Friday, November 21, 2008

Google Personalized Results

Google now shows me an option to push things in my search results to the top. It's an interesting choice. Doesn't it seem like it's inviting problems. Basically the only people who will spend time on this is people trying to improve their search rankings. The rest of us signal with lots of other things like links, bookmarking, etc.

Not sure I buy this approach from Google.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Meetup - Avoiding Negative Comments

As a follow-up to my last post on Meetups SEO / SEM, I was just booted from the group and any of my comments about issues I had with the way the group was handled along with my negative vote about the event were deleted from the group. It makes me wonder if Meetup is actually encouraging this kind of thing.

Value and Meetups - SEO / SEM

I went to a meetup yesterday that was on the topic of Internet Marketing / SEO / SEM. The meeting had a decent case study and some pretty good discussion around the room of different tools that you might consider using. Then the organizer went into a 20 minute sales pitch around his new training/coaching offering. It felt like a bad time share presentation.

At the end, he said that going forward the focus of the group would be around his commercial offering and that the only value that an organizer and participants get is when they can pitch their stuff to the group. Yikes.

What's interesting about that opinion is that there were people in the room who were more than happy to share their ideas around tools and techniques to use as part of the discussion. They weren't explicitly pitching. However, you understand that you can talk to them about it and possibly pay for their help if you want to know more. And I doubt that any of them were providing that information because they were trying to pitch. Instead, they were trying to share and help. None of it was that revolutionary. But it's helpful to share ideas, methods, compare your approach versus other people.

It's unfortunate that this event is going the way it is. I'm hoping to figure out a way to spark a meet-up around SEO / SEM in Santa Monica / West Los Angeles / South Bay.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hard to Build Large Advertising Support Business

Found this via Ben Kuo - The math behind Internet advertising businesses

The advertising equivalence principle?
So if we assume that a $1 CPM is about right and figure out what audience is required to build a $100MM annual revenue business, we find out that we need 8.33 billion monthly page views and over 300 million monthly unique visitors creating 25 page views per user.

With these assumptions, we would need a site that ranked fourth globally. Of course we could assume that we get 10x the page views per user, but we’re still at 33 million unique visitors per month. It’s a non-trivial feat to develop a $100MM annual revenue business through online advertising.

Great point that you would have to have massive traffic, highly valued traffic, or some other factor involved in order to build a $100MM business which is normally the hurdle used as part of investment decisions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Web 2.0 Strategy

Fantastic post by Dion Hinchcliffe - Ten Aspects of Web 2.0 Strategy That Every CTO and CIO Should Know. Raises some interesting points, but the general theme is: just figure out ways to get it to happen.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Technology Impact - Performance Spread

Fascinating article by Andrew McAfee - Technology Beats a Full House - discusses how variation in performance spread decreases over time as systems become optimized. He shows that the spreads in IT heavy industries has greater variation over the past decade.

... winners were increasingly separated from losers.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Choosing Internet Platforms

I'm blogging from the CalTech Enterprise Forum. The topic is:

Betting Your Company On An Internet Platform?

A very interesting topic, especially for those of us involved in developing for start-ups. At the CTO Group that I organize in Santa Monica, we've had lots of discussions around this. The basic conclusion was that it was a bit premature if you were talking about a serious, funded start-up. Especially when there are things like: Amazon S3 / EC2 / AWS outage this morning...

However, these platforms could be interesting for prototype and pilot solutions. They also are VERY interesting for background processing tasks that take compute resources or from a storage cloud standpoint.

The other conclusion was that you need to have a migration path from the platform.

We'll see where my opinion goes after hearing the presentations.

Wow, long introductions - 25 minutes - get to the speakers already. Finally we get to:

Peter Coffee, Director of Platform Research,

His premise is that we should be beyond having to buy servers, software, or any other infrastructure. His picture of all of the different elements you have to deal with infrastructure (network, storage, os, db, etc.), application services (security, integration), etc. does make it seem like it's a lot of work. The promise of having all of that taken care of for you sounds great.

Mentions - Marc Andreessen's - The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet

  • A Level 1 platform's apps run elsewhere, and call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services -- this is how Flickr does it.
  • A Level 2 platform's apps run elsewhere, but inject functionality into the platform via a plug-in API -- this is how Facebook does it. Most likely, a Level 2 platform's apps also call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services.
  • A Level 3 platform's apps run inside the platform itself -- the platform provides the "runtime environment" within which the app's code runs.
Level 1 & 2

Burden is still on the developers, you still have infrastructure.

Level 3 - Run-time environment

Significantly different than either of the first two where you no longer have infrastructure.


Must design your application differently to live on top of the platform. In fact, his point is that the application is really meta-data.

