Archive for the ‘Social networking’ Category

What are you starting and what will you leave behind?

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I am in a history book club, which I’ve talked about before on this blog. We met last night, and the topic was winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone read about a different winner, all amazing people. But the most interesting thing to come out of the meeting was the story about Alfred Nobel and why he may have started the Nobel Prizes.

Apparently, Nobel and his brothers were the most famous inventors of their time. Most notably, Alfred Nobel is credited with the invention of dynamite. In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died when visiting in France, and a French newspaper incorrectly published an obituary for Alfred reporting, “the merchant of death is dead” and claimed that “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” (As an aside, there is an interesting list of other premature obituaries here.)

Alfred NobelMany speculate that it was this bizarre and premature report of his death that led Nobel to (unexpectedly) leave the majority of his money in a trust to fund the Nobel Prizes.

Fast forward to today. One of viagra online shop in uk the best things about being an entrepreneur is the ability to create new things. But the implications of inventing or building or creating something that didn’t exist before can be serious. I’m certain that the founder of Craigslist didn’t anticipate it being used for murder, that MySpace’s founder didn’t plan for it to lead to suicide and that the inventors of these top 10 inventions that went bad for mankind didn’t plan for them to be used the way that the ultimately were.

Nobel’s invention has been used in mining, quarrying and construction to great results. But it has also been used to kill, murder and maim. That was a legacy that he wasn’t comfortable in leaving – so he did something about it.

I am an entrepreneur, but more specifically, I like to build things that didn’t exist before. I get a lot of joy out of envisioning something new, and then bringing it to life. This story of Alfred Nobel, though, was a good reminder to consider the cost. I’m also thinking hard about what I can to leave a legacy of which I can be proud.

Facebook's music plans: Five random thoughts & one prediction

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Facebook is in the news again about its plans for getting into digital music. Namely, the news is that Facebook doesn’t have plans as of yet to enter the digital music business. I posted a story about this today on The Industry Standard called The Facebook Music mess. If you’re interested, give it a read.

Facebook MusicAs I was working on the article, there were five extra things that I wanted to include but didn’t. Here they are:

1) MySpace is going to kick Facebook’s butt in music no matter what Facebook does. MySpace Music, which officially launched in September, has a huge lead on Facebook in the music business. Even before the company’s new music site launched, MySpace already had millions of bands and musicians signed up and using the site as a promotional tool. MySpace’s roots are in music, and this lead is going to be unbeatable for Facebook.

2) It doesn’t matter that Facebook will be #2 in social music. Even though Facebook will not beat MySpace, it will still be in the music business. And Facebook won’t mind being number two because the multi-billion dollar music business is large enough for there to be more than one winner.

3) The suggestion that Mark Zuckerberg is considering getting into music out of jealousy is preposterous. Facebook has millions of registered members and those millions of members want to listen to music. Zuckerberg and crew are going to have to figure out a business model that works for Facebook and its users, end of story. This has nothing to do with jealousy; it’s purely good business sense.

4) Facebook does actually have a chance to beat MySpace – even in music – internationally. I have written about this in the pastFacebook is going to dominate MySpace in the global arena. It’s possible that Facebook may even beat MySpace in music internationally, especially since MySpace hasn’t launched internationally yet.

5) The music labels are going to have to step it up because they are ridiculously behind the times. OK, this might seem unrelated, but really, the record labels are getting more archaic by the second. According to reports, Facebook is having trouble working out licensing deals with the giants. Apparently, the big four labels won’t give up their music libraries without getting an ownership percentage in Facebook first. That’s just ridiculous on so many levels. There will come a day (I think) when the labels realize that having access to Facebook’s enormous, loyal, repeat audience will be worth the trade of their content.

And here’s the prediction: Facebook will get into the music business in 2009 and whatever the company decides to do will involve a partnership with Apple and iTunes.

Wanted: A better workplace coffeehouse

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

As I’ve documented many times on this blog, I work alone, from my home office. This is usually great, but sometimes the house gets too quiet or constricting, or I’ve spent too many days in a row with the same walls around me. When that happens, I usually head to a local coffeehouse that has free Wi-Fi, usually Panera Bread.

CoffeehouseToday I’m working at Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble near my house. I needed to buy a book so it was more convenient to stay here rather than make the 10 minute drive to Panera. But here the Wi-Fi’s not free. Granted, it’s only $3.99, but instead of buying the 2-hour pass, I’m opting to do all the offline work I can, and then send everything when I can connect again at home. Not ideal.

