggs at the time of writing it, and being one-of-the-top ten stories of the day. The rumour said that Gamepro Australia had accepted a bribe to write a negative review of a game. It was based on a single post submitted at competing gaming site

I can’t imagine any professional journalist for a moment even entertaining the idea of accepting a bribe to write a negative review, nor could I for a moment accept that the world’s biggest gaming company would engage in such dodgy PR practices. The whole story was so obviously inaccurate, but apparently not so much, that hundreds of people promoted the story to near-the-top of Digg.

The GWN story is libellous and IDG Australia and the editors and journalists in question would have a very good case if they chose to sue.

I actually sent them a few questions, asking if they were prepared to stand by the story, if it was legally challenged and the story was finally shellacked on Digg and what do you know, within a couple of hours, the “allegation” was removed.

Update: We’re happy to report that the person who started the bribe rumor on the Gamespot forums has admitted it was a lie, so we’ve removed mention of the rumor from this story. Their rumor post has also now been removed at Gamespot, and mention of it on the Gas Powered Games forum has also gone,” says the post on GWN.

In most legal cases, you kind of have to show that damage was done to make it worth suing, which means you’d very seldom bother to sue a forum or blog, because they’re traffic is relatively small. But Digg is getting to the point where its traffic and influence is such, that its not going to be hard to prove that a post like this caused enomous commercial damage.

Were I a lawyer representing Gamepro, it would be very easy to demonstrate that these hundreds of people all believed the post enough to promote it. Comments posted to the site like: “The people at GamePro are the real assholes here, we all know EA has somewhat of a shady way of doing business so I’m not that surprised that they would attempt something like this. But GamePro how about a little journalistic integrity”

The story also propagated around other gaming sites, forums and blogs. Again, it wouldn’t be at all difficult to start doing some calculations, work out how many people saw the post because of Digg, start doing some simple legal calculations about damage done to brand and reputation, and come up with a very big number, as to

Whenever, I’ve been asked about this type of episode, I’ve always suggested that most social media is self-correcting – that is, an inaccurate story will eventually get ferreted out as inaccurate. However, that really doesn’t take into account the damage that gets along the way. The fact that so many people dugg the story, after a large number of people expressed doubts about its validity show that far from everyone bothers to read the comments, and an even smaller fraction of those people would bother to return to the comments or see the re-vised original piece.

I’m actually really disappointed in the Digg community that they let a story that was so flagrantly dubious reach the point it did. I would have expected that it would have quickly beaten down by the senior members of the community. And the large number of buries that the story got, didn’t really seem to do much to fix the problem either.

In fact, the post is still sitting there and it still has the libellous and inaccurate heading and text. It’s kind of ironic that while all the posts that it references have been removed or edited, the Digg post remains. It’s still sitting at number three in the top gaming posts of the last 24 hours with the headline: “GamePro Magazine caught in review score bribery scandal”.

In essence, Digg has been informed that the post is inaccurate (and I’m led to believe contacted directly as well) but the post hasn’t been removed. This is obviously the first action that any publisher would take and when you get down to it, Digg is a publisher, its just using its users rather than journalists to post stories. At some point, a site like Digg is going to be held to the same standards as a MSM outlet and, it remains to be seen, if it can put in place the moderating measures to avoid these types of problems.

Or perhaps, its just need to re-look at its algorithms and take into greater account the buries that a story receives. I’m not sure if this thing could have happened at reddit, because stories tend to get beaten down a lot more at that aggregator when compared to Digg.

I’m certainly no lawyer, but as an editor and journalist who has done all the basic media law training, it does seem to me, that at some point in time, Digg is going to run into a case like this, except it’s going to be about the wrong person or the wrong company, and somebody is going to decide to make a point.

Disclosure: Seven or so years ago I used to work for IDG Australia, the publisher of GamePro Australia and as the CEO of MediaConnect Australia I am a passionate support of the Australian tech media community.

Filed under: Content Aggregation,

Do you look like your aggregator?

You know how they say pets tend to look like their owners. Well, after playing around with content aggregators over the last few days, it’s become strikingly obvious to me that the content aggregators share the same types of personalities as their users.

The explosion of traffic this site has seen over the last three of four days that has seen us maintain our lofty WordPress ranking has been entirely down to referrals from aggregators. So I’ve had the opportunity to watch the kinds of traffic that these aggregators send through as well as watching the way certain stories climb or fall.

It’s been fascinating.