User Interface platform - VisualForce that allows the application to have a very different kind of interface.

It's funny. We've looked pretty deeply at in a few applications. The promise is so great, but the reality is that if you aren't developing something that matches with the models they provide then it represents a challenge. The key ingredient when you provide abstraction layers is what that layer provides and:
  • how well it matches with your needs
  • how much work it takes to work around when it doesn't match
If it matches well and the exceptions can either be avoided or worked around, then it truly becomes something very interesting. Of course, there are still caveats - can they pass data security audits, what is your downtime risk and cost of downtime, what's the risk of the platform vendor.

Interesting term used in a ZD Net article - Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Unfortunately, Peter sells the promise and ignores the reality.

Next up:

Joe Andrieu
CEO/Founder, SwitchBook

Chair, Project VRM Standards Committee

Key questions -

Will it accomplish what you need?
Will it survive as long as you need?
Availability, stability, support

His definition of open...

  • No one owns it
  • Everyone can use it
  • Anyone can improve it

Introduces (adds to Levels above) idea of Level 4 Platform

In his mind, the key ingredient is that the there needs to be multiple platform service providers. He sees this as similar to what happened with SMTP, POP, HTTP, etc.

Only guarantee for longevity is if you have options. This is certainly one of the big concerns I expressed above.

VRM - his company - goal is to provide a Level 4 platform.

Now up:

Craig Ogg
Freshly Grated Software
former VP of R&D,

Have had to make choices about platforms many times. Difficult decision - driven by goals.

Some of his experiences:

Clipper - bet on OS2. Whoops. Went to a layer that insulated you from other platforms. Generally platforms that insulate you from several platforms don't work. Really? Not sure I buy that argument.

Start-up on top of pen computing - Go Corp - pen point. Died suddenly (within a 24 hour period).

Visual Basic add-ons. Controls - reverse engineered Quicken file format - sold to Microsoft for import into Microsoft Money.

PIM based on Java that would be up-to-date on all your devices. Server and client in Java. Java as a platform wasn't ready to deliver on client side. - two back-ends - mainline service vs. marketing site.

Some other points -

LAMP, .Net, Java - doesn't make much difference. I would tend to agree.

Benefit of a proprietary platform can be finding customers. Ex. AppExchange on Salesforce.

When OpenSocial makes it into LinkedIn - many opportunities there. Completely agree. Don't know what these social apps will look like.

Ruby on Rails as a platform? Twitter - probably not the best choice given the structure of the application. Many other types of applications where Ruby makes complete sense.

Amazon EC2 - uses it for natural language processing. Would never put a user request to an EC2 instance.

Google App Engine - take more than two seconds to process we are going to kill your request. All about end-user requests. Not for batch processing. Must be willing to work the way Google expects.

Salesforce, Ning - get platform + API leverage - must go down a particular path

Marc Canter
CEO, Broadband Mechanics - makers of
People Aggregator

VERY colorful speaker. By definition need redundancy.

Mentions standards that are emerging. From BBM's web site:
  • media RSS - extensions to RSS subscription format to support time based media, enclosures, copyrights and other meta-data needed for media.
  • FOAFnet, a subset of the FOAF rdf schema and a set of user interfaces guidelines, was an early attempt at interchanging digital identity profiles (including lists of friends) between and eCademy. The effort failed when we realized it required federated authentication.
  • ThreadsML, a data fomrat for persistent conversations. Whether they originate in IM, message board trheads, mail lists or blog posts - conversations can be brought together, made re-enrant and be enhanced with media.
  • OpenEvents and OpenReviews, were early attempts at standardizing schemas and shared servers for these forms of micro-content.
  • The Identity Gang is an effort around the notion of a ‘user-centric’ metasystem
  • is an open media storage system (acting as a front-end to the Internet Archive.)
  • is an initiative to create blogging tool plugins which support not only microformats, but other technologies that will provide a comprehensive set of standards for producing microcontent.
Everything else is closed.

Mark Suster
GRP Partners

He's an employee. First company built on top of EMC, Unix servers, field sales to large clients. Compared cost there vs. second company that raised $500K and used S3 and other platforms. Interestingly it was same developers in both companies. In second venture - compared vs. S3 - as platform. What kind of company do you represent?

Aspire to build a small business - okay to bet on a company like salesforce. If you are building a VC backed company with large growth, too much risk to bank on salesforce. Salesforce is good for distribution - can access their user base. Facebook is the same - okay for lifestyle business, but could be distribution platform. Building on top of Amazon or Google - cost base is so much lower.

Who is the client base - do you bet on these?

Pretty much lines up with where I'm at.

NEA and Level 4 vs. -

Answer is it depends.

Wow, after all of this (sometimes heated) discussion.

