Friday, December 08, 2006

Social platforms: Xing and LinkedIn

These past days, there's been quite some discussion in the German news and blogosphere about Xing's going public. For Lars Hinrich, founder of the company that runs the social platform, it is not the first company, with his prior companies having proved rather unsuccessful. When looking at LinkedIn that is planning a German version of its socializing platform until March 2007 (with a possible IPO in the near future), a competitor that should be seriously considered is close. The main difference between the two platforms is that Premium Xing accounts cost 5,95 € a month, while LinkedIn ist (still?) free of charge for many functions. On the other hand, LinkedIn offers at least four different premium account types, ranging from $60 / year to $200 / month. However, I am not aware of how many users actually have a Pro account. As only about 13% of Xing users a willing to pay for a premium account, question is whether LinkedIn will be successful in reaching an equal share of users until the end of 2007. That's what LinkedIn's co-founder, Konstantin Guericke, announced, who recently gave several interviews (in German) related to the potential of socializing platforms. Of course this is biased, and time will tell whether Xing will remain as successful as it is now. What could be a potential added value to Xing to make a real difference?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zweitgeist - your alter ego on the web

Just today I became aware of a new social service that may bridge the gap between surfing the web and communicating, called zweitgeist an artificial word meaning something like your virtual alter ego or second spirit. It is based on a piece of software that needs to be downloaded as a client closely associated with your web browser. A Firefox extension is also available.

After registration, you basically start by filling out your profile, most importantly a picture representing yourself (can be selected from a large variety of characters). While the animated characters seem a bit boring at first sight, the fun starts when executing actions with them (such as waving hands, sitting down, walking etc.). That is a great extension of the speech bubbles which serve to exchange textual messages - a good approximation to non-verbal communication.

Some more information about this can be found here and there. If you want to know more about what you can do with your alter ego beyond chatting, you might want to have a look over there.

Of course while the user base is limited, you'll find most zweitgeisters on sites like google, amazon, or other popular pages. Thus, you might not really know whether it is worth starting a chat or not. But since I'm not the only one to find it fun to use, I suppose that there'll be more users as time goes on.

While your base account is free, there are numerous options (such as having an animated character, or multiple characters to choose from), which cost a monthly fee, expressed in a virtual currency, called kala (=stone). This fee depends on the user's reputation (and I suppose this means how excessively he's using zweitgeist). The more you invest, the more you get.

Let's see how this will be accepted in the long run. At first sight, it is fun to use, indeed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Venice Project

What a name for a new project from the founders of KaZaa and Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Fries. Seems to be a P2P streaming platform for TV content, removing the constraints of time-dependent (ordinary) television, according to GigaOm. It's currently in beta, allowing anyone to sign up, and I'm definitely curious to see what's it all about.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

No more (Google) answers

First of all, I have to admit that I never used Google Answers, which is about to shut down. I really like the idea behind it, being able to ask so-called knowledge questions for 50 cents a piece (a non-refundable fee) with an optional donation of something between 2 and 200 US dollars (that is, you as the person needing the answer set the price). That seems to be what the folks at Yahoo! thought, too - the main difference being that theirs is a free service (for the end user, at least - involving a points and levels system to non-monetarily reward users). And they are not alone, as Microsoft recently launched their Windows Live QnA service. Difficult to say whether an alternative to these more commercially-oriented services is in sight.

While this may seem like a drawback for Google at first sight, assuming that they're experimenting with lots of things (with some of their services such as Gmail that really take off), it's not that bad to close down an Internet service that does not receive sufficient attention, provided it does not affect the core business. And in Google's case, it doesn't.

On a side note, I do not really seem to understand what the difference between these services and good old newsgroups is. Perhaps this is also why these services (providing answers to questions) might not really work if they involve charging money. Or at least, there should be a difference between basic and premium Q&A services.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Peanut butter

As a kind of follow-up to the last post, it is interesting to read the so-called peanutbutter manifesto by Brad Garlinghouse, a Yahoo! senior vice president, where he says that the problem is to

want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone (..., being) separated into silos that far too frequently don't talk to each other, (... lacking) a leadership team rallying around a single cohesive strategy. (...) Our strategy (is being) described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.

The problem, as it seems, is not only the lack of a shared vision, but also of an organizational nature. Sound familiar? I guess many (large) companies have this problem. And any reorganization is a hard task. Sometimes I get the impression that if reorganizations take place at a yearly pace (or even faster) this is done without a clear vision of what the focus really is - and without considering the employees doing the real work. We need more managers that know what they're doing - in terms of business, organization, service and technology.

