Thursday, August 31, 2006

Web 2.0, Knowledge, and Splitting Hairs

Web 2.0 is taking quite a beating this week. According to The Register,

Five years after the first internet bubble burst, we're now witnessing the backlash against Web 2.0 and a plethora of me-too business plans, marketing pitches and analyst reports exploiting the nebulous phrase.

Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as "Web 1.0." (Quote from The Register).

I think Dana Gardner might be on the right track:

What we are up to here is actually Knowledge 2.0, and it is at least a millennial trend, and it shows every indication of having anthropologic impact. That is, Knowledge 2.0 is changing the definition of what it is to be a modern human, individually and collectively.


So while the get-off-your-cloud folks are poking needles into the Web 2.0 bubble, I have a better idea. Recognize that as you do that you are actually breathing in some of the newly freer air of knowledge, and exhaling some added bits of your own perceptions back in. Each metaphoric breath in and out is changing the world, like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in Timbuktu that then affects the weather in New York. (Quote from Dana Gardner's BriefingsDirect)

I will admit that the term “web 2.0” is over-hyped, but it can be a convenient way to think about how the web is shifting from a one-way mechanism to push information out to the world and moving toward a two-way discussion between the author and her readers. It is this user participation, user created content and the collective intelligence or knowledge generated by large groups of users that makes what we are seeing so incredibly powerful. So, we can argue about what to call it, or we can accept that participation and knowledge are becoming more prevalent on the web and find more creative ways to tap into the knowledge of our users.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Web 2.0 Trademarks

Most of you remember the havoc in the blogosphere when CMP sent a legal letter to a non-profit organization to protect the joint CMP / O'Reilly trademark for the term “web 2.0” as used in conference titles. Tim was on vacation, the blogosphere went nuts, and the whole controversy spiraled out of control, and when Tim returned from vacation, he was able to calm the situation, but it was never permanently resolved.

Today Tim announced a narrowing of the scope of the web 2.0 trademark as part of an announcement about the Web 2.0 Expo and technical conference:

In conjunction with the announcement of the new Web 2.0 Expo and technical conference, I'm also pleased to report that CMP has agreed to narrow the scope of enforcement of the Web 2.0 trademark registration. It will only seek to protect the Web 2.0 trademark if another other Web 2.0-related event has a name that is confusingly similar to the names of the actual events co-produced by CMP and O'Reilly, such as our events "The Web 2.0 Conference" and "The Web 2.0 Expo."

This is consistent with my original understanding about why the trademark filing was made. I must confess that I've always thought that the point was simply to protect the event names, as evidenced by the fact that we have always put the trademark notice at the end of the conference names on the website that O'Reilly produces, "The Web 2.0 Conference." (Quote from the O'Reilly Radar)

This is a pragmatic approach to protecting a trademark without causing undue difficulty for the rest of the industry, especially when a term is becoming as common as “web 2.0”. One of Tim O'Reilly's greatest strengths is seeing the big picture and doing the right thing for the industry as a whole.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Collaborative Journalism at Wired

According to Wired news,

In an experiment in collaborative journalism, Wired News is putting reporter Ryan Singel at your service.

This wiki began as an unedited 1,059 word article on the wiki phenomenon, exactly as Ryan filed it. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do the job of a Wired News editor and whip it into shape. Don't change the quotes, but feel free to reorganize it, make cuts, smooth the prose, or add links -- whatever it takes to make it a lively, engaging news piece. (Quote from the Wired Wiki)

Ross Mayfield reminds us that collaborative journalism does not always go according to plan:

Last time someone tried this it was a disaster, but Wired News has boldly put an article about wikis into a Socialtext wiki for anyone to be a Wired editor. ... This is of course different from the LA Times experminent as there is a clearly stated goal. It will be interesting to at least watch. (Quote from Ross Mayfield's Weblog)

I am particularly interested in this experiment, since I am in the process of doing something very similar as part of an O'Reilly Media project. Danese Cooper and I are in the process of writing a book on the Art of Community, which will start as a wiki. We are taking a similar approach by writing an initial first draft of the chapters, posting them to the wiki, and allowing the community to be our editors / collaborators on the project. We are still working on the details, but I hope to learn from the Wired news experiment.