Large number of Players in Cloud Computing. A couple of the more interesting ones:

Amazon EC2

Google App Engine Force

IBM’s Blue Cloud

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media

A while ago I posted about Secret for Networking at Events - Prenetworking where I recommended that people should look at who's attending the event prior to going to the event in order to make their networking more effective. I've received a lot of positive feedback on the post.

Since I posted on this and since I've been using this approach for quite a while, it has become pretty obvious that part of the reason that old school organizations / event producers are not getting the value of providing this kind of list. And I think it hurts them in attendance.

If you are an event organizer, but you don't have a system for posting attendance, then at a minimum you should post your event on Facebook and Upcoming and link to those from your site.

The spark for this post is that I'm going to go to Caltech/MIT Enterprise Forum on Saturday. I've presented there before and it's a good group. But there's no attendee list in site. I can't find them listed on any kind of social site. I did a quick search and didn't find many blog posts mentioning that specific event. So, I've got no idea who's going.

This also happens for Technology Council of Southern California, AITP-LA, TechBizConnection
and others.

They really need to take a look at how Twiistup, Mixergy and others are doing to both promote and help make their events better for attendees.

I personally think the content provided at the old school event providers is often very high quality. So, I'm still hopeful they will find ways to include some of these capabilities and hopefully attract new audience.

For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.

Social Innovation

It's funny how things intersect in life. I just ran into Chris Gammil's post New Era of Social Innovation where he describes it as:
The model takes the best of the OPEN model and pushes right out into the open, further distributing idea sourcing, team forming, development, commercialization and economic distribution.

What are some of the drivers?

  • The social web is making it easier find people with similar passions for creation/innovation
  • The social web is making it easier to find people with complementary talents
  • Web 2.0 has driven modular, lower cost development models making experimentation easier
  • Talent is hungry for opportunities to test ideas and work with other talented folks
  • People are more open to contribution/gifting models of creation (understanding innovation is a numbers game
I recently posted about Social Media and Experimental Innovation : eLearning Technology. It's the same basic concept but from a different angle.

Malcolm Gladwell defines two types of innovators: innovators who come up with an idea quickly or those who need to iterate and experiment - the Experimental Innovator. Clark Quinn describes a helper to that kind of innovation - Innovating by Conversation. Clark tells us ...
Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds, Tapscott’s Wikinomics, and Libert & Spector’s We Are Smarter Than Me, are telling us to tap into the wisdom of crowds, and with lots of examples of how creating conversations with folks can spark new insights.
The thought this sparks is that experimental innovation can be accelerated through broader conversations. Thus, when it comes time to figure out a concept, iterate through it, having available networks greatly accelerates this process. Much of Gladwell's discussion of experimental innovation discussed innovation occurring over very long periods of time (10 years).

In many ways, this is exactly how I'm approaching my new venture Work Literacy. It's a big, hard problem. Get lot's of people together to foster discussion, innovation, experimentation.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Entreprenuer Questions

Chris Gammil and I just spent some quality time together with a new, private group that is advising start-ups in Los Angeles. The goal is to have start-ups learn from each other and from others who have been through the experience. So, far it's turning out great. The primary question we ask is:
What's Keeping You Up at Night
Chris provided a list of common issues:
  • How much is enough? - how much 'traction' is enough for investors? and how much is enough to build solid traction to drive the right valuation to go for large money?
  • Who should I get involved? - beyond the obvious 'more great engineers' who do I invite to the party and when - when do I need legal, when do I bring in complementary skill sets, how do I decide between employees vs contractors, which roles need to be core and what can be outsourced.
  • What is 'good enough'? - when should I open the doors and let people in? how much product development is enough to get in the market and start getting feedback and what should I focus on in the early stages of the product?
These were certainly front and center yesterday for the primary presenter. Great questions Chris.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Start-up Advisors

Andrew Warner from Mixergy posted - Before Looking for Funding, Get an Advisor. He recommends that early stage companies get input from people who know the funding process, know the vertical, etc. That's great advice. Of course, it's sometimes hard to find advisors.

On the flip side, as a person who regularly advises early stage start-ups, I often have a hard time finding interesting start-ups. Like Christian Gammil (who I recommend as an advisor) working with entrepreneurs is something I really enjoy.

I've recently begun a round table that I'm hoping will help in a small way, but even there it's going to barely scratch the surface.

Maybe Andrew, Chris and I will figure out a way to address the friction around this. Actually, the friction is even higher trying to find a partner for a start-up. eHarmony for start-up / advisor relationships?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Social Networking Entreprenuerial Opportunities

Last Saturday, I was a panelist at the CalTech - Social Networks event. It was a really good event with lots of interesting folks in attendance. I would guess that there was about 100 people - on a Saturday in Pasadena. That shows some interest in the topic.

