Saturday, November 18, 2006

Digg bashing: A roundup

I wrote earlier about problems with Digg a couple of times - for example, in this post about creating the ultimate news site, here (Proposal for a Digg for health site) and most especially here (Why the time for Digg is up).

Marketwatch says the same thinh that i said days ag about quality stories not getting proper 'airtime' on Digg. The user interface is not made for displaying 3000+ stories.

SEOMOZ just did a its Prediction for next 6 months, where it says:
Digg will reach its height of publicity and begin to wane as other verticals in the space take off

The ABCD of blogging

First, a disclaimer- I am no expert on blogging. I am fortunate enough to have a side income but there are millions of bloggers who aim to earn a living through being independent publishers (bloggers). This is a synopsis of what I have learnt about blogging:

Advertising support – There are more pro bloggers in the field now. Many more are entering this niche daily. However, they will face problems in an advertsing slowdown. It is not smart to dream about ads from web 2.0 startups. That only happens if you are Michael Arrington.

Blog often, blog persistently- Write at last at least one good post daily. Someone recently pointed out that the top blogs in Technorati are, on an average 33 months old. It takes time to build a professional publication.

Create useful and entertaining content. Everyone has wised up to making lists and how to posts. There is a glut - we will have to think up ideas about creating better content. Turn to big name magazines in your niche for inspiration. The best blogs are like good magazines. Look at Engadget.

Look at The New Yorker’s analysis of the recent elections in the U.S. and the resurgence of the Democratic Party. Look at the amount of data the writer gives out:

… the fate of ballot initiatives around the country suggests that, on balance, the conservative tide may be ebbing. In six states, mostly out West, proposals to raise the minimum wage won easily. Yes, seven ballot measures banning same-sex marriage passed, albeit by smaller margins than has been the pattern; but one, in Arizona, was defeated—the first time that has happened anywhere. Missourians voted to support embryonic-stem-cell research. Californians and Oregonians rejected proposals to require parental notification for young women seeking abortions, and the voters of South Dakota overturned a law, passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor eight months ago, that forbade abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, except when absolutely necessary to save the mother’s life. Rick Santorum, the Senate’s most energetic social conservative, went down to overwhelming defeat—man on dog won’t hunt, either, apparently.
- Hendrik Hertzberg

Can we bloggers give that amount of data? This is a holy grail, believe me.
Research, Research, Research.

As Steve Rubel says, don’t depend on advertising support – there are too many bloggers and blogging is a superstar economy.

We must look at other methods to earn:

Guy Kawasaki once said this about blogging – Think Book, not Diary. That’s an idea.

For example, 50 cookbooks, 51 PS3 tips, 2006’s top …, ‘how to’ series which later can be translated into books. You can sell your books as Pdf files online or via as print books. In both cases, you don’t spend a dime. You might also consider selling special reports on areas that you track.

Other ideas include: subscriptions, affiliate networks, consulting, events, merchandzing (with Cafepress support).

I hope this short advisory helps you chalk out your special blogging success story. All the best.

How to build a world

Came across some great links on building worlds that could be helpful to aspiring writers, fantasy creators (ala Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix), Second Life/World of Warcraft type experience creators and anyone else with ample time and ambition.

How to build a world: Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions- By Patricia C. Wrede

Magical World Builder's Guide by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant

30 Days of world building: an exercise

As it is said, 'In the beginning, there was the word', so here is a tip on how to create a word.

Idea: What about a 3 min. Youtube version of World building?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Calacanis has left the building: some questions

1. What are the problems at AOL vis-à-vis Jason Calacanis?

- Valleywag says AOL parent playing "sadistic little games".

"It must've taken him years to get through to a customer service rep that was willing to take his resignation letter."
a comment on Digg

“I’m not inclined to start over with a new guy”

NYT interview, pointing to AOL exec Jon Miller’s departing.

2. What is going to happen to Netscape now? And the $1000 story submitters? Has Netscape become just a place to see what works and what doesn’t in social media?

3. What will top Weblogsinc bloggers do? Meanwhile Peter Rojas of Engadget is staying put.

4. Will Calacanis get more seriously into Podacsting? Like Scoble?

5. What about Calacanis’ reported plans to buy a regular newspaper/media property?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

100 people shaping Online Journalism

Readers of Pressgazette in britain nominated a alist of 50 people including 'media moguls, website editors, and new media evangelists' who are shaping online journalism.