Let’s start with memeorandum. How does memeorandum work. It’s based on links from authorative sources. So if you’re not in the club, you don’t get a guernsey no matter how intelligent or smart your post is. There’s no ability to submit an article. You need to depend on being noticed and linked to by someone in the club. Now, let’s look at the type of bloggers who dominate memorandum. It’s the tech elite. Your Scoble’s, Arrington’s, Malik’s, etc. So you’ve got elite bloggers, whose sense of eliteness is being reaffirmed by an elitest aggregator.

It’s not surprising then that memeorandum sends through the least traffic of the three aggregators I’ve mentioned. But you get really good traffic. Bloggers who are going to take your post and critique, expand, pontificate. The only unfortunate aspect to memeorandum is that unless you’re one of the posts get broken out as a lead story the traffic it sends through is almost non-existent. So the conversation aspect of memeorandum isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some one would say exactly the same about his corner of the blogosphere.

Now let’s look at Digg. Digg is all about power to the people. To get a story up the ladder at Digg, the comrades need to vote it up. There’s no elite, here. Every one has the ability to Digg. No Digg is worth more than any other Digg. And who is your average Digger. Your open-source loving, technology-is-democratizing the world, techie geek. Any body, any story can make it to the top of Digg if the people say so.

But Digg’s ranking system encourages herd mentality. The more popular it becomes, the higher up the list it gets, the more Diggs it gets, the higher up the list it goes and so on. Digg traffic is all or nothing. If you dont’ get a start, Digg sends through just a trickle of traffic. Make it onto the front page, though, and Digg’s easily the more influential aggregator around as you can see by watching the WordPress rankings of those blogs that make it to the front.

Next up, we’ve got Reddit. Reddit’s slightly more sophisticated than Digg, in terms of the way it ranks traffic. Not only can you promote something up the batting order you can also critique it. So where a sensationalist post has the potential to rocket up the Digg charts because of the number of Digg’s, on Reddit, it’s just as likely to struggle because people are going to vote it down. Similiarly, the type of stories that do well on Reddit, are a little more high-brow than what you get at Digg. More world news and politics, tech blog posts that make it need to be very well argued.

Reddit will get you a pretty reasonable traffic flow, even if you don’t get onto the front page. There appears to be far more people lurking around the back pages looking for good stuff and Reddit readers are more inclined to check you out than Digg readers.

So while all primarily have a tech-oriented audience, there are three very distinct groups served by each. In fact, you can say these groups are analagous to our society. memeorandum is for the crusty, upper class. Digg is for the greater populus and Reddit is for the middle class.

What all this tells me is that there probably won’t be one aggregator that rules this space. Because even though you can create different communities around a particular voting style, the more important nature of an aggregator is that the ranking methodology has to fit with the personality of the community.

So in fact, I wonder if Digg, memeorandum, Reddit will scale beyong the communities they own now. Gabe Rivera has already said memeorandum has limitations because his community interacts very differently to how the rest of the blogosphere works. How well with the Digg, Reddit systems work outside of the tech arena. Techies like to be involved with technology, so they like an interactive ranking system. Will a teenage girl, a mother-of-three, a grandfather engage with a site the same way?

Make Squash Squishy: Digg this story

Filed under: Content Aggregation,, memeorandum, reddit

AtariBoy and Digg leads the Y-List revolt

This is not your father’s blogosphere.

For the last three days now, Robert Scoble has been dethroned, at least momentarily, as the king of by ‘AtariBoy‘. It’s not for the first time, either. Squash noted a week or so ago that AtariBoy had knocked off the Scobleizer after a post on his blog about a MySpace hack shot to the top of Digg.

Big deal. A Digg-powered flash-in-the-pan, the blog establishment might say. However, three days ago AtariBoy shot back to number one and is still keeping Scoble out of his familiar home as WordPress kingpin. His staying power this times appears to be derived from the fact that after receiving tens of thousands of hits, courtesy of having two stories on the Digg front page simultaneously, he’s now become known as the place to visit if you want to find out where to download the latest episode of the cult geek TV program The IT Crowd.

So who the hell is this AtariBoy character? Who is this upstart that has knocked off Scoble, the world-famous Microsoft blogger and co-author of a best-selling blogger’s bible.

AtariBoy is 21-year-old Andrew Nesbitt, a robotics student studing at Plymouth University in the UK. He has been blogging for less than 3 months and only made a commitment to post daily in January. That’s right, after about a month of regular blogging, he’s climbed to the top of the blogging ladder. Squash, ever the investigative journalist, decided we’d track the AtariBoy down and ask him: “Are you the new Scoble?”