The presenters had some interesting things to say on a wide variety of topics. A post by Elrend Wilhelmsen discusses some of what was discussed.

My main points were:

Social Everywhere -

I work with a lot of different shapes and sizes of companies and it's interesting how each one has opportunities to leverage its users to form different kinds of communities, create connections, encourage contribution, etc. It is almost universal that there are opportunities around social networking. Generally these are oriented around:

Niches & Content Oriented Networks

You see all kinds of niche networks coming up. Outdoors, faith-based, etc. The current huge players (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) are broad spectrum. But the innovation right now is encouraging either segmentation within these larger players or via niche networks. Seeing what has happened on top of Ning is interesting. Lots of niches.

Content is often a defining mechanism to create these networks. Flickr,, YouTube all create social networks. However, this will also start to go into lots of niches around particular kinds of content.

Media & Brand Integration

There are also lots of interesting things happening where large media and large brands are trying to integrate with social networks. Obviously, there's a powerful combination when you can take a source of people (media) and combine it with an appropriate niche network and allow large brands who are interesting in reaching that audience. Lots of deals are going to be done in this way.

One of the examples that was discussed by one of the panelists was It was pointed to as an example of a social network. I am not that familiar with MyCoke, but I was bold enough to say that I thought "MyCoke got it wrong." My reaction to MyCoke is that they have some pretty good content on the site, e.g., some very listenable music, but the reality is that people are unlikely to really go spend much time in that destination as a separate island. Certainly, going and signing up for MyCoke is difficult. The destination should be something else with heavy integration of Coke branding. They clearly spent lots of time and effort, and the reward is just not going to be there for it. Which brings me to the other thing I discussed...

Big Challenge

There's a constant challenge that we continually face. We have a niche or content that we believe would inspire people (who are already out on social networks) to collaborate. Our choices for what we offer them all have major downsides:

1. Create a new destination

The big challenge whenever you create a new island that represents your community is that there's overhead for the people involved. It's is hard for people to justify the investment to integrate themselves into your community. Am I willing to establish myself again in this new environment? This barrier makes it hard to achieve critical mass.

2. Leverage an existing platform

We've created Facebook applications and used Ning. While this greatly reduces the effort for most users and gets you there more quickly, you don't really own this audience and it puts big limits on what you can do.

Certainly, what we are seeing with OpenSocial and DataPortability represents a possible future state where we can avoid some of this issue. If we could focus on building our "destination" on top of a set of open protocols that provide us with the social graph for users but that allows us to control our destiny, I believe that's the right model in most cases. It reduces friction for end-users and still gives us the leverage you want.

If you think about this abstractly, the goal is for all of us to provide grouping and content as a layer on top of a general social graph platform. Each of these destination represents a fluid grouping which is the most natural mechanism in a networked world.

The problem I have is that this isn't here today ... What do I do today? It's a big challenge...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Secret for Networking at Events - Prenetworking

I've never been able to walk into a large group of people and feel like I can "work the room." Sure, I've read various articles on this stuff, but honestly, I still struggle with meeting interesting people. I seem to be very adept at meeting financial planners, attorneys, accountants, etc. - and after 10 seconds of conversation, I'm at a loss. I can make small talk with them, but unless I'm going to see this person a few times or unless they have a tech specialization, ummm, not the best use of time or energy.

Luckily, I've found a GREAT way to make my time spent at events much better. It's probably no secret to anyone else, but I've only started doing it about 6 months ago and the results have been fantastic. What do I do? I call it:


I spend about 30 minutes prior to the event going through the list of attendees and reaching out ahead of the event to suggest that we meet while we are there.

A few notes on this:

1. I try to do this roughly about 2-3 days ahead of the event. That way the list of people attending is fairly complete and there's still time for back and forth with the person.

2. I always make sure that there's at least 3 people attending that I want to meet prior to sending any notes. I had one situation where I sent a note only to find that was the only person I wanted to meet. Then I couldn't back out.

3. I have a right click option in my browser to search LinkedIn for anyone by name. I'm not even sure how this came to be, but it is a great way to get details on individuals when their profile is not detailed enough.

4. Many organizations, including a couple that I'm involved in, do not publish the attendee list ahead of time. I've generally stopped going to those events. There are enough events where I can prenetwork to 3-5 people who will be great to meet. Why chance going somewhere when I may not meet anyone that makes it worth my time.

5. Sometimes you can be creative to see a possible attendee list. Twistup3 is coming up here in LA, but doesn't appear to list attendees (btw, cmon Twistup, get with it). However, there's a Facebook group, a few presenter companies, that you can look through. You can also publish that you are considering going to the event on your Facebook profile and see if anyone comments on it.

For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.