By the way, I love peanut butter. Especially the crunchy kind.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Competition and user generated content

I somehow missed that one, but last Friday, it was in the news that Yahoo would be acquiring, a portal for competitions of all kind. It's a 16-person startup company that basically seems to work by rating other people's content. Seems to be linked to MySpace, as there's the possibility to add a media item to one's MySpace account. So, what's the real difference between YouTube and this one? Not much, I suppose (and YouTube indeed does have user ratings as well), so I think that it's more about running after Google in order not to lose touch to what's currently hip. But what will Yahoo really do with this? What will Google do with YouTube? These questions seem not to have been answered yet. At least not really.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Although YouTube announced to offer their service for mobile devices sometime next year, the service is already there (even though it is offered by someone else) and can be accessed via If enhanced by some collaboration features, this could even be more interesting. But it's nice to see that the service can be used with mobile as well as with ordinary browsers.

Virtual Stealing

The Web as it is, whether 1.0 or 2.0, is more or less an image of the real world, at least when it comes to content. The next logical step is to map real-world actions, and this is what many collaborative services are all about. The major difference is that there is more transparency, e. g. when it comes to managing your own social networks or looking at the networks of other users.

A next logical step is the virtualization of your real life by including virtual transactions, such as in Second Life. The latest development is CopyBot, a tool which allows a user to copy content from other users without their consent. As theft occurs in real life, so it does in its virtual counterpart as well. Of course this is not really a problem: since cut-at-paste has become so easy, plagiarism is a well-known problem at universities and colleges.

Thus, virtual services which deal with content and transactions need effective means of protecting their users against theft. Maybe this cannot expected to be a free service, but this may well be a crucial factor when it comes to platform acceptance and customer satisfaction.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Localization for Community platforms

Social platforms are great, but if they only work with manually created profiles, this is often too little to be of real use. For instance, while it is nice to have a profile in openBC / XING, this only shows a part of who I am and what I do. On the other hand, I would probably not hang around MySpace because it does not seem to have the kind of people I would be interested in, but I might as well be wrong. While it's certainly fun to get acquainted with people from all over the world, I suspect that localized services are more interesting, since they may offer a real-world association, either by location (such as google local), or by resources. One possible link to the real world are media - books, music and movies. When it comes to book communities, there are at least three of them that come to mind, namely LibraryThing, which is currently being localized, or Shelfari, and finally, buchpfade. A quick comparison reveals the following:

  • Shelfari only connects to, so it mainly focuses on books in English. This is cool for English-speaking communities abroad (and, of course, in the US and Canada). On a side note, it has a great interface and look & feel.
  • LibraryThing not only has an interface in other languages than English, but you can also find non-English books. However, not all available metadata (e. g. ISBN number) seems to get imported. many books (incl. those that are out-of-print) cannot be found. As it is possible to internationally select different library catalogues where to search for, it should be possible to find almost anything that has ever been printed. There's lots of nice ideas related to socializing and community-building which are implemented there, so when it comes to diversity in functions, it's pretty cool.
  • buchpfade, purely in German, does a great job in finding almost any book that was ever published in German, and also some other media (DVD and CD). Lots of room for improvement, and indeed you will find that as time goes, more and more functions are being added.

I think that it makes sense to stay local before expanding and focus on community functions that emphasize the link to local places. While it may be nice to expand from books to media, looking at the books someone has read or is currently reading is something that may tell you a great deal about a person - especially if you do not have the chance to see each other at once. A potential way to build friendships? Time will tell ...

Bottom point is: Localization is not only about translating web pages, but also offering content that is of local interest. However, this will only work in the long run if such a platform attracts enough users. At the same time, by doing so, community building functions will increasingly become more important. Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Google acquires JotSpot

Google these days continues to buy interesting start-ups and Web 2.0 companies. These days, it's been JotSpot, and while it is sure that Google will integrate this in some form into their portfolio, the question is what we can expect.

Zoli Erdos starts thinking about who is going to win, and who is losing out. More interesting are his ideas of what Google might do with all their beta stuff, such as Google Groups, Docs & Spreadsheets. What it seems to come down to is that what JotSpots calls applications do not really match the expectations, so if it were possible to take the advantages of the wiki character from JotSpot and combine these with the loose ends to turn into something called Google Office, or Google Workplace. Something like a web based office suite, integrating the best from all the companies that Google has been buying lately. Or, perhaps, it might be about something like a collaborative project management suite. Or, simply call it Enterprise 2.0, whatever this may mean. And here's what Joe Kraus himself is saying about the deal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What about Orkut?

These days, I am wondering what Google plans to do with Orkut, one of the older socializing platforms with about 30 million users worldwide. While about two thirds of the users seem to be located in Brazil (with about 9% of the country's population being registered), about 15% of the users are located in India, and only 10% of the users are from the US.

Related to the rising number of users are also attempts to create fake accounts, which may be a general problem with socializing platforms - as the issue of fictional identities is well-known. With the acquisition of YouTube and its much larger user base than Orkut, I am wondering if Google has any plans to merge both platforms, perhaps also including Dodgeball, which it had acquired in May of last year and is apparently integrating dodgeball accounts into their service portfolio.

