Thursday, July 31, 2008

Socialmedian faces Tough Times

socialmedian launched this week (public beta) and since I was among the early alpha testers I thought to write a few words on it. The service calls itself a "social news network that connects people with personalized news and information". What impressed me most with this launch was its coverage on FriendFeed! It seemed to be more big news there than on any blog: TechCrunch needed some time to collect about 20 not very deep going comments, Louis Gray got 9 on his blog but twice as much here and another 10 on this occasion on FriendFeed. Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang didn't blog at all, a simple tweet and a direct message were enough to start off discussions on FriendFeed...

But now socialmedian: It's about news but not the way I hoped it would be. Basic element are the "news networks" that can be build by any member around a chosen topic. Lazy members like me can chose to follow other members networks instead of building their own...

But either I was too lazy or I didn't really get the idea of socialmedian. Each time I looked at my daily newsletter with the latest news from my chosen networks I got annoyed with clicking: socialmedian makes it really hard to get through to an original blogpost (in its full length). So maybe it is not about reading news?

In fact there is some sharing, too, like on Digg. But the popular vote element ("clip this") is not all socialmedian offers: Instead it comes up with a second layer of personal voting. Topics (sort of tags) and sources (blogs, news sites) can be voted for their personal relevance. So this voting does not influence collective result display but helps to customize overall items to oneself. That's well done although it may take some time until one get's the idea behind this feature!

So voting and personalizing is great on socialmedian but what about the news sources? Here I find an important weakness of this news network as members manually have to bring in RSS-feeds of blogs and news sites they like to turn up on socialmedian. Doesn't this fall back behind memetrackers like TechMeme who do not depend on manuel user input?

In the end socialmedian can be seen as a sort of improved feedreader. For this to happen one will have to create several news networks and fill them will all (!) feeds one is already used to follow. Fine tuning is possible by working on topics (tags). Further the system will get influenced by other members who could possibly join one or more of the so created news networks. Will all this improve reading experience? Maybe yes, but there is a relatively long way to go. And as an important (killer?) obstacle remains the fact that socialmedian can't show full articles. That's what Shyftr tried earlier this year before they had to pull back.

So what do you think of a newsreader where you can't read full articles? All socialmedian can do now is to focus on conversation and sharing. But that's a place FriendFeed already perfectly fills out. And ahead of all this (next generation) semantic based service Twine already is waiting for its chance. So times are tough, not only for traditional newspapers...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Search Engine Cuil will be of great help

There is a new search engine out in the wild and more or less all blogs, quickly as they are, already have written about it. So why do I have to follow late on this?

Although my first searches on Cuil showed relatively poor results, my impression was that any (negative) judgement might be shortsighted and wrong. Louis Gray thought so, too. Cuil's approach to web search tends to be different from what we know from Google or Yahoo!. Michael Arrington has some details about this.

So I will stay patient and confident. My hope is that a serious challenger to Google will help us all, even Google itself. There is no denying of the fact that Google's search today shows far too many irrelevant results. In my opinion this is not so much Google's fault but instead the consequence of too much search engine optimization (SEO). So what we need is a strong competitor to Google with a really different technical approach as this will bring SEO into a dilemma: Either optimizing web pages for Google' search or for Cuil. Hopefully this will bring companies back on the ground and let them reduce their efforts in SEO.

A final word to Paul Buchheits remark on FriendFeed. He thinks that Cuil's strategy could be not to build a full search engine but to get (quickly) bought by Microsoft or any other (big) player in the market. That's a nice idea but as a company strategy it would be very risky. So far Cuil raised $33 million in funding. With that amount of money Cuil wouldn't be a "cheap sell" so they better keep on going and follow their ambitious goal to build the "most comprehensive search engine on the web". They won't have to do it in one day. We all can wait a little bit...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bottom up Product Development: Firefox Tablet

Michael Arrington is tired of waiting for a simple touch screen tablet device and obviously he is not the only one. So he decided to initiate the development of such a device based on open source principles in order to keep its price as low as possible.

Let's wait and see how far the idea will get. At least I will follow the story closely as I consider myself a possible customer. But what's even more interesting about it is the fact, that Web 2.0 now has reached a stage where customers start to take things into their own hands instead of simply waiting for things to happen. So Web 2.0 not only is good for conversations about (existing) services and products, but also for crowd sourcing around needs and new ideas that manufacturers seem to overlook or simply ignore.

For this special case Ross Dawson has some good explanations how this device fits into the "landscape" of mobile media and media devices. And JP Rangaswami contributes some encouraging ideas in order to make production of the tablet really happen.