On a related note, I couldn't help making a couple of edits to the Wired Wiki. This should be fascinating to watch.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Foo, Cats, and Kids (AKA Sunday Morning at Foo)

Despite being exhausted after two late nights of Werewolf (thank you to the kind werewolf who killed me off so I could go to bed last night), this has been a great morning of talks with a number of interesting themes.

Danese Cooper, Karl Fogel, and I led a session about the Art of Community, and we had a great discussion around the topic. We talked about how open source and other developer communities tend to start with a more tangible end goal, while other communities (social networking, communes) tend to be more about the evolution of the community than about the end goal. The tools also tend to be different across different communities with web 2.0 communities having intuitive user interfaces, while developer communities tend to use the techie tools that developers are comfortable with. The barrier to entry is also a bit higher for many developer communities while anyone can easily get involved in web 2.0 communities. We had an active and engaging discussion with participation from many different people. We even had a mascot for the session.

Geir Magnusson led a discussion about Web 2.0: Fact or Fiction starting with the caveat that he really didn't know much about web 2.0, so he was hoping to learn from the group discussion. We talked about the definition of web 2.0 as a new method of using data: collective intelligence / user created content along with combining existing data in new ways (mashups). It was such a great discussion that I did not

Danny O'Brien talked about Cat Poop vs. Blogging related back to brain infections (you had to be there), and he even recruited a little help for the session.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Sessions at Foo Camp

Some of the morning was spent on the “Cylon Raider” project, but I attended several very interesting sessions. Here are a few of the highlights (these notes are a bit raw ... in other words, forgive the typos):

In Democratization / Disintermediation of traditional media led by Jay & Kevin (Digg)

  • Mainstream media excels in areas where you have limited distribution (only so many people can be invited to White House press briefings, for example).

  • Media is changing and has a symbiotic relationship with the new media. Editors might look at sites like Digg to see user behavior trends and use that as an instant feedback mechanism to direct the edited content. Digg relies on traditional media for much of the content.

  • Competition for advertising dollars is really hitting the traditional media. Local newspapers are losing ad revenue to other advertising mediums – classifieds is where it's starting, but it is involving into other areas. Bloggers who do reporting rather than relying on mainstream reporting will get more attention (TechCrunch) and more advertising dollars.

  • Opinion pieces and magazines are being eroded by new media

  • New media excels for speed of information vs. the accuracy / fact checking of traditional media.

  • Sites like Digg usually have a self-policing mechanism within the community.

In Passionate users – Kathy Sierra

  • People are passionate about the things they kick ass at, and they have a higher resolution experience – they pick up on things that the rest of us would not (jazz musicians, etc.) We want to create this for our users.

  • It's not about the tools – it's what you do with them – focus on the end result, not the tool.

  • Decisions are usually based on emotions – we are just not always rational / logical.

  • Keep users engaged.

  • Don't want to interrupt the flow of what you are doing – if the software interrupts and become aware of the tool, the flow and outcome are disrupted.

  • Learning increases resolution.

  • If you want the user to RTFM, we need to write a better FM.

  • Pictures and surprises get people's attention.

Doctor Who vs. Snakes on a Plane: Lessons from Fan Culture for Community Builders. Annalee Newitz

  • Fan culture – free collaborative narratives often incorporating elements of commercial culture.

  • Lessons:

  • Not all fans are good producers of fan culture

  • beaing a fan makes you a better creator

  • communities united around collaborative storytelling can last for an extremely long time.