With all those socializing services around, we seem to need a meta-integrator of user profiles. Which reminds me of Apple that received a patent for portable user accounts.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nokia acquires smart2go

As announced yesterday, Nokia has just acquired smart2go, a company focusing on mobile navigation solutions. As I read in their milestones section, they built a location-based social networking portal as early as 2000. Their navigation software is included in Nokia's brand-new N95 device. What's even more interesting is that Nokia plans to continue to support multiple platforms for Gate5 products, including Symbian, Linux, Windows Mobile and Palm. Combine this with personalization and social interaction and there you have your digital vade mecum.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Beyond text search

Watch out for Polar Rose, a startup in Sweden geared towards image search. Where conventional search works on text patterns, this is a next step - probably followed by video. However, that's just a guess for now.

Who is going to acquire YouTube?

After lots of rumors, it seems clear that someone is going to buy YouTube in the near future. That could be Google, or it could be Yahoo. Or perhaps, another company that has at least 1.6 billion US$ to spend and is wanting to get more customers for ad-business. The Chicago Tribune has an interesting article about this. No official comments on this yet, though.

Update: Google's official press release says it all: the strategy is to "offer a compelling media entertainment service to users, content owners and advertisers".

Update: I am wondering what the implications will be, given that YouTube just signed content distribution deals with CBS, Sony BMG Music Group and Universal Music, as read in a CED magazine article.

Sell your music via SMS

An interesting collaborative service for musicians to sell their music via (premium) SMS seems to be textango, as noted here. So far, it is only available in the US, but it seems only a matter of time for this service (or a similar one) to be usable elsewhere. Seems fairly easy to use, as artists only need to

sign up for an account, confirm a 3-8 letter keyword, upload digital files, and start selling. Unless expedited, there is a 14 day approval period before the selling process can begin. All digital files are subject for approval by TexTango.

That means that anything in digital form is a potential candidate to sell media: videos, ringtones, games, as long as people are willing to pay for it. On the other hand, as a potential customer,

Simply text message the keyword that corresponds with what you wish to purchase to 23333 and follow the easy instructions. Your purchase will be billed to your following months cell phone bill

While the idea of peer-to-peer selling by artist is definitely interesting, I am wondering what the music industry will have to say about this. Will this accelerate the evolution of the web as a pay-per-content medium?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are you XING?

Now, after some rumors in the blogosphere and in the news, it's official that openBC will become XING at the end of this year. Although the introductory video seems a bit silly to me, Lars Hinrich seems to have spent quite some budget for this relaunch under a new name. Let's see what the changes will really be - for the normal as well as for the premium users.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yahoo! and Facebook

While I have a hard time keeping track of all this talk about mergers and acquisitions related to collaborative platforms and services, my attention got caught by Techcrunch's notice that, once again, Yahoo! is about to spend money to acquire Facebook. For those who want to read the original note in the Wall Street Journal, it's possible today since it's free Friday. Anyway, these acquisitions talks are also going on because the investors in start-up companies also want to see some return on investment, so it's easy to calculate the lower bound for a potential investment. It's a win-win situation for the company which is being sold and the investors, but the risk is on the buying company. On the other hand, in order to gain some advantages over other collaborative sites, it's always easier to buy than anything else (provided that the money is there). But I'm digressing.

While the question of which community to join is probably left as an exercise to the end user, facebook originally had a well-defined target group of college students, but in order to gain momentum, it expanded into high school kids and alumni - and the next step is to allow anyone with a valid e-mail address to join, probably leaving out a small group of those who are not using the Internet at all or some senior citizens that don't care about computer-mediated communication.

Whether Yahoo! would succeed in gaining more momentum than its competitors, I do not know. But time will tell whether the investment will have been a risk or a success.

Update: Some more coverage on this from the New York Times

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Soapbox about to be launched ...

Yet another YouTube clone: Microsoft is launching its Soapbox service that seems to do more or less what YouTube is all about. While I do understand that other companies are envious of YouTube's success, I am really curious about whether Microsoft will succeed this time (given that they are also trying to copy Apple concerning mobile entertainment). For now, Soapbox is still a closed service, requiring an invitation to join.

YouTube goes commercial

As reported yesterday, YouTube just signed a deal to distribute videos from Warner Music Group. Seems like the first step for commercial media distribution - and the only way to prevent entertainment companies to close YouTube in order to circumvent illegal media sharing such as with Napster. Does this mean that other entertainment companies will follow, turning the platform into an alternative to other entertainment platforms (without user-generated content)? Does this mean a step backward from the Web 2.0 ideas of collaborative content and media sharing? How will users react to this? How will YouTube's business model evolve? I suspect there will be a basic YouTube service (similar to the platform as it is now) complemented by a premium service which allows the download of copyrighted material for a monthly fee.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who cares about mobile entertainment?

