Saturday, August 04, 2007

Is Digg past its peak?

Erling L. Andersen researches Digg’s traffic on Alexa and concludes what I have been suspecting for a while – Digg’s traffic is down.

Erling writes that Digg has lost almost half of its traffic from its ‘glory-days’ towards the end of 2006.

Reason? Erling thinks it is because of competition from Reddit,, Stumbleupon and others.

For some time now, I suspected Digg was in a slump - the numbers of submissions in two popular Digg categories – Technology and Business are a bit down. While number of submissions on a whole remain the same, skirting the 8000 stories a day mark, The average Digg submitter writes more about technology and business than other, and maybe the arbitrary Buries are discouraging many users to participate anymore, or at least far less than they used to do before.

Then there is a bigger problem: Digg has always suffered from lack of good stories. More than ever, Kevin Rose and his gang must shift attention from their new baby Pownce, and try to bring focus back to Digg, which need good stories like never before.

As things stand, one suspects the original group of enthusiastic YTMs (young, techie males) that made Digg are moving on in life. In comparison, editor-moderated Slashdot powers on, with good stories coming in on a daily basis.

The Plateau before the decline is not a nice place to dig in, pardon the pun.

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Moving up from Navel Gazing, ver. 2.0

If you remember, I asked A-list bloggers to put their egos in hibernation and write about issues important for the health and direction of the IT industry – patents, bubble 2.0, innovation (Pownce is just a super-mini version of Gmail), Digital Divide and government regulation, among other things.

Supporting the stance of, Paul Kim, who works for Mozilla, goes one up over my idea and says that the whole blogosphere must focus on more important issues on hand - and become the do-good blogosphere. Paul’s vote is for more coverage of green living– sustainable environment, climate change.

You cannot deny that there are a whole lot of important issues that need our immediate coverage - freedom of expression, media hypocrisy, advertising masquerading as news, collusion between media and the business-political complex, gatekeepers, hate crimes…it is a big list.

Note to A-listers: If you find all this ‘heavy’, you can start by ferreting out hate groups on social networking sites, or create a dynamic index that tracks the topic of conversation online. Remember the Kathy Sierra incident?

Start by using Paul's Subscription list to 'good blogs'.

P.S.: If you like, go through MediaVidea’s 9 month old archive, and you would find some issues that you can explore in detail.

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A-listers begin to see Facebook in a new light

A while back, I wrote that there is a big difference between a student using a social networking site, such as Facebook and a professional using it for business purposes. An A-lister using Facebook to further his blogging prospects do no a case make.

I wrote about what happens when a Facebook user grows up.
Befittingly, few read my posts. I am no A-lister. That is the way the blogosphere goes. I suppose it is because I don’t give time to networking.

I find it reassuring that A-listers are looking at Facebook with a different eye. We know Facebook a closed platform, although some wise guys think this is a good thing, going on to bring Microsoft of the mid-90s back from the dead, and the user’s data is locked In/owned by Facebook .

Now, Scott Carp, an A-lister in my book, writes that Facebook is NOT for Business.
…business and professional needs are NOT the same as personal needs. I have no need to “poke” my professional colleagues or specify that our working relationship began when we “hooked up.” I don’t need to know about my professional colleagues what gender they are interested in mating with, or what they are looking for in a relationship, or what their favorite TV shows are...

They used to say a normal human being doesn’t make more than 1000 acquaintances in his/her lifetime. Social Networking sites are putting this amateur theory to test and we seeing the first signs of a Friend backlash, a glut of friends, if you will. Scott Carp writes,
We’re experiencing friends overload, and it’s a tragedy of the commons. The practice of friending has morphed way beyond the term’s original intention and utility. And that is why I declare friends — at least in the social-networking context — passé.

As a coincidence. six major advertisers withdrew advertisements from Facebook, after the ads appeared on a British National Party page, which at first glance is silly, because no one puts the ad there deliberately, blame automation for that. However, this is a sign of things to come, as Facebook grapples with the delicious problem of hwo to monetize the traffic resulting from ‘people poking each other’.