“I’d like to think so, but i don’t think it will last. He’s got a lot more interesting stuff to write about and more contacts in the industry. I’m just a lowely student!” Nesbitt wrote back to me.

Nesbitt said he made a New Years resolution to blog everday, after starting his WordPress blog in December. “I started it as mainly just links to other sites, but then I noticed that is all most blogs are, and I wanted to add more than just links, so i started adding more and trying to give something extra, like with the MySpace hacks and IT Crowd [posts]; something that people would find useful, or something that I might find useful if I were to google a certain problem,” Nesbitt said, who added his strategy for maintaining his lofty rank in the blogosphere was just to “keep on writing more useful blogs”.

It might pay to consider for a moment, how many A-List bloggers would have considered AtariBoy’s MySpace and BitTorrent post’s as genuinely useful. Probably none. Because for the most part, the blog establishment are just a bunch of old farts. They don’t really understand the next wave of Internet phenomena, which will ubdoubtedly be driven by the ‘Y generation’ of Internet users, largely because they’re too busy trying to theorise the current iteration. You only have to look at the explosion in traffic experienced by Y-generation service like MySpace over the last couple of years to realise that the next evolution of the Internet is all about these guys and gals. And old dudes aren’t invited to the party.

Slowly but surely, the A-Listers will be replaced on blog rankings by Y-Listers like AtariBoy. That’s ok, because the blog elite will just continue to pontificate about why they’ve been usurped, feverishly linking back and forth with each other in order to maintain their increasingly minor corner of the blogosphere.

This is going to happen much more quickly than anyone thinks. The incredible ascension of AtariBoy has proven just how close to our front door this next revolution is. It’s going to happen more quickly than anyone can imagine because the blogosphere as it exists today is just so darn small. Even if your a top 100 blog, you’re still receiving traffic that’s miniscule compared to Big Media sites.

Meanwhile, sites like Digg and Reddit are growing at such at rate, that they’ll soon begin to rival the biggest of the Big Media sites. And unlike the blogosphere as it used to exist, this time it’s not a closed shop. The blog elite have been able to maintain their powerbase because they started this thing (and full credit to them) but they made it pretty damn hard to break into their circle because for the most part they just linked to each other. Subsequently 99.9 per cent of the total blog population receives almost no traffic.

Digg is the people revolting. Digg, Reddit and like sites are about the people cracking open the blogosphere to all-comers. And through the gates people like AtariBoy, smart guys and gals who have a knack of honing in on the wavelength of people just like themselves, will come charging through and over the top of the people who have guarded the inner circle.

I asked Nesbitt about his success on Digg. “I submitted the posts myself, and got a couple friends to digg it just to get them started, and then if you submit good, or useful posts, people generally give you diggs,” Nesbitt said. Simple as that. Forget paying expensive, search engine optimisation firms, just put your faith in the power of the people.

In fact, this next iteration of the web is so anti-commercial, it’s amazing how far removed it is from the high-profile bloggers who rule today, who are almost all in the IT business, who almost all have a barrow to push, and indeed many of whom blog as a commercial adjunct. Compare that to Nesbitt, who joked that when he grows up he either wants to be a stuntman 🙂 or else “just something with computers” and hasn’t even begun to entertain the possibility of making some coin out of this blogging activities.

“For some reason everyone keeps telling me to find a way of making money out of it, but I dont think its the right kind of thing to do. I’d just feel wrong covering it with adverts as I hate websites that have them, I use adblock myself!”

And while he admits he got kind of addicted keeping watch over his traffic and responding to comments when Digg was sending his blog through the roof, he eventually stopped when his girlfriend told him he was “sad”. “[Blogging] hasnt affected my life that much, I have quite a lot of free time being a student, and it just fills some of that up.”

And so becoming one of the most read bloggers on the Internet for a day, or even more, is that simple. It’s the Blogosphere 2.0.

CLARIFICATION: By the way. This post is in no way meant to be a direct criticism of Scoble, who of all the high-profile bloggers is always happy to link outside the inner-circle (and has done so for Squash) He was just used here as a symbol of the status quo and I think the Scobleizer would actually be more pleased than anyone the blogosphere is opening up beyond the usual sources.