When looking at the latest figures from m:metrics, I am really wondering how much of a serious business mobile entertainment can be. I can imagine that some people may download media for later consumption, but mobile entertainment that is really enjoyable would require a decent sound quality (for music), or a sufficiently large screen (for video). On the other hand, when it comes to business models, I have the impression that pay-per-use needs to be complemented by entertainment flatrates, such as flatster.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Whose showtime is it?

Shortly after Amazon's announcement of unbox, Apple is starting with their iTV service, also known as Showtime (watch Steve Jobs' announcement). While I do not really see the advantage over renting a movie, given the (still) considerable download time, I am wondering what's next in terms of collaborative and interactive entertainment. Also, I suppose there will be other players in the market - but who's going to win? While I understand that music downloads have threatened the music business, I am not sure if media downloads will seriously affect the movie industry - but that's just a guess until I am proven wrong.

Update (1): CED Magazine has some comments on this that are worth reading.
Update (2): We may probably soon see Google Videos on our home TV as Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs are in close communication.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fictional Identities

I just came accross a discussion about a user, lonelygirl15 (or Bree) on YouTube (also having an identity on MySpace), which raises the question about how real virtual identities should be. The LA Times has some more information about that story.

Although at first we tend to assume that there is a real person behind each user id, this obviously does not need to be the case. This raises the question how much we believe in videos, pictures or stories that are told. And as we start building up some relationship to user identities we do not know nor get the chance to meet personally, of course we may build up relationships to people that do not exist.

When it comes to collaborating, of course I cannot imagine anyone that would like to work with someone that they cannot trust. In other words, I get the impression that true collaboration has to involve not only asynchronous, but also synchronous exchange in order to prevent ourselves to waste our time on fakes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Identity Service - a project or a product?

Recently found some information about an initiative called Identity Service by a company called CuteCircuit, obviously started by Francisca Rosella back in 2003. The company itself, with a first product called the Hug Shirt, was started in 2004. There's a research paper about this, which dates back to 2004. The basic idea behind it is shortly described:
Subscribers can decide to share or broadcast types of personal information through any type of connected device, such as a mobile phone or wearable interface. Through the wearable interface users gain access to ad-hoc identity networks created dynamically as they move through the day. If desired buildings, machines and computers could become smart through Bluetooth or WiFi networks, allowing a users identity needs to be serviced in real time in any place. Subscribers can also enrich their database profile with new information collected on the move, from other people.

I am wondering what kind of information is referred to, but maybe this is the company's very own secret, as the whole thing is patent pending.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Triple Play in Germany

According to a recent survey from TNS Infratest, not only does the attractiveness of Triple Play services primarily depend on the associated pricing models, but interactivity as related to television is only interesting for a mere 23% of the population. Perhaps this is because television is still seen as a broadcast medium and the potential value-added services are not yet remarked as a new quality of service. Thus, in order for triple play services to really take off, it will be crucial for telecommunication providers to offer triple play bundles with attractive pricing models. We shall see how long it will take for ordinary television to be substituted by IPTV offerings ...

Qiro, a mobile find service

Deutsche Telekom has just launched Qiro, a mobile location-based find service for points of interest as well as other persons (such as nearby buddies). Sounds like Google Maps on a mobile device plus location-based support. Too bad my mobile device is not supported yet so I cannot download the Qiro client to test this out. But from what I can see & read, this sounds like an opener for more advanced mobile services employing personalization. In fact I'd say that personalization based on other parameters (such as fields of interest and time) is a must when considering use of mobile services in order not to get lost in heaps of non-personalized information. I am definitely anxious to test out this innovative service as soon as possible.

Update: An interview about Qiro (in German)

Friday, September 01, 2006

All about connecting people ...

As Tim Berners-Lee said in a podcast currently available on the IBM developerworks web site, the Web was supposed to be all about connecting people:
It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along

For those of you who prefer to read, have a look at the transcript.

The API battle goes on ...

Well, shortly after Amazon's announcement regarding their Simple Storage Service, also known as S3, Google in turn announced their GData API (read this for some more details). GData offers

a standard protocol for reading and writing Web data, combining XML-based syndication formats (Atom and RSS) with a feed-publishing system, based on Atom.

Let's wait for the next Web 2.0-related API that is going to appear in the next couple of weeks, if not days, play around a bit with all this and see what implications this will have on collaborative services ...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Methods for self-regulating social networks ... and its implications?

Just read a note that a patent application from Microsoft was published regarding the self-regulation of social networks. According to the document, the invention provides

... a unique system and method that facilitates self-regulation of a social network system based at least in part on user behavior, and in particular on good or desirable user behavior. The system and method involve monitoring user behavior such as user activity and user interactions with other users and the network itself. Several factors can be weighed to determine whether the user behavior is good. Network assets or rights can be allocated to good users in the form of gifts or trade exchange opportunities whereas less desirable or bad users may not receive such gifts or trade opportunities or assets and rights might be revoked from them. By watching user behavior and promoting good behavior in this manner, the social network can be managed and self-regulated to optimize the utilization and distribution of both limited and unlimited assets (e.g., network created and user created assets or resources).