When a VC like Fred Wilson promotes Facebook’s superman-like powers because his daughter happens to love it, think twice before swallowing the generalizations. Facebook has a long way to go before it can somewhat more useful to professionals, LinkedIn Facebook is not. Facebook is not.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Platform Wars 2.0: Your Platform is Just a Widget on Mine

Tim O’ Reilly was right when he said that Web 2.0 was about controlling user’s data. People got so caught up in the Facebook Platform Tsunami that they forgot the restrictions that Facebook put on their own data. This was put to test yesterday when Start Page site launched the Facebook Widget which would allow users to view their Facebook notifications and friends from their Netvibes start page.

Start Pages including, and Google were among the first ones on the Widget bandwagon but Facebook seems to have won over more developers (aided by the all the hype created by A-list bloggers, one might add) for its pseudo-open platform.

But as Richard Macmanus says, with its latest move, Netvibes has reduced Facebook to a mere Widget.

Coming back to the Platform Wars 2.0 theme, it is interesting to read Dave Winer’s stand on this:
Facebook could easily be the place where the dam breaks. It's attracting so many users, who may at some point realize that they want control of the data that's locked up inside Facebook. Then vendors who have been on the right side of this issue will be the heroes.

Meanwhile, all you platform owners rejoice! Your platform is just a widget on mine.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Techcrunch should buy Business 2.0

“How Far Blogs have come” could have been another title for this post. New Media has indeed come a long way since the time when a HR wise guy asked me earnestly early this year “Huh, what is a blog?”

It will be increasingly difficult to determine where old media ended and new media started. Analyzing the much-hyped CNN Youtube debates, Seth Finkelstein says that “New media is just another way to pull the same old tricks”. He was pointing to the same old problem of gatekeepers, carefully selected questions and presented as Citizen’s Questions, but that is another story.

Vis-à-vis the old media, it is no more about Us vs. Them
Rather, it is about business realities, paying reporters, getting advertising, having focus, producing readable and useful stuff on a continual basis.

It is also about the current trend where blogs have become primary read for many in the coveted 18-35 age group.

Thus, it comes to pass that having becoming tired of reading stories about mainstream media buying new media startups, I propose reasons why a new media startup such as Techcrunch should buy an old media name, Business 2.0.

Business 2.0 seems to be living the magazine version of the glorious ‘hand –to-mouth, one-day-at-a-time” life that people live in poor corners of the world. Ever since, CNNMoney became the single portal for AOl Time Warner’s magazine properties, it was obvious that Business 2.0 would get second class treatment, most of the attention focused on older business magazine, Fortune.

Business 2.0, the once hip brand, became just another brand in the giant’s belly.

Hell, I used to pound the second hand magazine stalls in Daryaganj in New Delhi during earlier web 2.0 bubble for copies of Business 2.0 and RedHerring, another magazine that is biting the dust.

6 Reasons why Techcrunch should buy Business 2.0
1. Techcrunch is the zeitgeist publication of the current era. It is the Industry Standard cum RedHerring cum Upside of this Web 2.0 boom.

2. Techcrunch has a similar niche to that of Business 2.0.

3. Michael Arrington has the networking chops to arrange the money to buy Business 2.0 from Time Inc.

4. Business 2.0 has some great blogs in its portfolio and there are synergies to explore.

5. Josh Quittner of Business 2.0 can bring some sanity Michael Arrington’s rogue publisher’s ways - give Techcrunch some journalistic cred.

6. Business 2.0 will get better attention from Arrington and exposure than it is at CNNMoney. Mike gets a Print play and Business 2.0 gets events like Techcrunch 2.0 – what’s a business magazine without Brand Name smooze fests?