  • Not all fan culture can be turned into commercial culture

  • communities can be quickly united by satire, but satire doesn't last

  • “buzzers” do not equal “buyers”

Note: The fan culture session relates back to the passionate users session. Fan culture seems to have some of the most passionate users coming together on a topic. We also had an interesting discussion about how more of these fan communities seem to be based around sci-fi. I'm not sure whether this is because we had a really geeky audience or because people who watch sci-fi tend to be a bit more fanatical than the rest of the population.

Cylon Raider at Foo

They are doing a flyover for Google Maps at noon today, and we decided that the O'Reilly campus needed a Cylon Raider. More pics on Flickr.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Foo

People camp.

We hung out in a big tent with tags projected on the roof of the tent.

We had fire.

The Younger Generation and an Evolving Technological Culture

I am sitting in the Portland airport on the way to Foo Camp, and I just watched the guy sitting across from me with his laptop (maybe mid-forties) call his 10-12 year old son over to help him connect to the free wireless network. Kids today grew up with high speed and wireless technologies and have never lived in the pre-Internet age or even the dial-up era. This is a key reason for the success of sites like MySpace where these kids can interact in an online environment that is just as natural to them as interacting in the physical world.

The airport is also an interesting study in how people interact with technology. I am watching an older man peck at his Apple laptop keyboard with two fingers while simultaneously completing a newspaper crossword puzzle. Is this the ultimate in multi-tasking or is he cheating?

Gadgets are everywhere at the airport ... laptops, cell phones, iPods, BlackBerries, cameras, and more. Even ten years ago, people reading books, magazines, and newspapers would have greatly outnumbered those using gadgets to pass the time. It is interesting to look around and observe how our culture is evolving toward technology-related pursuits over their low-tech counterparts. The airport seems to be an interesting location for this reflection.

Either I am particularly reflective today, or I just got to the airport WAY too early and have too much time on my hands (grin).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

At Foo

I will be at O'Reilly's Foo Camp Friday through Sunday. Drop me an email (dawn/at/dawnfoster/dot/com) if you are attending and want to chat about collective intelligence, web 2.0, communities, or any of the other topics that I regularly blog about.

Danese Cooper and I are going to record some podcasts at Foo about community for an upcoming O'Reilly book, so please contact one of us if you have something interesting to say about community. This is your chance to be a famous voice immortalized in an O'Reilly book [grin].

I am also trying to organize a discussion to explore how the web 2.0 communities are similar to / different from open source communities. What can Digg, MySpace, LinkedIn, and others learn from open source communities? How could open source communities take advantage of web 2.0 technologies to bring more non-technical people into open source communities (think SpreadFirefox for example)?

UPDATE: I spent some time writing about how web 2.0 communities and open source communities are similar / different on my Intel Trends in Web 2.0 blog.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Paris Hilton Rescues YouTube

YouTube looks like it is finding a way to generate revenue from their large user base:

Beginning Tuesday, YouTube will roll out its first Brand Channel, where Warner Bros. Records will promote Paris Hilton's debut album, "Paris."

Brand Channels are much like the channels created for all YouTube users who upload their homemade videos to the site, though the purpose of a Brand Channel is to sell a product rather than to simply promote one's ability to attract an audience for their work.

YouTube will help drive traffic to the Brand Channels it sells, and the channels might have sponsors, as is the case with the Paris Hilton Channel, sponsored by Fox's "Prison Break." (Quote from Washington Post)

Marshall Kirkpatrick from TechCrunch weighs in to say:

YouTube reportedly pays more than $1 million each month in bandwidth costs and some people have been concerned that it would be a challenge to turn its huge traffic into money. Thus Paris Hilton to the rescue. (Quote from TechCrunch)

Overall, I think that this is an unobtrusive way to generate revenue without jeopardizing the user experience. With any luck, YouTube can make enough money off of this effort (and similar efforts) to pay for the increasing bandwidth costs that come with being a popular video site.

