Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Bubble Boys and Girls of Facebook

First, it were common users like my friend Ajit who got tired of friend requests (and assorted others) on social networks such as Myspace. This time it is the turn of one of Silicon Valley A-listers who tirelessly promote Facebook to concede defeat.

Jason Calacanis, formerly of Weblogsinc and now CEO of human-powered search startup Mahalo, declares that he is fed up and tired of responding to the numerous friends requests and other requests from people he did not know before.

Conceding 'Facebook Bankruptcy' Calacanis says:

I can't keep up with the friend requests, the requests to confirm how we know each other, the requests to tell you I like you, the requests to tell you I want your to tell me what movies you want to tell me about, etc.

More importantly, Calacanis drives a point into the viability of the much-hyped Facebook Platform. Eternal Web 2.0 PiedPiper Michael Arrington writes about application developer creating platforms inside the Facebook platforms, noting with satisfaction that a Facebook user is worth at least $0.30.

Calacanis however, goes on to punch a hole in all that Platform hype, comparing Facebook's Walled Garden to AOL , just as Jason Kottke did some time back. Calacanis writes,

Frankly, I don't understand why all of these startups are spending all their time trying to build inside of Facebook's walled garden.... well, I guess I do understand it: they like the quick hit of watching the apps #s run up. However, it makes no sense to me to build inside of someone else's platform when you have the wide open internet out there to develop on. I guess if you look at Facebook applications as free marketing maybe. Feels like everyone who is doing this is the Web 2.0 version of old IPs (information partners) at AOL in the pre-web days.... except there is no $4.95 an hour fee to split with Facebook! Time and the open internet has told us that model isn't sustainable. Closed gives to open.... eventually.
When I think of all these eager developers playing inside Facebook, I am reminded of the Bubble boy in "Seinfeld".

Bubble Boys and Girls of Facebook?
I have been here before.

And here: When a Facebook user Got a ...

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Can advertising alone bring success to Google's competition?

Following in the wake of's aggressive marketing campaigns, it is now Microsoft's turn to promote its Live search service. On its recently launched Lice Search Club site (, Microsoft gets users to play games and solve puzzles, awarding them points which they can later exchange for assorted goodies.

It sure sounds like a Pepsi campaign. The clincher here is this: while you solve word puzzles, Microsoft 'pushes' live search results related to the word, without you ever even asking for it. There is a hint a button which shows up further search results.

Can 'Push Search ' and Puzzles make die hard Live Search users out of us?

Producing search results for predefined/preset words are one thing, showing results based on context of the content of a document, that too, on-the-fly is another.

Even Google couldn't do detailed semantic search.

Besides, Search is about Intention, Relavancy and Discovery.
I am not sure Push Search is fit or ready for this.

On a happier note for Microsoft, since it pushes automatic search results as users play games and puzzles on, Hitwise reports that Microsoft’s share of US searches shot up from 8.46% to 9.85%.

Compared to Google's strengths and reach, this is chump change.
Google did not need advertising to promote its search engine.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Malaysia to apply anti-terrorism laws against bloggers who write against Islam or King

This is the latest attempt to censor online speech. The BBC reports that the Malaysian Government 'may' use strict anti-terror laws against bloggers who write defamatory/insulting pieces on either Islam or the King.
Whether the move is aimed at curbing honest criticism and debate over issues that affect people' s lives is yet to be see, but Malaysian bloggers now run the fear of being detained indefinitely, without being charged or put on trial.

As of now, if you blog your open mind in Malaysia, you are a terrorist.

On a side note, governments in the developed and the developing nations are going to crazy lengths on the pretext of fighting terrorism and more than often, the common citizen finds herself treated like a terrorist, whatever the pretext.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What if the Facebook datacenter went down?

A series of back-to-back power outages at the Web 2.0 datacenter in SOMA, San Francisco brought downtimes for major web 2.0 businesses including Craigslist, Typepad, LiveJournal, Vox, Yelp, Technorati, and Six apart among others.

Come to think of it: Web 2.0 can actually be Datacenter 2.0, what with the surging traffic at leading web 2.0 sites, including the social networking behemoths Myspace and Facebook. Google and Microsoft are investing heavily into big data centers. Google is already famous for reportedly keeping 50 copies of every file.

Traffic for the big social networking sites is huge - Myspace has most traffic and Facebook is not behind. The datacenter failure at San Fransisco is a pointer to Facebook and others that instead of depending upon third-party datacenters and their dubious claims, they are better off having their own captive datacenters.

Going back to the question: What if the Facabook datacenter went down?

Well, back to normal, real life, I guess.

As the college authorities might have told the IIT Mumbai students when they restricted the students' computer time: "Go out and get a life".

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In support of NYT bestsellers' list and other things

We live in a time where the world economy revolves around the tastes and whims of the young and very young. This is an age ( some will say it began with the release of "Jaws" )where entertainment primarily targeted at kids and youth dominates the charts. It has become so big that we have crossover entertainment - material with kids as leads but meant for a wider audience (Spy Kids, Lemony Snikkets) . I understand that Variety includes animation and kid films in its top grossers' list.

Michael Giltz goes ballistic because the New York Times doesn't feature books aimed at kids in its main bestsellers list and goes on list out other examples where it the exact opposite, although I still can't get the analogy of country music, reality TV shows and adult entertainment.

What's wrong in Harry Potter topping the Kids list? That doesn't take the fantastic sales numbers. I know there are adults in India who go around with Harry Potter bricks that are books as something of status symbols, but hey these are still books for children. The book series may be once in a lifetime Publishing phenomenon, ask Scholastic and J.K. Rowlings, but that doesn't mean anything.

