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.