1. Rupert Murdoch, chairman, News Corp
2. Ashley Highfield, director, BBC Future Media & Technology
3. Craig Newmark, founder, Craigslist
4. Simon Waldman, director of digital strategy & development, Guardian Media Group
5. Pete Clifton, head of BBC News Interactive
6. Carolyn McCall, Guardian Media Group chief executive
7. Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian
8. Emily Bell, director of digital content, Guardian News and Media
9. Annelies van den Belt, new media director, Telegraph Group
10. Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive, Telegraph Group
11. Oh Yeonho, Founder, Ohmynews
12 & 13. Tom Anderson & Chris DeWolfe, founders of MySpace
14. Steve Herrmann, editor, BBC News Online
15. Nathan Stoll, product manager, Google News
16. James Montgomery, editor,
17. Zach Leonard, digital publisher, Times Media
18. Les Hinton, chairman, News International
19. Tony Watson, editorial director, Press Assocation
20. Anne Spackman, editor-in-chief, Times Online
21. Edward Roussel, online editorial director,
22. Rafat Ali, founder, ContentNext
23. Tim O'Reilly, founder, O'Reilly Media
24. Jeff Jarvis, blogger and consultant
25. Andy Hart, MD, AN Digital
26. Neil Budde, general manager, Yahoo! News
27. Matt Drudge, publisher, The Drudge Report
28. Peter Bale Former Times Online editor
29. Nick Denton, publisher, Gawker Media
30. "Guido Fawkes", blogger
31. Camilla Wright, founder, Popbitch
32. Tim Faircliff, general manager UK and EMEA, Reuters Consumer Media
33. Lloyd Shepherd, director of news, sport and information, Yahoo! Europe
34. Pete Picton, editor, Sun Online
35. Iain Dale, blogger
36. James Murdoch, CEO, BSkyB
37. David Black, director, Trinity Mirror Regional Digital Media
38. Michael Birch, founder, Bebo
39. Bill Murray, MD, group business information strategy, Haymarket Publishing
40. Dan Gillmor, founder, Center for Citizen Media
41. Alan Revell, COO, AN Digital
42. & 43 John Lettice and Drew Cullen, founder and editor, The Register
44. Matt Loney, site director,
45. Stewart Kirkpatrick, editor,
46. Keith Perch, MD, AN Digital Publishing
47. Tim Bowdler, CEO, Johnston Press
48. Richard Withey, global director, interactive media for IN&M
49. Ian Davies, development director, Archant
50. Ben Perreau, editor,

Although having many international list, this is still a britain-oriented list. What is also missing from the list are the tool makers, and plaform makers who have made it possible for people to express themselves better.

What would a more global Online Publisher hall of Fame 2006 would look like?

Here are my additions to the list. Although Flickr and Youtube have been bought by bigger companies but the work they are doing remains undiluted:

51 &52. Chad Hurley, left, and Steven Chen, YouTube founders.
Made online video big.

53. Joshua Schachter, founder
The tagging and social bookmarking initiative

54. Darren Rouse, Problogger publisher
Giving out advice to bloggers who want to make it big in the online publishing.

55. Jason Calacanis, Weblogsinc head honcho
Created a profitable Blog publishing empire. Still doing new stuff and extending mass media best practices to new media. May still rescue AOL.

56. Kevin Rose, Digg Co-founder
Made social news popular. Ratings and all that...

57. Gabe Reviera, Founder, Memeorandum
Unique, pagerank-like algorithm to look for news from a list of carefully chosen sources.

58& 59. Publisghers of and
Creating news items that users pay to read - the holy grail.

60. Rich Skrenta: Co-Founder, CEO, Topix
350,000+ topics and counting, plus local news and zip-wise news.

61 &62. Stewart Butterfield & Caterina Fake, founders, Flickr
Pushed up the online photo revolution.

63-100: There are countless others pushing the boundaries of online publishing. For example, self help and DIY is big are. Help me out here finishing this list. I am positive there will be more than hundred.