Microsoft Embraces Firefox

OK, so maybe Microsoft has not exactly “embraced” Firefox, but they have invited Mozilla developers to visit Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab as part of the Windows Vista Readiness Efforts. From Sam Ramji:

I am the Director of the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft, and I'm writing to see if you are open to some 1:1 support in getting Firefox and Thunderbird to run on Vista.

As part of my mission as an advocate for open source applications on Windows, I've gotten spaces set aside at the Windows Vista Readiness ISV Lab. In the past the company has only invited commercial software developers to these labs. I'm committed to evolving our thinking beyond commercial companies to include open source projects, so I went to the non-trivial effort of getting slots for non-commercial open source projects. (Quote from: post from Sam Ramji)

Matt Mondok thinks this is a positive step in the right direction:

it's great to see that Microsoft is concerned about projects like Firefox and Thunderbird. Sure, this could be viewed as a publicity stunt since Ramjii posted in a public forum, but that doesn't make the offer worthless. If this is what needs to happen for Firefox to run unhindered on Vista, then I'm all for it. (Quote from: ars technica)

I am withholding judgment until I see more. I think that we have seen this before with Mono. Miguel de Icaza had a good relationship with the .NET engineers for a while, but more recently has struggled with the PDC group at Microsoft and has been unable to get a Mono BOF at PDC despite great demand for the gathering. The invitation from the Microsoft Open Source Software Lab was probably offered with good intentions; however, any impact (positive or negative) resulting from Mozilla's involvement may depend on the response from other groups at Microsoft.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Social Networking Research

Danah Boyd is currently compiling a list of social networking research articles and researchers. This is a great resource for those of us looking for numbers and research on web 2.0. Here is her request:

I want to track down everyone who is actively doing research on social network sites. (Clarification: i'm looking for folks that are publishing in peer-reviewed spaces, not just researching for their company or blog.) Nicole Ellison and i are plotting to bring ways to bring everyone together. I'm also looking to create a list of all known publications. I know there's more than what i'm listing so i need your help. Please! (Quote from apophenia)

If you know of any additional research please drop a comment on her blog.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 Gets New Look and Ads

It took a few minutes to adjust, but so far I like the new home page. The “HOT NOW” section distracted me from blogging with a bit of serendipitous web surfing to reminisce about my favorite comic strip (Calvin and Hobbes), create a blacklist in Gmail, and even “How to Get Six Pack Abs”.

The ad-supported model seems to be the business model of choice for most web 2.0 companies, and Yahoo is no exception. Yahoo has decided to finally make some money on through advertisements. The ads only seem to be appearing on search pages, which is probably a good way to introduce ads with minimal impact to the overall user experience. I am a fan of the advertising model for web 2.0 companies: companies with cool technologies make enough money to stay in business, and the service stays free or low cost for the consumers. The advertising model works well as long as it stays fairly unobtrusive. Steve Rubel suggests that Yahoo will may also start monetizing other pages. I plan to keep watching to see how the advertising supported model evolves for

Biz Dev in the Web 2.0 World

AKA Biz Dev 2.0.

Web 2.0 is starting to change the nature of business development in the online world. Not long ago, the business development process for joint efforts between companies looked something like this:

  • Step 1: A brilliant idea for a joint effort between your product and company X's product.
  • Step 2: Find contact information for company X.
  • Step 3: Continue to pester contact at company X trying to get them to return your voice mail / email.
  • Step 3a: This step will likely involve a rousing game of ping pong as you are passed back and forth between several people at company X before finding the “right”person.
  • Step 4: Possibility 1 - Both of you agree that it is a great idea and want to start immediately or
  • Step 4: Possibility 2 - Company X laughs at you. ... Return to step 1 with company X's biggest competitor, company Y.
  • Step 5: The lawyers enter the room. Negotiations, paperwork, and legal matters suck all of the coolness out of the idea along with a year out of your life (and possibly resulting in more gray / less hair in the process).
  • Step 6: Build something slightly less cool than what you envisioned before the lawyers entered the room.

The new process for web 2.0 companies?