All of this has started me thinking about the trend of remote working and the virtual company. The more wireless devices we have, the more places that have access to broadband, the easier it is to work from home, vacation…anywhere really. And companies like Sun Microsystems are even starting to make moves to dismantle entire offices in favor of the cost savings that they get from having an at-home work force.

I am clearly in favor of telecommuting and working from home. But I realized today, in my imperfect, impromptu Starbucks office, that the at-home worker is up against a number of challenges that a better workplace coffeehouse could help fix.

First, the obvious source of the trouble is that humans have issues with isolation. People are born into communities and we are geared toward being around people. Even the extreme introvert likes their aloneness more when they have recently been around people. There are days when the solitary at-home office is too much and we just need to see little kids doing handstands in line while their frazzled mom waits for her Vanilla Latte. (Yes, that is happening in front of me right now.)

Second, the current options to escape that isolation aren’t really working. Aside from the coffeehouse with Wi-Fi, the only option that I have is the library. But both of these options have problems – the library doesn’t allow the conversations and social interactions that at-home workers are craving, and the coffeehouses aren’t equipped for workplace needs (and there are people trying to enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch without having to be immersed in other people’s work).

Finally, there is another problem with the at-home worker that isn’t often talked about. There is a hole that is left by the lack of idea interchange, the constant refining and tweaking of ideas that happens in an office environment. Even with social networking tools and technology to keep us connected at our disposal, at-home workers do the majority of our thinking and planning and decision-making in a vacuum. It’s not our fault – the majority of decisions that are made day-to-day are too small to set up a conference call to discuss. But without the constant input from our co-workers, and the benefit of the collective brain of the group, our decisions are going to lose some edge, some brilliance will be lost that could have been found if we had a group around us to help us refine our visions.

My suggestion to solve this issue is a workplace coffeehouse. My imaginary coffeehouse would have:

– Free unlimited Wi-Fi.

– Coffee and food to be purchased. Perhaps also some kind of a fee structure for use (a monthly membership, like the gym, perhaps?). This business would have to be able to make money, even with a clientele that doesn’t turn over frequently during the day.

– Tables with locks to secure laptops. Nothing is more annoying than having to pack up all your stuff to use the restroom. Locks that can be used temporarily by the person at the table at the time would be incredibly helpful.

– Comfortable chairs that are meant to be sat in for long periods of time without hurting your back.

– Different areas that can be used for different things. There should be areas for tables of 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10 people scattered throughout the room, as well as a couple of glassed-in rooms that people can use for brainstorming or meetings.

– A start-up open pitch night. Once time per week, people would be able to get up and pitch their ideas and invite the crowd to give them instant feedback – this is like an open mic night for businesses.

– A schedule of speakers who would come in periodically to give advice for the at-home worker. Help desk people to answer questions about home networking issues. Financial advisors. VCs. And even management specialist, all with seminars on how to work remotely better.

– Ways for people to meet each other. Too often people look up from their computer only to avert their eyes if they accidentally look my way. These places would need to encourage communication and interaction.

– Social events surrounding the coffeehouse. The coffeehouse’s softball team could compete in the city league, bowling teams could be formed, or maybe the coffeehouse has a bocce court next to it.

Does it seem like I’m recreating the office? Maybe I am, just a little bit. But this could be the office of the future, where people go to work with other folks from their geographic area, all of whom are working on different projects, jobs and careers. Sounds like an interesting place to me.

What other features would you like this workplace coffeehouse to have?

UPDATE: Another possibility would be for bars to do something like this during the day, when they otherwise wouldn’t be making any money. Just think – WiFi during the day, vodka tonics at night. I think that the clientele would become much more dedicated…

Photo by John Althouse Cohen

The multiple personalities of Twitter

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with Twitter. In that article, I talked about what I see as being the big downfall of Twitter, which is that it is hard to quickly and easily get people using and understanding it. Twitter is hard to explain, there is no key selling proposition, people sign up and then leave, and the language of Twitter is hard to understand.

People moving quicklyBut now I am starting to grasp what I think is the real reason that it’s so hard to catch onto Twitter – everyone uses it for something different. And because there is no standard way of using Twitter, it’s hard to watch the Twitter stream (the flow of posts to Twitter) and figure out what’s going on and how you should participate. When users sign up, they have to just jump right in and start posting and participating.

The flexibility of Twitter is both its genius and its downfall.