Maybe I'm not knowledgeable enough regarding patent-related issues, but I would not have thought that it's possible to apply for the above. Maybe it just sounds too straightforward to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Organizing Photographs (II)

It seems that every company offering a service that is remotely associable with the terms collaboration and web 2.0 is anxious at finding some additional features - by buying other companies. Latest example for this is Yahoo!, which is about to buy Ludicorp, the company behind flickr, in order to be able to offer location-based photo management. I certainly like the idea of being able to navigate to some place (e. g. where I would like to spend my vacation) and then be able to view photographs (or videos) related to that place. If I'm heading towards some larger city, no big deal as I can simply enter the name (New York, London, Rio, Tokyo, you name it), but if it's some remote place and I'm interested in knowing what the area looks like (and not necessarily interested in the looks of the town of my choice), it's a nice feature. Would be nice to combine semantic search and location-based information, though - perhaps with time context, too. But that's another story.

Google Maps with coupons

Well, now that business can offer coupons to customers via Google Maps, I am just wondering whether this is all that is needed. I get the impression that coupons are rather old-fashioned (although I admit that Americans are more crazy about them than Germans tend to be). So, while I like the idea of being able to use coupons, that should be completed by some bonus system, e. g. when I enter a store that I found via Google Maps, I can collect extra bonus points when doing a purchase (could be as easy as sending an SMS to the customer as well as the store in question and then check the customer's bonus card at the cashier's desk). I'm just wondering how tedious it will be for businesses to create their own coupons or to integrate their couponing mechanisms with Google Maps. And perhaps there's a few other issues I haven't had the time to consider ...

Organizing Photographs

Just came back from vacation, so I guess I'm trying to catch up with a few things. One news release that caught my attention was about Google's acquisition of Neven Vision. In its own weblog, Google says:

Neven Vision comes to Google with deep technology and expertise around automatically extracting information from a photo. It could be as simple as detecting whether or not a photo contains a person, or, one day, as complex as recognizing people, places, and objects.

More details about what Neven Vision is doing can be found there.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bebo and Entertainment

These days when thinking about Bebo and its story, I am not really sure about where all this social networking buzz is going to lead. On the other hand, what can be seen there might just be similar to Google's experimenting with lots of new "beta" services to see their acceptance. As an example, consider Bebo TV which is currently being relaunched to allow to upload any (custom) video content. Not sure what the difference to YouTube and similar platforms will be - or how this relaunch is intended to integrate with already existing functions. I am really wondering how the integration of content creation and content distribution is going to work out. Interestingly enough, Viacom is considering to bid for Bebo after having lost a bid war against NewsCorp last year. Well, let's wait and see ...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

MTV & Atom Entertainment

MTV is about to acquire Atom Entertainment for 200 Mio USD to offer multimedia content online. Interestingly enough, Atom has been around for much longer than YouTube, but apparently has not had the same success as other, more recent video platforms - perhaps because users could not upload and share their own content.
As Tom Freston, CEO, Viacom, said
"This acquisition is right on the money with our digital strategy. It adds great scale with users, improves our growing casual gaming position, and brings a world-class digital video library and a fantastic management team."

As I understand it, this will first of all give MTV an access to more diverse content - but what is it that the end users of (mobile) content really want? What strategy will MTV follow to broaden their user base and to successfully compete against YouTube?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Web 2.0, a bubble?

Good question. There's a 24-minute video about this at TechCrunch, in which Michael Arrington interviewed a number of startup CEOs and executives. For those who prefer to read, there's also a transcript. What's a bubble, anyway - and how can we recognize it early enough?

E-Learning 2.0

There's an interesting article about the Web 2.0 movement and its implications on learning. While in the past, learning was focused on class-specific documents augmented by additional tools such as discussion forums, we now seem to head towards the opposite - a kind of free-flow learning, heavily characterized by blogging, using wikis and emerging technologies in mobile settings (such as podcasting). All this sounds very exciting, but I am wondering whether there is any evidence for real collaboration geared towards building up knowledge in social groups. If Web 2.0 is an attitude, what is e-learning 2.0? Is this interaction between learners and systems (turning their users into content producers - what's going to happen to all this content), or does this really support social exchange? Or, to put it differently: in what sense should E-Learning 2.0 be able to fulfill what traditional E-Learning hasn't?

Nokia & Loudeye

As announced yesterday, Nokia is going to acquire Loudeye for 60 Mio USD to offer to their customers an integrated music service. This goes along with the sales of music-enabled mobile devices, of which Nokia has been selling 15 million so far in the second quarter of this year, while aiming at 80 million by the end of 2006. This leaves room to wonder how the deal is going to influence Nokia's relationship to mobile service providers, but also how well a music service will be able to compete against Apple's iTunes.