  • Step 1: Get a copy of company X's API.
  • Step 2: Build something cool

According to Caterina, this is exactly what happened with QOOP and Flickr:

Several companies -- probably more than a dozen -- have approached us to provide printing services for Flickr users, and while we were unable to respond to most of them, given the number of similar requests and other things eating up our time, one company, QOOP, just went ahead and applied for a Commercial API key, which was approved almost immediately, and built a fully-fleshed out service. (Quote from

Here is a similar take and a few more examples from a VC in New York:

But we have witnessed some interesting things happening in and around open apis, rss, search, crawling, embed code, widgets and mashups that suggests there's a new way to do business development. Here are but a few of the interesting things we have noticed:

  • YouTube makes it flash video player available via embed code on MySpace and their traffic takes off.

  • TripAdvisor search engine optimizes its service and becomes one of the most popular travel services.

  • Technorati hits delicious' api for its tags and builds the web's most succesful tag search service.

  • Indeed crawls the Internet for jobs and builds a popular job service overnight.

  • Kayak crawls the Internet for flights, hotes, and cars, and builds a popular travel service overnight.

  • Qoop takes Flickr's API and builds a Flickr printing service without ever engaging with Flickr's team.

  • Netvibes takes a few RSS feeds and builds a start page that looks as complete as MyYahoo overnight.

You get the picture. These days it's often better to just take what's already freely available on the Internet to integrate with other web services. (Quote from A VC)

OK, so maybe it is not quite that easy. For every YouTube or, there are probably a dozen that did not make it. There is an element of luck or buzz or viral promotion that makes it difficult to predict which will make it and which will go down in flames.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Firefox Crop Circle in Oregon

A joint effort between the Oregon State University Linux Users Group, Mozilla, and other volunteers produced this amazing Firefox crop circle near Amity, Oregon. I love these big stunt marketing efforts!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Will Oracle Create a Linux Distribution?

Jeff Nolan is speculating that Oracle will announce the creation of an Oracle Linux distribution based on Red Hat today. He goes on to suggest that Oracle may eventually want to acquire Red Hat:

It’s a rumor, and in all fairness my track record on the last couple has not been good, but according to a number of open source industry insiders, Oracle is going to announce at LinuxWorld tomorrow their own branded version of Linux based on the Red Hat distro. Previous speculation had them announcing something at their analyst meeting in October, but with the penguin festival this week in SF it makes perfect sense.

This is a smart move on their part for a couple of reason. First and foremost, by forking off Red Hat they compete with Red Hat without having to deal with product issues. It’s all about support and the ability to offer a top-to-bottom stack. I think it also sets up the eventuality that Oracle could acquire Red Hat and realize the all important consolidation objective. Either way, this is a problem for Novell.

It’s a problem for SAP as well, although not as severe as Oracle would like to believe. We’re finally turning the corner on open source at a couple of levels, even though we haven’t been publicly talking about much there is in fact a lot going on. (Venture Chronicles)

My take? I think that an Oracle Linux distribution and/or possible acquisition of a Linux distributor are reasonably likely scenarios over the next year (maybe two); however, I doubt that this will happen today.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Browster Gets Friendly with MySpace

I downloaded Browster 2.0 yesterday. For those who are not familiar with Browster, it integrates into Firefox or Internet Explorer allowing you to preview links without leaving the original page. A nifty time-saving feature used to decide whether or not to follow a particular link without having to leave the original page and wait for a new one to load. This is especially handy when looking at search results.

Browster just released a new feature that can be used to preview MySpace pages. Anyone who has spent time on MySpace knows that the graphical backgrounds, music, and all of the other clutter on some MySpace pages can make it painful to load the pages and even difficult to read once the page has loaded due to the graphical backgrounds combined with less than optimal text color choices. Browster 2.0 makes this easier by ignoring the user's style sheet to display only basic profile information, the about me section and a couple of pictures. It works quite well, and my only issue so far is that the next / previous buttons are still a little buggy. In a Google search, for example, Browster would take you to the next / previous search result on the page; however, in MySpace these buttons seem to display the same profile multiple times or take my to another random profile on the page. Even if you are not a MySpace user, Browster 2.0 is worth a look just for the ability to preview search results alone.