Update: Shit, hey! Squash got Digg’d today, made the front page and we’re #3 WordPress blog behind AtariBoy and Scoble. Man, if Squash can do it, they truly do let the riff raff in these days.
Digg this story

Filed under: Blogs, Content Aggregation

Show some respect to your elders

I’ve just been listening to the latest GilmorGang podcast and it just rammed home to me how much mainstream media bashing takes place, more often than not from a position of ignorance and naivety.

Mike Arrington could barely contain himself in declaring that MSM was getting it’s arse kicked, claiming that all the scoops were being broken by bloggers and that big media is basically a dinosaur facing extinction.

Now, I agree with a lot of the criticisms of MSM. For the most part they still don’t get what’s happening, but it’s the height of hypocrisy for many “new media” folk to think they understand everything about “real media”. Let’s be real. Most of the latest breed of “new media” people aren’t actually media people, they’re technologists. They haven’t been out in the field competing for scoops or writing under the pressure of having zillions of eyeballs analyse your every word. They haven’t edited a magazine, understood the importance of building voice, personality, authority and community. They haven’t been a publisher so they don’t understand that quite often you have to kill great content that readers love, because you can’t make a buck from it.

Let’s be very clear that your memeorandum’s,’s, reddit’s, etc are piss ants to mainstream media executives today. They’re numbers are still relatively insignificant and they’re certainly not stealing ad dollars. Despite what Mike Arrington said, outside of this incestruous little Web 2.0 community that’s so fond of feeling each other up, big media still dominates the agenda for bloggers to feed off. And any time they want, big media is thinking they can step in, make an acquisition, and catch up in a single, swoop without having to have poured big dollars into trials and prototypes like they did during the first dot com boom.

So show a bit of respect. The best thing any of these new breed of aggregators could do is partner up with a really, really smart “old media person”, who understands a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t have a clue about.

Because the reality is that we’re going to arrive at a point that it is part-man, part-machine. Part old media, part new media. New media models still have a long way to go, the game has yet to begin so before any one gloats about eating anybody else’s lunch, you might want to wait until you see what’s being served up for dinner.

(BTW, I continue to admire Gabe Rivera – who was the special guest on that podcast – for his modesty and acumen. He actually gets that there’s a long road ahead, that Big Media is part of the story and at least from the outside, seemingly refuses to let, himself of memeorandum get too big for its britches).

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation

Why Google should concede to newspapers

If I were Google and the World Association of Newspaper came to me claiming I was violating their copyright with Google News, I’d say: “Yes sir, you are right. As long as you maintain your copyright stance against all players and are prepared to follow through with legal action then I’m prepared to pay you this wad of cash to license your content”.

Google News isn’t in a battle with the newspapers. As much as they can fight it, there role as gatekeeper to content will be slowly eroded. But it does compete with far more intelligent, sophisticated aggregation engines like memeorandum, tailrank, digg, etc that I’m tipping will dominate this space in coming years.

Therefore it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Google News if the barrier to entry in this market suddenly rose. If you suddenly need to pay a million bucks in license fees to play in the game, how are all your little startups going to compete.

It’s a very similiar situation to the two-tier Internet. The big players could easily afford to pay the telcos and gain an advantage over start-ups. Both these issues are perhaps the best litmus test of the Do No Evil position at Google. It really would make commercial sense for Google to bend on both of these issues, as neither would even dent its earnings, while dramatically easing the competitive environment. On the Google News issue, it has even greater incentive to concede because it would then be free to start monetising the service without legal concern.
To its credit, Google has so far fought the good fight, which surely it is doing more on behalf of the wider internet community than for its own interests. And for that Google, we salute you. Big Media would love nothing more than to cripple the amazing benefits of emerging media models. We need someone big enough to stand up to them.

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation

Scoble knocked off!!! Aggregators rule

If you’re a WordPress blogger, you log-in every day and the one constant is that Scobleizer is the number one WordPress blog.

Well, not today, the Scobleizer has been knocked from his perch by AtariBoy!

Who the hell is AtariBoy you might ask? He’s just an average joe blogger who posted a tip on how to view hidden comments on MySpace. He then submitted the story to Digg. It got promoted up the batting order and onto the front page and was then proceeded to be clicked on by some 11,000+ users and counting.

It’s quite clear that the big traffic in the blogosphere is being driven by aggregators and is up the top of the pile at the moment. I had big recent traffic into the four figures for my recent Google News Fatally Flawed post and most of it came from My belief that aggregators will become the gatekeepers to online content gets reinforced every day!

Filed under: Blogs, Content Aggregation

Marxism 2.0 – has Karl finally got it right?