I am wondering whether the current business models for music platforms will be appropriate for the masses. After all, not only are there download costs per tune (or media item, if extended to video), but also connection costs. So, I suspect that we will rather see other models - such as subscriptions or flat rates including access to specific application services. In order to be successful, I am convinced that this has to be combined with personalization and social interaction. As we already have platforms such as or Pandora, this does not seem to be too far away.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Some time ago, Nokia released its mobile solution for photographers and bloggers. In order to blog, a TypePad account is necessary. However, Nokia made its posting protocol specification available publicly so other blogging platforms may also collaborate.

Sounds interesting, even though I do not know how publication of longer contributions via mobile phone will work in practice. But maybe we'll have speech-to-text blogging, which could increase its popularity.

Quality Content

As I said in a previous post, content seems to be king. And we seem to be in a phase where service providers seem to expand towards content delivery instead of content aggregation. As I read in CED Magazine, MTV is about to start testing content distribution via Google's advertising network - which is an obvious attempt in rivaling platforms such as YouTube by means of quality content. The article reads:

MTV will take the largest portion of ad revenue, which will be shared with Google and its affiliate network sites, Wolf said. He said Google had built specialized technology for the test.

I am wondering whether this is a step backwards from the collaborative internet, or whether Google will combine this with collaboration mechanisms such as user-centric tagging, annotations, addition of custom content and other mechanisms. Also, I wonder whether this will be a pure ad-based service.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Enterprise 2.0 - what's behind the buzz?

I recently heard the buzzword Enterprise 2.0 for the first time, without really understanding what it means. If it's only about figuring out what Web 2.0 means for the business world - such as Web 2.0 tools in intranets - why do we need a new term for this? Or is it just a new term for computer supported cooperative work (CSCW)? Or is it CSCW + inference mechanisms? If the latter applies, maybe it is interesting to think of mechanisms how to integrate folksonomies, ontology management and collaborative filtering. On the other hand, I'm still unsure about collaborative content sharing - why should anyone give away their knowledge for free without knowing what they get in return?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


This (fairly recent) acronym actually means user-generated content. We're now heading towards user-generated mobile content (UGMC) - read more about this in a recent announcement, which also reports about new online services, such as MiShow or Veeker.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Which community to join?

With all these communities being around - for kids and youngsters, openBC and LinkedIn for professionals, for elderly people, just to cite a few examples, the question arises how many communities I have to join to appropriately map my social network as I need it (for private and / or business purposes). Is there some "standard" interchange format which contains all the fields I need to represent myself in order to avoid having to join multiple communities manually? Wouldn't it be much better to have some "social integrator" that makes available my data to various community sources?

Business Models for Web 2.0 content?

With all this huge amount of content being created via weblogs, picture and video platforms, I am wondering about viable business models for Web 2.0 services. Sure enough, there's contextual ads with a small reward to the users who include these into their web pages or weblogs, but to me, this is just a continuation of traditional ads business. There's subscription models - but who would be willing to actually pay to view user-created content? My guess is that subscriptions only work as an analogy to print subscriptions, i. e. you have high-quality content that is carefully selected and researched and published under a brand that you trust (e. g. IEEE or Springer scientific journals). But that would also apply to other publication forms (e. g. video). While the question of who will make money from user generated content is important, it is even more crucial to find out what the conditions are for any provider (content or service) to find viable business models.

If continuing to think about it, I would also have to include software (which is digital, after all). What is very common nowadays that you can use a basic version of a given software for free, with limited functions, with often a constant reminder to upgrade to a better version. Often, this only works if I am really able to see the benefit of upgrading - that's why we have trial versions for a limited time. My suspicion is that the given timeframe often will not be enough to see the return on investment. And that is exactly the difference to me between content (which I can read / view and instantly see the benefit that I have) and software.

Another issue about software is the relation between marginal costs and marginal utility. With all this free software being available (whether operating systems, office programs, security tools, viewers for multimedia formats etc.), I am not sure if the envisioned benefit is large enough for an end user to be willing to pay for something that, given the individual requirements, is also available without restrictions. In sum, this is about the question of the relation between freeware, shareware, open source and conventional software. And this applies to content as well.

So, what's the bottom line? It all seems to boil down to the issue of transparence of service quality and how much one is willing to pay for it. The service I get from Youtube, flickr and web hosting is storage space with some code around it that is running on the providers' servers. If I am lucky, I get a little support (e. g. a contact email address). Everything that goes beyond that, like consulting or problem solving, is expensive - and seems for me the only real means to make benefits more transparent. On the other hand, I also see (archived) newsgroups post that may also help me in many issues related to problem solving.

Content is king, and service the queen - provided that the quality is appropriate. Then, we can start talking about new business models. Of course, if there's no customer base, nobody is there to pay.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Web 2.0 and collaborative software development?

