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.