Scott Karp this week initiated another interesting meme, this time on media economics, basing a post on the work of Mr Plastic Fantastic himself, Umair Haque. Karp called Haque “possibly the most brilliant mind looking at what’s going in media, and thus in technology”. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t but Umair is certainly the dude most capable of extrapolating the most graphs and buzzwords per theorum. Undisputed.

I have no arguments with most of what Haque has to say, although I think he’s dressing up a lot of conventional wisdom in bedazzling terminology just so as to wow and amazie and I also think he comes from too much of a technology-oriented point of view. I think concepts like community, voice, and authority are too difficult to plot on a graph yet essential to any modern media analysis and therefore go MIA in Haque’s PowerPointing.

But the one point I did want to make is that Karp uses the Haque-isms to suggest there is a bubble in the media forming that will in turn spill over to the wider tech sector.

To which Squash says one man’s bubble is another man’s bust.

If we’re going to talk economic models here, let’s revisit a classic oldie – Marxism.

Blah, blah, blah, to cut a long story short, the ruling class rules because it controls the means of production which enables it to exploit the labour of the working class to create “surplus value”. In media terms, this means Big Media contols the printing press and the broadcast stations, which enable them to create surplus value, ie profits, from the sweat of its content creators.

Fast forward to “media 2.0” (quite amazing that this is the first major upgrade of hundreds of years of media thinking isn’t it?). The Internet means big media no longer control the means of production. The content creators themselves can blog, podcast, videostream. They can outsource their advertising department (and their accounts receivable department for that matter to Google). All they need is to be able to market on an equal footing. That’s where content aggregation comes in. When Big Media company ceases to control the gatekeeping mechanism, all content creators are reduced to a level playing field.

Big media now has to rely primarily on its superior content produced by their superior content creators. However, as Haque notes, the democratisation of media makes the role of Big Media more difficult. Their costs increase, their revenues decrease – profits slide. The only place they can cut costs are their labor costs (if you’re in Australia, does this sound like Fairfax people?).

Suddenly, those superior content creators find that they can strike out on their own as mini-media and snatch a slice of the surplus value themselves thereby increasng their overall share. Quality at Big Media sinks and falls behind micromedia. Slippery slope ensues. Big Media dies. Micromedia flourishes. Capitalism is dead.

And the means of production? Maybe we exist in a socialist world; ie the means of production is controlled by the people’s elected representative – Google?. Maybe, we operate in a communist world, wher the means of production is owned communally – Open Source? Long live the revolution, Comrade.

So what the hell, hey. If we must insist on slapping a 2.0 suffix on the end of every word in the dictionary then here’s mine: Marxism 2.0.

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation, Media Models, New Media

Google News fatally flawed

By now if you’re a web afficianado you’d know that Google News is out of beta . Big deal. The real meat in this story is Google’s launch of a personalised news service , which it seems the company has been waiting to complete before it ripped up the beta sticker.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re building a content aggregator as our very first “labs” project so I’ve spent a lot of time analysing what I feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the various aggregators out there. So where do I see Google News and what impact will its new recommendation make?

I use Google News every day. MediaConnects produce a daily column each day in which we analyse the day’s Australian tech media coverage, giving credit to journos for breaking news stories. A Google News search is invaluable for us in terms of trying to determine if a story was exclusive, how it might have been sourced and who broke the story first. For me, that’s always been the power of the service – searching. It’s a great “journal of record” but I tried using Google News as a gatekeeper for barely a day before giving up on it.

The fundamental flaw with Google News is that its based primarily on clustering, not ranking. It’s ability to rate a story is limited to analysing how many times a particular story is reported. So it has enough intelligence to pick out the most reported story. Woop-de-doop. That’s equates to almost zero value add because by the time a story makes it to prominence on Google News, it’s already been reported by every man and its dog and subsequently Google News can only ever be a follower. Can you imagine a newspaper editor saying “I’ve got this really great concept. We’re going to concentrate on reporting all the news, that everybody else has already reported!”

At best, the Google News news pages serves a purpose as a backup source, enabling a reader to ensure they haven’t missed any big news stories. Again, there’s that journal of record aspect.

The other related flaw with Google News is it has no ability to rate stories within a cluster. So where memeorandum gains the intelligence of ranking stories in a thread, by looking at the number of links a post receives, Google News has no such intelligence. I presume it makes a decision based on how long ago a story was posted and by the credibility of its various news sources it tracks. Hardly, a sophisticated way of picking out the best coverage of a particular story.