You may want to check out a few complete reviews on Mashable! and TechCrunch.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Web 2.0 Starter Kit

Over a great pizza at Ken's Artisan Pizza in SE Portland this week, I was talking about how many people are getting excited about the web 2.0 buzz, but are having difficulty really grokking the concept. Todd suggested that I put together a web 2.0 starter kit to help people learn more about web 2.0. I encourage comments on this post to point out the inevitable misses, and I hope to update this post with more ideas as the web 2.0 concept evolves. I encourage you to forward this to people with questions about web 2.0.

The Web 2.0 Starter Kit

Step 1: Read Tim O'Reilly's essay, What is Web 2.0, and the Wikipedia entry on Web 2.0.

Step 2: Read web 2.0 blogs.

I recommend these:

Extra credit:

Use RSS and subscribe to the above blogs plus five others. If you need more help getting started with RSS, Netvibes has a fairly intuitive interface, and you can even click here to get a copy of my Web 2.0 / technology rss feed tab.

Search for blogs on another topic of personal interest using any of the common blog search engines: Technorati or Google Blog Search, for example.

Step 3: Stop reading and starting participating.

This is the most important step. You will not truly understand web 2.0 unless you participate in it.


If do not already have a blog create one! Blogger is an easy place to start. Pick a topic that you are passionate about (technology, photography, wine, beer, cats, dogs, sports, your kids, or anything else) and commit to posting something every other day.

Use these sites every day for one week.

  • Create bookmarks

  • Share some of your photographs on Flickr

  • Join any social networking site. I suggest MySpace for those under 30 or LinkedIn for the over 30 crowd. Add 5 MySpace friends or LinkedIn connections.

  • Participate in Digg by submitting a story and digging a few stories that you find interesting. Extra credit: Add Kevin Rose as your friend.

  • Visit YouTube and watch three of the “most viewed” videos of the day. Forward one to a friend (congratulations you are now viral).

  • Add yourself to my Web 2.0 Starter Kit Frappr map with a “shout out” message.

Step 4: Repeat Step 1.

After participating in various web 2.0 activities, you will gain new insights from re-reading the O'Reilly essay and the Wikipedia entry.

Step 5: Continue Learning

Watch the Web 2.0: The 24 Minute Documentary.

Web 2.0 is not something that you can learn once and then stop. Because web 2.0 is still developing and maturing, new ideas and new websites pop up every day. Keep reading the blogs in Step 2 and continue to play with new web 2.0 technologies as they appear.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Growth of Social Networking

According to compete, 2 out of every 3 people online visited a social networking site in June, and the number of people visiting a social networking site has grown 109% since January 2004 (driven mostly by MySpace).

Nielson//NetRatings claims that MySpace has achieved year-over-year growth (July 2005 – July 2006) of 183% compared to 23% for Google and 13% for eBay. MySpace also hit the 100 million account mark on August 9, 2006 at around 7:41 am EST. As I mentioned earlier today, is also showing tremendous growth with Hitwise claiming that traffic has doubled since January.

The point of this post is not to obsess over exact numbers, many of which tend to contradict each other; however, it does show that social networking sites are continuing to grow at incredible rates. As markets mature, the growth tends to eventually level off as the market becomes more saturated. For example, when DVD players were new, the growth was rapid as people bought their first DVD player, but the growth has leveled off now that everyone owns a player and sales continue mostly in the slower growth replacement / upgrade market. I would expect social networking to level off as social networking moves from the early adopters into the masses; however, it is also possible that it will continue to grow at a rapid pace if early adopters keep moving to the next hot site bring the masses along behind them.