I have to admit that I was always a bit skeptical about open source collaborative software development above operating system level. I am not sure whether this has changed. I am just beginning to think again about this, as I found out that Google has just started Google Code. It certainly is not the only software repository around, if I look at alternatives which have been around for far longer, such as

My question, then, revolves around the issue what content creation and software development have in common - or, if you want to express it with buzzwordws: what can Web 2.0 and open source development learn from each other? While it may be annoying if I find a Wikipedia article that is not up to date or does not match with the quality I would expect from the Encyclopedia Britannica, who's going to help me if the software I am using is not working properly?

I admit I need some more thinking about that issue, and perhaps some pointers. On a side note, what's the relationship between Google Code and Project Hosting?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Web 2.0, a rain forest - and an outlook

There's an interesting read about the evolution of the Web to what is now called Web 2.0. For those wanting an outlook of what Web 2.0 could mean for us in the year 2015, consider this - a vision of a world where the press has ceased to exist.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wiki for projects - any experiences?

TWiki, described by its developers as an enterprise collaboration platform, seems to be an interesting approach when it comes to enterprise knowledge management and exchange. Some success stories and testimonials can also be found (see also TWiki in the News.

Sounds cool. On the other side, we have a tradition of creating Office documents, and I am not sure how well this corresponds to the Wiki approach. Other than that, I have the impression that while the Wiki approach works well regarding private information creation and exchange, knowledge exchange within companies may not be without challenges, so to say.

I am curious as to what the constraints are in order for enterprise collaboration (the wiki way) to work successfully - especially in medium-sized to large companies. Any thoughts?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tagging the world

Collaborative applications such as Wikipedia are widely used nowadays, but Semapedia takes this one step further by letting you create physical hyperlinks to articles on Wikipedia and other offerings from Wikimedia in the form of 2D barcodes you can attach to any physical object. Users with a datamatrix reader installed on their cellphones can then read the linked article on the spot by pointing to an object with a 2D barcode. While there's an associated Weblog as well as a Wiki to get you started, more details can also be found here and there.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Social bookmarking tools

There are two articles on social bookmarking tools from April 2005 in D-Lib magazine that are worth mentioning (even though this is already quite some time ago). Any other good (newer) sources regarding this topic are more than welcome.

Very confusing

Well, now that Web 2.0 is not new any more, some people start writing about Web 3.0 or higher as if this were a kind of software update which is due after at least one year. If you ask me, it rather seems to me as if this is getting totally out of scope here. What exactly is in there beyond mere visions? Not that visions are any bad, but I'd rather like to see some more down-to-earth stuff.

Does anybody really know ...?

Everyone keeps talking about the Web 2.0 these days, weeks, months and years, but more often than not, I find people telling me that it is a kind of philosophy. Tim O'Reilly, who coined that term, should know better than anyone else what this meant in the beginning, regardless of what it evolved into. Other definitions, however, are welcome, before I get totally lost in (hyper)space ...

Recommendations the AgentArts way

Everyone these days claims to offer personalized services, starting from collaborative filtering approaches, covering social recommendations up to advanced datamining approaches. One example I found is AgentArts that claim their approach

(...) is about providing consumers with multiple ways to discover content: generic ‘you might also like’ recommendations based on content, personalized recommendations based on a profile of historic storefront events, or via social recommendations from other consumers through lists and reviews.

AgentArts' proprietary datamining technology translates various types of consumer activity (page views, previews, purchases) into content relationships. AgentArts’ patented datamining algorithm is highly effective at building accurate content relationships for a range of different content categories, and is particularly effective at building quality content relationships for lesser known content.

Sounds interesting. But what is the difference over other recommendation approaches, as used by Amazon, Pandora or Last FM?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Click your own WikiBook

While Wikipedia has become the favorite dictionary for many people (or should I say, users), the Wikimedia foundation has gone beyond a pure online encyclopedia with its offerings Wiktionary, an open-source online dictionary, Wikiquote, an international collection of quotations, WikiBooks, the so-called open-content textbooks collection, Wikisource, a free library, wikinews, a free news source, Wikimedia Commons, a database of media files, and finally, Wikispecies, a dictionary of life. While not having used any of these besides the original Wikipedia, it is now possible to configure one's own wikipedia excerpt by selecting from categories and subcategories, including recommended articles and other ways of getting together relevant items. This is a service offered by Brainbot and is called PediaPress. According to German heise newsticker, the articles are taken from the database dump which is created every 5 to 10 days.

Certainly an interesting service - still I am wondering if I'd probably go for an edited book on some topic that is of interest to me. But personal issues aside, the real question is not really related to PediaPress, but rather refers to the categories and subcategories. Is this actually part of the job of the folks involved with Wikipedia to take care of the categories that can be found there? Are they in some way related to library classification schemes? Looking forward to hearing your replies on this!