Number 1 lesson for newspapers: you can’t control the news

Newspapers are trying their best to keep up with the changes in the online world; they have gone to lengths to make their offerings user-friendly, be more in tune with the online crowd which also wants to have a say in the news process. Many newspapers, like The Guardian have embraced the net in a big, encouraging user participation and creating serious ombudsmen. The usage of video, commentary, blogs, podcasts, ratings and other ‘web 2.0’ tools is on the up. Sensible people in the business know that suing Google News won't do any good.

However, there are some who won’t let go. Jeff Jarvis writes about a recent San Francisco Chronicle article by a lawyer/journalist who suggests newspapers ‘time delay’ their news so that the online readership has no other option than to pay and read the news. This goes straight in Top 5 of my most insane idea of 2006.

The lawyer/journalist Peter Scheer proposes:
Here’s my proposal: Newspapers and wire services need to figure out a way, without running afoul of antitrust laws, to agree to embargo their news content from the free Internet for a brief period — say, 24 hours — after it is made available to paying customers. The point is not to remove content from the Internet, but to delay its free release in that venue.

A temporary embargo, by depriving the Internet of free, trustworthy news in real-time, would, I believe, quickly establish the true value of that information. Imagine the major Web portals — Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN — with nothing to offer in the category of news except out of date articles from “mainstream” media and blogosphere musings on yesterday’s news.

Jeff has the right answer to such suggestions. Those hoary days of editorial control are long gone. He points out that information wants to be free in today’s information age. If users can’t find the news on the big news sites, they will shift elsewhere. Moreover, not all news is worth paying for. Most national and international news is a commodity nowadays. People pay for and because of the analysis and excellent commentary.

Peter Scheer's advice is aimed at killing the newspaper, not reviving it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Digg for health, anyone?

This column is about Web 2.0 and health. The Economist did a survey on The New Economy in 2000.

The New Economy, this phrase was as hot as Web 2.0 is today. The Economist said something like this, ‘the internet is not something as cool and revolutionary as time travel’ or ‘beam me up Scotty type of invention’.

A recent report said a big chunk of internet users use the net to get medical information, verify what the doctor said. I wonder why there isn’t any big Web 2.0 development about health. The portals, Google and Yahoo are not enough.

MIT’s Technology Review has just come out with a report on top emerging technologies fro 2006. 6 of those technologies are about health.

We are going live longer lives, with improved healthcare, but where is the Myspace for health. Where is the Digg for health, for that matter?

All you have to do put a lot of health information (reference), latest health developments and a community of doctors and patients from all over the world. At least, Kevin Rose might start this with including health channel. I doubt that, it would be too ‘uncool’. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Creating the ultimate news site

Start by make Digg anonymous.

Muhammad Saleem has proposed that Reddit should be made anonymous. I will go ahead and make for all social news sites, led by Digg. They have a big problem and change is needed or else, as they say, users will soon leave the building.

In my earlier post, I have written about the madness of crowds and how we are making heavy weather out of voting, rating and how cabals are gobbling up social networking sites.

Earlier, a musician complained about big music bands crowding out smaller acts on Myspace.

Muhammad Saleem gives forth the example of the popular Japanese board, where all postings are done anonymously.

Anonymous voting works for regular bricks and mortar democracies. Why can’t it work in the online world? It helps independent decision making. As it is, once someone starts clapping in the cinema hall, others join in too. It is called homophilly.

Problems with the present Digg type setup:

However, homophilly can’t be a substitute for proper democratic setup.

Lots of good stories are buried in Digg. The system also does not help by making it hard for users to have a proper 300 page views per person!

No wonder, users just looks at the home page, where all the popular stories are. Or, they turn to the Cloud pages, where again, thanks to the screen resolutions and size they only notice the headlines bigger fonts.

So, it is actually a cabal which makes the initial move by voting up a story so that it becomes more prominent and rest gets drowned. When Digg was redesigned, I sent them an email regarding no. of story display per page and I still have to get an answer.

I am sure someone will start noticing these things and start a new news site with anonymous voting, with IP recognition, time delay voting, in case if someone is voting from the same machine. And of course, the site must give users the choice to browse all the stories at display more efficiently.

Rating is good but it should also be accompanied by most emailed, most read features. There must be an algorythm that analyses which articles are getting more links, like Google's Pagerank.