6 Reasons why Blogs are very much mainstream media
As I said earlier, it is no longer about Us vs. Them.

1. Many big blogs, including Engadget and Autoblog are already magazines in the garb of blogs.

2. Yesterday, Environment Blog, was bought by Discovery Communications for $10 milllion

3. Chitika says that the top 50,000 blogs may have generated $50 million in ad revenues in 2006.

4. Brandweek Magazine has created sorts of ‘media history’ by hiring a blogger to replace a journalist.

5. The Chicago Tribune Newspaper recently relaunched its website, adding multiple blogs in the hot categories – entertainment, travel, sports and others. As Scott Karp points out, essentially the paper has become a blog network.

6. Yesterday, a congressional panel in the United States voted to pass the amended version of Free Flow of Information Act, which proposes to shield journalists and advertising-supported bloggers from having to reveal their confidential sources in many situations.

I heard some time back that the September issue was going to be the last one for Business 2.0 but Time Inc has reportedly told Business 2.0’s staff to start working on October’s issue. Ah, the agony for my fellow word-pushers!

Rather than waiting for the wise guys at Time Inc. to make any haste decisions, I say the guys running the “Save Business 2.0” group on Facebook to start a “Business 2.0 plus Techcrunch” group in earnest.

The only danger:
Business2.0 plus Techcrunch: How best to make it work?

Meanwhile, one thing is clear - While Techcrunch has the web 2.0 scoops, Business 2. has better writers, no offense to Techcrunch writers.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A-Listers: Navel Gazing Dies Hard

It can be safely said that there is a serious A-List fatigue in the blogosphere. Reasons are obvious: A-list bloggers rarely write incisive pieces. A-Listers aren't the first to write about exciting new technology.

When the A-list phenomenon started out, the blogosphere was experiencing its most serious phase of growth and experimenting and we liked reading their takes on issues at hands - blogging, blog networks, spam, the web 2.0 promise, Wikipedia vs. Britannica, VoIP, SEO, the startups, among other things.

But then the blogging phenomenon slowed down, every other day, you come across blogs that people hardly update. I suppose the A-list bloggers found themselves stuck in a rut, but hemmed in by their dutiful legions of commenters and RSS subscribers. Taking the easy way out they graded down to focusing the attention to themselves - what they like, where they went, what they is a Despearte Bloggers situation out there.

Mike Torres has written a post titled A-listers don't always "get it", and I quote
It used to be fun watching the "A-list" bloggers discover the obvious things that folks outside the U.S., little kids, and even big companies have been tracking for months; sometimes years.

Dare Obasanjo adds in,
It is now safe to say that a lot of the popular technology bloggers aren’t just often behind the current trends on the Web, but actually don’t even know how to use the software when they do find out about it because they are too out of touch with how the Internet generation actually thinks.

Why do you think the A-listers got so heavy on Facebook, when the startup has been around 2004?

Among these A-listers, Steve Rubel tries his hands at trend spotting but you have to discount his being a PR guy in the end.

I wish I read a insightful piece from Michael Arrington but where is the time to write one after you have posted the 11th blog post?

Adsense, the cruel taskmaster.

Richard Macmanus (of Readwriteweb) has written about some issues - attention economy, Google's search rivals, but that is it.

Pete Mashable started out great but these days Mashable is running compiling gadget blog-type posts - "top 20 tools on Facebook", anyone?

Jason Calacanis is busy promoting himself, his company, daring anyone to get in his way.

Robert Scoble is just another hack trying to earn his keep, now that there are no more Microsoft checks in the bank. His iPhone escapades put Paris Hilton's attention-grabbing acts to shame.

Om Malik has graduated from being a A-list blogger and is busy running his blog network, although he is a rare A-lister who can manage short and objective incisive pieces.

I suppose that is what we hoped from A-listers - no agenda, just great writing.

Instead of reading Twitter updates about blogging from the loo, I want to read the A-listers' thoughts on the current patent mess, digital divide (yes Virginia, there is a digital divide), the bubble, privacy issues, and others.