It’s unlikely that anyone sticks with just one way of using Twitter all the time. Most people bounce back and forth between the various ways of using the service. But for me, my Twitter epiphany happened when I picked one primary way of using the service – the way that “fit” me and felt right – and stuck primarily with that. Now, about 6 months and 284 updates into my own use of Twitter, I’m finally starting to hit my Twitter groove.

Here are just a few of the many ways that people use Twitter. If you are someone who has used Twitter and quit, of if you are trying to get started, but just can’t figure out how, try picking one of these that feels best to you and go with it for a week – and see what happens.

Talking to people. If you see a post with an @ sign in it, that post is directed to the Twitter user whose name follows the @ sign. So if you write a post and include @mchang16 in that post, you’re talking to me. Not only do people use this for talking to people they know, but also to respond to other people’s Twitter thoughts and comments – it’s a way to have a conversation. Amanda Chapel (@AmandaChapel) does this quite a bit.

Promotional tool. People post links to their own stuff. The most prominent of these is probably Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (@TechCrunch), who posts a link to a new article every time one goes up on his site. My friend Denise (@ddubie), who is a writer at Network World, also does this very effectively.

Information gathering. If you see someone post a question looking for input or feedback on a specific topic, they are likely using Twitter for information gathering. Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) uses Twitter to post questions fairly frequently, sometimes for blog posts he’s working on and often just to stir up conversation.

To cover events. Because Twitter is easy to use on a mobile phone, people can easily use the service to report on live events. This happens quite a bit at technology conferences (where many Twitter users converge), as well as during natural disasters (San Diego fires) or sporting events (Celtics vs. Lakers – GO CELTICS!!) Sometimes people use a # sign to indicate that they are writing a post about a specific topic/event. (Those are called Hashtags – and you can read more about them here if you’re interested in following or covering an event.)

Create a group of like-minded people. It’s possible to set up an account at Twitter that multiple people can participate in – creating a group. The one I’m most familiar with is Lyric of the Day, which was set up by Fred Wilson (@FredWilson). Members of the group submit a lyric every day, starting the message with @lotd. Check it out here.

Linking to cool stuff on the Web. Many people post cool, interesting or helpful links that they find elsewhere on the Web in Twitter for others to see. This type of post is a way to share the knowledge. Steve Rubel (@SteveRubel) is a Twitter user who often posts interesting links to articles, stories, etc. (A quick aside – my one pet peeve with this type of post is that Twitter changes URLs into TinyURLs to save on space, but I like to be able to see the URL to identify what site I’ll be going to if I click a link.)

Answer the question “What are you doing?” This seems to be the original reason that Twitter came into existence – to let people comment on what they are doing so that people they know can follow them and what they’re up to. Two of my favorite bloggers use Twitter this way Dooce (@dooce) and Penelope Trunk (@PenelopeTrunk).

It’s with this last type of Twitter posts that I’ve mostly settled. You’ll see the occasional promotional Twitter, or conversational Twitter, or link to something cool and interesting Twitter coming from me. But the majority of my posts now answer the question “What are you doing?”

Follow me at @mchang.

Photo by sonictk

Why I am becoming a FriendFeed believer

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

FriendFeed logoMy first experience with FriendFeed was similar to my first experience with Twitter – the site was a little difficult to get into it, kind of hard to see the value. But like with Twitter, once I started “friending” people, extending my network, and working the site into my daily routine, FriendFeed started becoming more useful.

And then yesterday happened.

Turns out that Steve Rubel, author of the popular Micro Persuasion blog, shared one of my stories in Google Reader – specifically, Why I’m Kissing Tumblr a Sad, Sad Good-bye. That story ended up on FriendFeed (along with all the other articles that Rubel shares).

Rubel is a popular guy on the Web, has a lot of followers. So the post got a much wider distribution than it would otherwise have gotten. And the comments on FriendFeed were outstanding and lively. You can read the stream here. That sparked many other articles about the topic herehere, here and here.

And that discussion, in turn, caused the folks at Tumblr to make some changes.

That is powerful. And fun! The conversations that are happening in FriendFeed are often interesting, many of the current thought-leaders about things related to the Internet and Web 2.0 hang out there, and if companies are listening and taking action because of the dialog – well, that’s incredibly exciting.

Friend me at FriendFeed here: http://friendfeed.com/16thletter.

And I would love to know your impressions of using the service – or if you have similar stories of a company “hearing you” and taking some action.

Social networking in the enterprise will be tough to pull off

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I am a couple of days behind on this story; I am just reading about Forrester Research’s report on the growth of enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies. According to the report:

“Enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will grow strongly over the next five years, reaching $4.6 billion globally by 2013, with social networking, mashups, and RSS capturing the greatest share.”