The idea is to mix the best of traditional jounlaism with the best of online journalism. And Digg is no journalism. Who's up for building the ultimate news site?

Startup is hard in New Delhi

Reading Paul Graham is compulsory for anyone who aspires to be a startup guy. Anything Paul writes these days becomes popular, getting heavy circulation on the social bookmarking circuit. I like essayists who have actually lived what they are writing about, like Thoreau.

Back in May this Year, Paul Graham gave a talk titled, 'How American are Startups?', where he touts the aspects that make America the #1 haven for startups.

He says,
Could you recreate Silicon Valley elsewhere? With the right 10,000 people, yes. It used to be that geography was important, but now it's having the right people. You need two kinds of people to create a start-up: rich people and nerds.

Let's put that to test in New Delhi. It is a rich place alright. New Delhi and the suburbs are a place of wheelers and dealers, of people who got rich by access to the who's who in Central Government. It is a place of traders, Pepsi and Coke Franchisers, mall and realty operators and most recently BPO startups. It is city of shopkeepers.

On the tech intellectual side, there is just the IIT and a couple of other tech teaching shops supplemented by hordes of non-affiliated tech coaching centers. All these guys want to code for BPO champs Infosys, Wipro, Satyam and likes. They don’t want no startups here unless you are funded in millions by your favorite uncle. Guy Kawasaki, please note, team building is not so romantic here.

I must stop before all this turns to rant that is agonizing to read. I have to admit it – I have been trying to induct some php, mysql, CSS and Java knowledge into my small startup but all the available talent has gone to big firms or to Bangalore. Those that remain, are the fresh MCAs (useless course, no creativity) and the slow coders.

McKinsey recently reporetd that only 15% of passouts from India's professional collegs are employable. To make my startup plans happen, I will now have to retrain fresh coders, meaning time and money – valuable startup commodities. However, I am afraid that once fully trained, the talent does not stay at small firms. Employee bonds are not easily enforced in India.

So, I am left with the choice of either shifting to Bangalore and start hunting for talent again, although I suspect I will come short there, the capital of India’s software boom – who will want to work for a scrappy startup?

Maybe Paul Graham is right. America is indeed startup capital of the world. However differently, ripe with his evangelical Silicon Valley goodness, Guy Kawasaki may think.

Monday, November 13, 2006

5 takeaways from Web 2.0 forum

Media’s penchant for hyping up things is never under doubt. More than 300 social networking startups in 2 years and no proper business model in sight. Even Tim O’ Reilly recently gave up and said Web 2.0 is about business, about moolah too. Hah, noble visions do not suit us lowly humans.

Going by people’s responses on the recently held Web 2,0 forum, I sense despondency – and fight between who those want to keep blowing up the balloon for obvious benefits and those who see the truth.

Here is my 5 points on the Web 2.0 forum:

1. Open up the platforms for a braoder audience.
Think Myspace users talking to Facebook users. Dion Hinchcliff has some tips for opening up the platforms, including having open APIs.

2. Web 3.0, the semantic web emerges again. Despite having been dissed by Google and Clay Shirky earlier, NYtimes 'times' the Forum to come up with Web 3.0 again. Not much in near future, I am sure.

Nick Douglas is right. Nytimes did it for having the bragging rights to spotting a trend.

3. Web 3.0, the semantic web might have applications in limited data environments such as the enterprise, where administrators might apply ontologies to distill better intelligence from all the data going to and fro in the organization.

Joe McKendrick has more on the topic.

4. Snark 1: Not all were happy with forum and saw it for what it was.
Nick Carr, the original snarkist calls Web 2.0 forum ‘underwhelming’.

He has this to say:
"When dogcrap 2.0 sites like PayPerPost and ReviewMe start getting a lot of attention, you know you're seeing the butt end of a movement.

5. Snark 2: Peter Rip was also disillusioned. As a VC, he was not impressed by the wares on display.

I spent three days this past week at the Web 2.0 Conference in SF. For the most part I felt like it was a waste of time (and $2500). The time spent in the halls was great, seeing people I know and connecting with interesting people. I didn't need the conference to figure out that Video is the new Black.
So, who is making money from Web 2.0? My money is on al those Ajax, Php and Mysql guide publishers and tutors.