Now Google is also recommending news stories based on your search history. So how does this change the game for Google? It improves the service in one manner. Google News has large overarching topics which are really too broad to be of any use as an aggregator. So at least, you’ll be able to keep tabs on narrow subject areas. However, Google’s got a better killer app here. It’s Google News Alert. I subscribe to all stories related to the football team I follow and have those emailed to me. The value-add here is that I’m alerted to new stories even if I’m not checking the web or my newsfeeds.

The problem for Google News is the flaws I’ve already outlined, are only exacerbated when it comes to the effectiveness of its recommendation engine. According to the Google News help page, (hat tip to Search Engine Watch ) this is how the recommendation service works.

By signing in to personalized news and keeping Personalized Search enabled, you allow Google to track and save your news selections. Then, Google News can automatically recommend relevant stories just for you by using smart algorithms that analyze your selections. The algorithms compare your tastes to the aggregate tastes of other groups of similar Google News users. Simply put, we recommend news stories to you that have been read by many other users who’ve also read similar stories as you in the past.

So you get served up other popular stories. But chances are, a story is only popular because Google’s flawed rating system has put it there in the first place. It’s very much a case of the blind leading the blind.

I’d be very surprised if the people behind today’s leading aggregators are shaking in their boots over these latest developments. Google News will always have its place and the fact that its a Google product means it will always be an influential aggregator. However, as a gatekeeper that points people to new, interesting content, I’m afraid it needs a fundamental redevelopment. That’s highly unlikely based on the fact the service is now out of beta.

So content aggregators rejoice. Squash’s bet is that this is one corner of the Internet that Google won’t be dominating anytime soon.

Filed under: Content Aggregation, Google, memeorandum

I’m coming to the party

I always lamented that I was late-to-the-party when Web 1.0 rolled around. I started writing my first Web business plan, exactly one month before the whole thing went crash. I ended up ditching that first idea because it required VC funding and settled on a business I thought I could make fly, because it better leveraged the expertise I’d acquired at that stage and it didn’t require any external investment. That was MediaConnect and I reckon we’ve done alright for ourselves.

But I always wondered what would have happened if I’d have done the same thing a couple years earlier amidst the haze of multi-million dollar VC funding and zillion dollar buyouts and IPOs. I’d be living on easy street by now, I keep telling myself as well as anyone who has the misfortune of running into me at 2am in the morning after a dozen or so beers.

So now ‘Web 2.0’ rolls around and the dollars are flowing freely again. As I look around and watch what’s happening, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable, lounging back in my diluded state of ‘what might have been’. It’s kind of difficult to cry about missing the boat when another ship’s there sitting in the dock, waiting to be boarded.

After putting so much sweat into MediaConnect, though, it’s kind of difficult to take ones hands off the wheel for fear of it running aground. Sure, we’re a niche business, but it’s one we own and which we’re now well-positioned to leverage now we’re operating in the black. A lot of things are turning our way and a company with a relatively similar business in the US, Vocus, just IPO’d in December and has since seen its share rocket from $9 to $13.65 giving it a market cap of over $US200 million.

So it’s been easy for me to stay chained to MediaConnect and leave the rest of my participatory efforts to sniping as an armchair critic as the web goes through its latest, iterative development. However, in the past week, I’ve decided that’s a cop out. I am ready to join the party.

The first thing I’ve done is embrace the Google 80/20 rule. We’ve christened a room in our office as our “lab”. We’re going to start some side projects and all our staff have the opportunity to get involved with those as well as to propose their own ideas. The goal is to let a couple of ideas take off, see what flies and if any manage to stay up in the air we’ll hive them off and anyone involved keeps their seat on their plane. If they crash, well, we just sweep up the wreckage and send another one up in the air. After all, what are you really risking? It doesn’t take an awful lot of cash to prototype an idea these days and I don’t think the use of staff’s time on side projects will result in noticeable decreases in productivity related to our core business.

So if you’ve noticed a drop off in my number of posts, it’s because I’ve been speccing my first couple of labs projects. One is related to the 1EyedEel site that’s been my labour of my love for the past couple of years and the second is in the content aggregation space. I’m pretty keen on the concept behind the aggregator, actually.

If nothing else, I’m going to find out if I can walk the talk. Do I have a clue or am I full of shit? If I am full of shit, well, so be it. That’ll just make me all the more qualified to blog! 😉

Filed under: Content Aggregation, MediaConnect, Web 2.0

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