World Wide Web 2.0

Business 2.0 just released a map of web 2.0 companies located outside of the United States, including one of my latest favorites Netvibes.

It would be interesting to see a similar map of web 2.0 companies within the United States. I am curious how many are located outside of the valley. Demographics

Hitwise just released data claiming that traffic has doubled since January (note that other reports are showing a very different view of traffic.)

I found the demographics released with the report even more interesting than the traffic numbers:

For the four weeks ending August 5, 2006, 59% of visits to were from males, and 41% of its visits were from those between the ages of 25-34. That's a very large skew towards a specific age group, and also has a large skew towards users with household incomes between $100k and $150k per year - 36% of its users fell into this income bracket, compared to 13% of the online online population.

So who are these 25-34 year olds with incomes greater than $100k per year, and why are they using Claritas PRIZM NE segmentation of the site provides some clues. For a full explanation of the segmentation methodology, visit this post, or the Claritas site. What the chart below shows is that is highly skewed toward the social groups U1, "Urban Uptown," and S1, "Elite Suburbs." Members of these social groups have higher than average incomes and tend to be highly educated and are more likely to be early adopters of technology. My guess is that they've heard about through news media or through friends and are using it because it's 'the thing to do.' This is not quite the MySpace crowd that I expected to find - instead users are a more sophisticated breed of web power user. (Hitwise)

It would be interesting to compare the demographics with those of MySpace, Digg, and a few other web 2.0 sites.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Asterisk Gets Venture Funding

Asterisk, open source telephony software, will benefit from $13.8 million in venture capital funding for Digium, the company behind Asterisk. According to Om Malik, “the company will use these funds to expand its operations by selling a variety of Asterisk-based IP-PBX systems to small business and large corporations.” Asterisk has been growing in popularity recently as companies make the move away from older, expensive PBX systems to VoIP. I know of several companies who have already moved to Asterisk, and people seem to be happy with the Asterisk solution.

From the official press release:

"We believe Digium has the potential to become one of our most successful open source companies, as every company in the world relies on telephony and the use of PBXs in order to run their businesses," said David Skok, a general partner at Matrix Partners and JBoss board member. "As companies continue to be attracted to the cost savings and powerful new capabilities of Voice over IP, the opportunity for Digium becomes massive. Digium is definitely in a position to become the next big open source company, behind Red Hat, JBoss and MySQL. Their current revenues, profitability, and growth rates are extraordinary."
With the anticipated growth of IP-based communications and the continued acceptance of open source, Digium has a unique opportunity to become a dominant player in the telecommunications market. Additionally, because of the built-in flexibility of Asterisk, companies are able to build hybrid PBX solutions (a combination of legacy and VoIP equipment) in migrating to a VoIP system.

I always like seeing venture capital money go to strong open source products, like Asterisk.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Web 2.0 Marketing Test

Guy Kawasaki posted a snippet from Seth Godin's new book, “Small is the New Big”:

For an idea to be spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one sends an idea unless:

  1. They understand it.

  2. They want it to spread.

  3. They believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind.

  4. The effort to send the idea is less than the benefits.

No one “gets” an idea unless:

  1. The first impression demands further investigation.

  2. They already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea.

  3. They trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time.

Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the originator.

Notice, too, that a key element in the spreading of the idea is the capsule that contains it. If it’s easy to swallow, tempting, and complete, it’s far more likely to get a good start. (Signum sine tinnitu)

The idea that “ideas never spread because they are important to the originator” is the part that caught my attention. This seems to be a difficult concept for many companies trying to capitalize on the web 2.0 phenomenon. Companies see how influential viral marketing can be and frequently fail when they try to replicate it. The reality is that you never know if a new video will be the next Lazy Sunday or just another unwatched video taking up disk space. Too many attempts at viral marketing look forced and artificial, while the really interesting examples of viral marketing seem to be the ones that are accidental successes. It is important for companies to participate in web 2.0 whether it is through blogging, encouraging user collaboration, social networking sites, or other methods; however, it may be impossible to predict whether a concept will be spread virally across the Internet.