By Michael Giltz's measures, it would be appropriate for textbooks to be included in the bestsellers list.

There are too many blockbusters, comedies, animation and youth-oriented films on the top movie grossers list. Film magazines including Film Comment and Entertainment Weekly carry critics' ratings for films. I would like other media outlets to carry these ratings, ala Metacritic so that serious adult-oriented films get more exposure.

As things stand today, serious books and movies get short shrift in the media on a whole. In the blogosphere, people pile up rewritten blockbuster review after another.

People don't write long pieces because few read them.

Chris Anderson has written about the long tail economy.
I fear we run a risk of pushing serious, insightful and useful works of art to the tail.

While the rest of the media world dutifully bowed to the might of the Potter series, the NYT went ahead and published a review of the seventh book in spite of the publishers' diktats. These are not books, These are big businesses thriving on manufactured realities, pseudo events, among other devices.

We should be thankful that the Oscars still go to films like "Monster's Ball", and "Sideways" among others - films that relatively few people saw when compared to "Pirates of the Carribean" but are testimonies of human artistic achievement.

I wonder why someone hasn't said this.
Let me venture - LEAVE THE ADULTS ALONE!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

When a Facebook user got a job...

Yet another glossy news article declares, "E-mail is, like, soooo dead". You may be right in thinking the article was written by a college-going intern. Not surprising, the article quotes a group of 'teenage entrepreneurs' who used social networks to communicate, using email only to "talk to adults". Maybe these kids are in the party business.

A lot has been written about the Facebook platform and how it can be a business tool as well. I don't want to sound 'alarmist' (as some have called me often) but you don't always do business with your friends and not every customer has to be your friend. Don't you hate the sales Rep who hovers around you, trying to be the best friend you supposedly never had?

If you have read "the 48 laws of power", then you remember it says,

Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

So, there you go.

I would like to see an article which reports about what tools young people will use as working adults. In fact, one of the people surveyed for the above article, Martina Butler says, "I only use e-mail for my business and to get sponsors". This negates the point of the article. I wonder if the purpose of the article was to merely wash one's hands, so to speak, in the running gag of Social Network/Facebook hype.

All things in this world have a purpose, thus if you say you are eating apples these days, that doesn't imply you don't like oranges or oranges are dead. Young people all throughout have loved a free thing, an affordable thing, a fun thing, - IM, social networking, note passing, free local calls...anything with a promise of immediate gratification - such as an instant response.

Will they IM on mobile as often as they poke someone on Facebook, considering IM on mobiles is pricey?

When you post a message on a Facebook wall, it often becomes a public thing. Do you want your business deals to be as open?

What you might be doing instead is initiating an acquaintance on Facebook/LinkedIn and take it forward in a style that brings productive results - email, forums, phone calls, group chat, face-to-face meetings and a wide range of other avaliable tools go into the mix.

Doing business requires time and careful deliberations. It is not easy as poking someone,"are you going to party tonight?"

When we were young we used whatever we found available. But, when we grow up, to make a living, we will use all means available. And then some.

A word to all young people - just wait till you have to send your C.V. along with a cover letter. (or, till your boss sends you a "Make me a friend" request)

Ironically, Facebook, Myspace (and others) send you an email to tell you that you have a private message.

'If you can't start a meme, spread one' is one of the long-lasting lessons from the A-lister oriented new media journalism and traditional news outlets pick up from where the blogging world ended - parroting is the in-thing. I wanted to quote something from Plutarch but I am no A-lister.

(P. S.: Some disclusure - this writer finds IM, alerts from social networks too annoying. And, no I don't find it worthwhile to search for school friends who weren't that close anyway).

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Will the US Mobile Industry please open up?

Someday, someone other than John Battelle might write a book titled "MOBILE: the Google story". Aiming to shake things up in the complacent (others might say "Shylock") U.S. mobile industry, Google wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin promising that they would commit to bid at least $4.6 billion in the 700 MHz spectrum (the last one remaining) auctions if the FCC adopts four key platform rules, :

1. Open applications: Consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
2. Open devices: Consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
3. Open services: Third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
4. Open networks: Third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.

This is the latest incident in the ongoing integration of the PC, Internet and the mobile world.

The mobile carriers will come under increasing competition from forces emanating from the internet world, aided by newer technologies such as Wimax, VoIP, WiFi, OpenMoco and by users' own predeliction for the "mostly free" internet.

In short, these are not the mid-1990s - mobile companies, take note. In 2006, British Telecom planned to launch new web services that would directly compete with Google.

As expected, the Google letter has brought forth a flurry of responses from all quarters:

The Carriers, including AT&T have resorted to word play, reasoning Google's requirements "limits competing bids", what this means only AT&T and its lawyers know, what we know that $4.6 billion is no stump change. We also know that Google now can also match the carriers when it comes to lobbying in Washington.

Critics of Google will say that Google wants to plaster the 700 Mhz spectrum with Adsense.
It is not that easy as it seems in a free-for-all mobile field. Users can easily switch to other search service, if they wish - that is the promise of choice.

As a commenter on Techcrunch elegantly puts it:
We have had the “MS Model” where you pay for products like Office, and the “Google Model” where we endure advertisements for free products.

I would like the option for either “Model” in the wireless realm. Not just another part of the spectrum that I pay $ to utilize.

In what is supposed to the be world's most free country, it is a wonder mobile consumers are held hostage by the mobile carriers, using the airwaves that are purportedly owned by the people.

Over to the FCC.

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