Companies of any sector (not only consumer or tech oriented) should follow closely what is going on here and take it as an example of how things will work out in the future. This won't be last case of some bottom up product development but the beginning of a new era: Production 2.0 is under way...

Monday, July 21, 2008

verteego coming up and going green

Emerald Vision, a french startup company founded earlier this year, just launched verteego, their first product. verteego is meant to help small and midsize companies to evaluate their "ecological footprint" and to follow the path of sustainable development.

For this matter verteego offers a software tool to collect data and create reports for management, employees, stakeholders and others. The idea behind this is that smaller companies in most cases neither have staff specialised in the field nor want to hire (expensive) consultants. So how to keep up with more and more legislation on (general) ecological topics and questions about politically correct corporate policies? verteego wants to bring the necessary expertise and help to break it down on individual enterprise levels.

In my opinion there is quite an ambitious goal behind verteego (I haven't seen the software yet) but the market chances shoud be great. Emerald Vision is exactly the type of startup company we need: Focused on real problems and staying close to the needs of a large group of market participants.

For those who want to follow verteego: Their blog (written in french) now is out in the public, too. Some of us have been waiting curiously for this...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) and Web 2.0

Bertrand Duperrin reflects on knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) and concludes that enterprises on day may only be "knowledge coordinators". What is it all about?

Obviously there really is a new industry growing around the idea of outscourcing knowledge work to countries like India and China. By 2010 this (world) market might reach an estimated size of 17 billion USD. No doubt there is a huge chance for countries with highly qualified workers especially as western countries start to fall short of these due to demographic change.

The only thing that strikes me on this topic is the fact that nowhere Web 2.0 seems to be taken into consideration. Is collaboration in terms of Web 2.0 only good for sharing artices on Wikipedia and some (funny) blogging, twittering and friendfeeding? And does knowledge work in the sense of Web 2.0 necessarily have a much smaller (or even no) impact on marketvalue compared to knowledge process outsourcing?

Of course not. Outsourcing knowledge work follows a very traditional view of work and the possibilities of creating value. Its focus is on workers (their qualification and quantity) and closed enterprise entities. I can't help myself but the idea of KPO makes me think of Taylorism and Henry Ford. Web 2.0 instead is very different: It brings us a totally different view on things. Web 2.0 emphasizes relationships, networks and the (open) exchange or discussion of ideas.

This is a real paradigm shift and it will have a much larger effect on companies than the outsourcing of some knowledge work. Of course in the short run KPO might be more attractive to management as results (cost savings) should show up quickly. But there is no doubt that in the long run social software run in a network friendly environment will have the larger impact.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

German Angst and the Internet

Does German Angst really exist? I wouldn't have thought so until recently. But now there is a funny new law under way, that might change a lot. Live video broadcasting on the internet no longer will be sort of a "free act" but instead will be subject to permission. This permission will be necessary with every live video stream reaching more than 500 users on the internet! Of course if you stay below that limit your streaming will remain free...

Anyone thinking of Kafka now? Well, this really is some sort of kafkaesk legislation and there are some heavy debates on German blogs underway. Where does this nonsense come from?

Germany as a federal republic has its "Landesmedienanstalten". These are agencies observing (traditional) broadcasting on radio or television which is subject to permission (licences). And they now face the internet and a changing situation for media and broadcasting. One might even think that in times of the internet such agencies wouldn't be necessary any more. They themselves of course have a very different opinion.

So with some new legislation on media under way they made their suggestions about what could be useful. With traditional media losing importance the agencies aim to get their work done on the internet, too. Possible conflicts with the right of free speech doesn't seem to bother them very much. And the legislator obviously found that a little bit of control over the internet could be nice.

Robert Scoble should be aware of further attending web conferences in Germany and doing some video live broadcasting. With more than 500 spectators and no licence of the Landesmedienanstalt he might easily land in prison...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Twitter on its way into businesses

Does a service like Twitter make sense in an enterprise environment? That's exactly what SAP is trying to find out with a project called ESME (The Enterprise Social Messaging Experiment). I found it on FriendFeed, where Craig Cmehil linked to this video:

Nice idea although the example given in the video is not convincing to me: For a short communication on a specific topic between two persons a chat might be the better choice (if available).

Anyway a good idea and a tool, that might help to improve productivity a lot. What remains is the question how (knowledge) workers will cope with the ever growing variety of software tools and collaboration instruments. That's not an easy question as each choice implies not only technological aspects but also cultural elements (twitter with senior managers or better call them on the phone?).