FeedBurner Networks

According to Brad Feld from Mobius Venture Capital (a FeedBurner investor and board member), FeedBurner is testing a new series of blog “networks” designed to contain collections of the top blogs within a specific category. Feld is the coordinator / gatekeeper for the Venture Capital Network, which is the only network that I have been able to locate so far (FeedBurner does not seem to have announced this new feature yet). Feld lists several benefits:

There are benefits to subscribers:

  • It’s easy to find high quality relevant bloggers / feeds for a specific topic through the aggregation into a Network.

  • There will be a “micro-portal” for each Network – you’ll be able to go to a landing page that lists all the members of the network, selectively subscribe to their feeds, or explore their blogs.

  • You’ll be able to subscribe to the spliced Network feed (for example, here is the spliced feed for the Venture Capital Network).

There are also benefits to publishers:

  • The “micro-portal” will be another place for subscribers to find your blog / feed.

  • You will get new readers as a result of people that subscribe to the spliced feed (this will show up in your subscriber metrics.)

  • Advertisers will be able buy ads in the Network with higher quality advertising that is relevant to the readers of feeds in the Network.

  • You’ll have Network oriented publicity tools (think stuff like “Widget with the latest X headlines in the Network”, or the Banner that I have on the top left of my blog stating that I’m part of the network) which will help cross-promote feeds in the network.

  • You might make some new friends via your fellow Network members. (Feld Thoughts)

The VC network looks pretty good (I have already subscribed to the feed), but Michael Arrington is a bit skeptical:

The biggest issue around this will be what rules are used to determine which blogs are included in a given topic. It isn’t clear if there will be any real quality control - in his post Brad says each network will have a gatekeeper to make sure only blogs on topic are included, but there doesn’t appear to be any hurdle as to what constitutes a quality blog in a topic. That could work out badly. And if the bloggers and/or the network coordinator are making subjective decisions on which blogs can be included in a given network, this will end in tears. The politics around who’s in and who’s out of a blog network are impossible. I know this from personal experience. (TechCrunch)

I agree with Arrington, the FeedBurner Networks may not be successful depending on the quality control and politics involved in the selection of the feeds. With poor quality control these networks may be no better than the many other blog directories and aggregated feeds already available; however, at this point, I am still cautiously optimistic. If FeedBurner can find high quality coordinators who use an objective selection process combined with good judgment, these networks could be valuable. I anxiously await the next wave of networks and the official launch of this product to get a better feel for how useful these networks will be.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Relationship Between Blogging and Job Searches

I recently talked about how several high profile bloggers including Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble, and Mark Cuban were making job offers via their blogs. This week, Michael Arrington introduced the CrunchBoard job site to help match the right people with the right companies leveraging the strong community of web 2.0-savvy readers of the TechCrunch blog.

Om Malik has a nice summary of why niche job boards like CrunchBoard work better than traditional sites:

CrunchBoard, 37Signals and PaidContent - they are all bringing attention to the fact that narrow niche sites work, and the job boards don’t seem to have the necessary impact or perhaps get the right kind of users. These three sites have very strong communities, and as a result their job boards work and will continue to work. These three boards should enjoy success, because the number of technology job listings in on an upswing. reports that there are 121 job listings per 1000 people in San Jose, and 74 job listings per 1000 in San Francisco. (GigaOM)

Like many people, I have been on both sides of this coin: job seeker and hiring manager. When looking for a job, the big online sites like have so many positions that it can be hard to sift through everything to get past the scams and undesirable jobs to find something interesting. As a hiring manager, these big job boards tend to generate hundreds of worthless resumes from people who are not even remotely qualified for your position. I like the niche approach of sites like CrunchBoard to allow companies to find smart, qualified people more easily, and I will be curious to follow the progress of CrunchBoard and similar sites.