Folksonomies vs. controlled vocabularies

Sure the problem is not new, but interestingly enough I don't have the impression that the problem of tagging vs. controlled vocabularies has been truly addressed with an attempt to unify both views. An interesting contribution to this issue, which refers to the non-hierarchical nature of tags and asks about their scalability. What are your experiences concerning this? I am only starting to think about these issues, so any (random) thoughts or references to interesting publications about this are more than welcome!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mobile TV starts September

While this year's world championship brought us the first attempts of something we may call television on mobile devices, the quality was still far from really being acceptable. However, this may change soon, as Tim Renner, former CEO of Universal and operating this so-called download radio Motor FM, is now about to launch quadplay content on September 1st at the IFA 2006 in Berlin. Otherwise said, this will be mobile TV via IPTV and DVB-H. Interesting at least for those who need to watch music videos via their mobile device wherever they are ... even if we're still waiting for the appropriate devices, e. g. Nokia N92.

Oh well, I guess I am not part of the target group anyway ...

Why Google Notebook?

I recently got aware of Google Notebook, which, according to its own description, allows users to paste random selections from web pages, adding own thoughts and so on. While I understand that there may be some improvements over weblog usability, I fail to see the advantage over Weblog services regarding functionality. After all, cut and paste will allow me to copy Web content from almost anywhere. On the other hand, I do not really see how I can share my ideas actively with other users with Notebook. In other words, I do not really understand the need for this if communication is not really a part of it. Any thoughts?

Video channels

A way to categorize web content is by association of so-called tags (e. g. technorati. The idea is not new at all - libraries have done this for ages, with the difference that their tags are controlled (also known as keywords). A first web-based approach was Glimpse, and other approaches towards website indexing are also known.

Some tagging networks (some of them also known as social bookmarking sites) can be found here. Tags may help in discovering interesting sources, provided that users explicitly add tags to their content (e. g. in weblogs). However, it seems to me that it's a rather tedious process, at least when textual content is concerned, given that most sites include a search function (based on previous indexing) that provides satisfying (although not perfect) results.

When it comes down to non-textual content, tags or (video) channels seem to be more essential, as found in YouTube and Yahoo. A comparison of their approaches shows that YouTube's channels are more social and blog-like, allowing to

view subscribers, connect with them, leave comments in channels, send messages, add the channel owner as a friend

To sum up, YouTube has three ways of indexing content, namely

  • categories with a handful of keywords and the possibility to associate tags,
  • channels, which can be thought of as an individual media homepage with the additional possibility to connect to users, leave comments and, of course, subscribing to them
  • groups which seem to be like a discussion board which can be associated to categories.

Some more useful information about YouTube can be found here. If interested about the story behind this service, read this. In order to interface with the service on the developing side, some APIs are offered. I am wondering whether channel subscription is also included.

Monday, July 17, 2006

YouTube's New Record

According to YouTube, the number of 100 million daily downloads was exceeded last Sunday (i. e. yesterday). SPIEGEL Online has a (german) article on this, where they cite another recent article which stated that a viable business model does not seem to be in sight. The streaming costs for YouTube are considerable, while there are no advertisements so far. On the other hand, it may well be that the platform develops similarly to Google Video, i. e. into a commercial download platform for video clips. There seems to be quite some market for this with about 160.000 daily downloads of movies, soap operas and documentations, as German newspaper Die Welt says. YouTube alone has about 65.000 new clips per day, with some of them being snippets from the regular TV program. While content is not controlled by the provider, all users are encouraged to report about questionable content - which does not always seem to work.

Sharing huge emails

I don't really know whether this is needed, but there's this new service called Pando combining P2P filesharing with traditional e-mail. If I understand this correctly, when sendig some multimedia attachment, that will only result in a small file being transferred which takes care of fetching the real data via P2P connections and so-called supernodes operated by Pando.

While this enables the transfer of files up to 1 gigabyte, I am unsure whether it would not be wiser to upload files of that size to some server and only send the link to the person I would like to share my attachment with. Another question that I would like to raise is whether I would really have a certain guaranteed uptime of those servers so I can really get what I want.

Any thoughts on this? How and why would you use such a service?

Remote access to your computer

Another interesting service seems to be SoonR that lets you access your personal computer from your mobile phone. If your PC is configured as a host, IP telephony seems possible. Otherwise, access to Outlook data and other files on the remote computer are enabled. While no special client needs to be installed, the mobile device should be web- and data-enabled. Alan Lewis @ eBay gave it a try and seemed to be pretty excited. Here's some more information about the company. Enjoy!

Sharpcast media sharing

While flick.r is probably the most well-known tool to store, search, sort and share photos, a next logical step would be the synchronization between digital data between PC's, mobile devices and web sites. While I haven't had the time to take a closer look, I do recommend to take a look at Walt Mossberg's review of the product (or should we say, service) in the Wall Street Jurnal.

So far, it seems to only work with photos and is also constrained to mobile devices equipped with Windows Mobile 5.0, but that's probably only the beginning. What seems cool to me that any change that is made on one device gets instantly synchronized on the other available devices.

Well, let's see how this will develop further and what the competitors have planned ...