Why doesn't anyone write about Facebook's ghastly content ownership policy?

A-listers, stop gazing at your navels.
Start asking questions.
Be the Reporters 2.0 many thought you would turn out to be.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Big Picture about Big Picture

LA Times Columnist Patrick Goldstein who writes the "Big Picture" column for the Los Angeles Times found that the editor (s) did not like and killed his 1,450-word column where he had suggested that the troubled newspapers follow the lead set by The Mail on Sunday in being creative about finding new revenue outlets - the Daily Mail recently distributed free copies of Prince's latest album.

At a time when decision makers at the LA Times are thinking about putting ads on the front page, this decision did not cut ice with the writer and the column eventually found home on the LA Observed news site, run by a former LA Times Editor Kevin Roderick.

Some Obvious takes on the issue:
1. Many Editors still think they can get away with killing a story (not talking about grammatical and factual errors)
2. For Journalists: If your editor kills your story, you can always find a home for it online, your creativity will come in handy for a safe landing, if you know what I mean.
3. Incidents like these are enough to build a reporter's brand online.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Two-headed Patent Hydra

MercExchange, a small Viriginia-based company went to the courts asking for a injunction against eBay which uses the "Buy It Now" feature, an innovation reportedly patented by MercExchange. However, the Federal court refused to issue an injunction. Reasoning this, the judge wrote,

'MercExchange has utilized its patents as a sword to extract money rather than as a shield to protect its right to exclude or its market share, reputation, good will, or name recognition, as MercExchange appears to possess none of these,'

The Patent problem can be seen as a two-headed monster. First, you have companies, big and small, (aka Patent Trolls) patenting just so that they can extract money or stop competition in any way they can. As a result, we have a treasure trove of patents, rarely used by mankind for any benefits. The Federal Court 's decision aganist MercExchange can be seen as an indictment against such practices. However, this alone can't solve the Patent problem.

To solve it, we must change the laws and for that we first need to find a way to curtail the lobbying machinery employed by Big corporations to keep lawmakers in check. Big companies use the absurd Patent laws to protect their Legal monopoly.

As they say, "the laws apply differently to the big, rich and powerful".

Come to think of it, what if MercExchange was a giant company that was suing a small company for Patent infringement?

Would the results have been different? I bet they would.

Related Story
Lawrence Lessig's new plan to save the world

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BBC and Microsoft: Best buddies in town

To watch BBC's video programming online, you need to install iPlayer which needs Microsoft Windows installed on your computer. As Defective by Design says, it is like dictating 'you must own a Sony TV set to watch BBC TV'.

There's more: you must also accept Microsoft-inspired Digital Rights Management (DRM) that the iPlayer imposes upon you.

I never knew watching news video online would require so much hassle. BBC's online media initiatives were supposed to be harbingers of things to come, setting up BBC as an innovation leader.

The BBC runs more than 500 excellent news sites. However, in this case, DefectivebyDesign argues that BBC's 'Microsoft-friendly' approach stems from the simple fact that important persons within the BBCorganization and the British Government are pretty close to Microsoft. The BBC's Director of New Media and Technology was openly sharing platform with Microsoft and touting DRM. Moreover, the man who is in charge of BBC Future Media & Technology, Eric Huggers earlier held a variety of senior posts at Microsoft.

It is no coincidence that Bill Gates has an honorary knighthood. Just the other day, I watched a detailed Bill Gates interview on BBC's tech program "Click Online", where the billionaire talked eloquent about bringing computing to the poor - he did not mention $ 3 Windows, plans to finish the OLPC, among other things. Which was fine but I was surprised that the interviewer did not ask any hard question, reducing the program to a good PR exercise for Microsoft.

DefectivebyDesign is running a campaign to pressure BBC to stop using the current 'pro-Microsoft' iPlayer. You can sign up here.

The BBC has considerable global reach. We should hope that it remains as objective in its tools selection as it is with its news.

Platform Agnostism is the way to go.

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