2.0It’s interesting that social networking is going to be the area of biggest spending for enterprises in the next five years. But this raises a red flag for me. Having worked at big media companies that have the largest technology companies as their clients, I have watched a lot of enterprises (at least in the technology space) try to implement the latest and greatest technologies somewhat unsuccessfully. And I am incredibly skeptical that enterprises are going to be able to successfully implement social networking into their sites.

One of the main factors for social networking to be successful is a big community and affinity – and I’m not sure that the majority of enterprises have the audience to foster a strong social network.

But with that skepticism said, I think that it’s really great that enterprises are going to be trying to implement this stuff. Some of them will undoubtedly be wildly successful, pushing Web 2.0 technologies to get better and bigger and more scalable.

Photo by fffriendly

Social networks and international audiences

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

My latest article is up on The Industry Standard, Facebook vs. MySpace: The battle for global social network dominance. It takes a look at MySpace and Facebook, and makes a prediction about which will win in the competition for international audience.

When researching the article, I came across a lot of data about social networks in various countries, and it as interesting to see the various social networks that are winning in countries around the world. According to Comscore, “the number of worldwide visitors to social networking sites has grown 34% in the past year to 530 million, representing approximately 2 out of every 3 Internet users.”

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the social networks that are less familiar to those of us in the U.S., and the countries in which they are popular. The data comes from sources here and here.

Orkut – Brazil
Orkut logo

9158.com – China
9158 logo

hi5.com – Peru, Columbia, Central America, Mongolia, Romania, Tunisia
hi5 logo

bebo.com – Ireland, New Zealand
bebo logo

cyworld – South Korea
Cyworld logo

Live Journal – Russia
Live Journal logo

This is also interesting – a visual look at MySpace (blue) vs. Facebook (red) according to Compete.com.

Compete.com myspace vs. facebook

MySpace vs. iTunes

Friday, April 4th, 2008

My most recent article for The Industry Standard just went up – How MySpace Music could beat iTunes. If you’re interested, please give it a read!

The music industry is something that I’m really thinking about lately with the launch of Fat J Records and signing Cara Austin – so the recent news about iTunes overtaking Wal-Mart and MySpace Music’s launch are both of great interest to me. And there are a lot of things about the MySpace vs. iTunes topic that I didn’t have space to include in my article for The Standard. So I thought I would just list them here, kind-of stream-of-thought.

MySpace logoMySpace Music can beat iTunes by supporting musicians. This is the premise of the article that I wrote for The Standard. Basically, I think that if MySpace Music provides data about the fans that purchase music, ticket and merchandise to the musicians, it can beat iTunes. Go read the article for the whole argument.

CDBaby is a model of how MySpace Music could work. CDBaby is an unbelievable music retailer that caters only to independent artists. And this is what its privacy policy says (these points are directed at buyers who visit the site):

“Only the musician whose music you buy will know who you are. If you don’t even want the musician to know about you, just say so at the bottom of your order form.”

I use CDBaby to sell CDs for Cara Austin, and so far, NOT ONE person has requested that CDBaby withhold their contact information. This is because people who go so far as to buy a CD are usually fans – and they don’t mind the band or artist being able to contact them again in the future.  According to the company’s Website, CDBaby has sold 4,202,465 CDs to customers resulting in $71,482,212 paid directly to the artists.

iTunes is a store, MySpace is a community. I read this quote from someone involved in the deal, and this is a really important point. While there are millions of people who buy music from iTunes, the MySpace community that uses MySpace to discover new artists and read about what they are up to, will be a powerful environment for making a purchase. With the possibility of revenue coming from MySpace, artists will do even more to make sure that their pages are attractive, interesting and compelling. And the community of music on that site is going to get stronger and stronger. Imagine 5 million musicians adding content, video, new songs and new song versions – this is going to be incredibly powerful and impossible for iTunes to rival.

Facebook’s chance to win in this space is shrinking by the minute. Facebook is gaining on MySpace in the social networking space, but Facebook’s support of music is, well, pathetic. They are going to have one shot to try to release a music platform that users will like (and use) but it’s not looking good. With MySpace’s announcement of the support of three of the four major labels, one possibility is that Facebook already has the support of the fourth (but that is highly unlikely and just speculative on my part).

International will be huge. I read that MySpace Music isn’t going to be able to distribute music internationally yet. What? What is the licensing issue with that? My suggestion – sign up all the indies asap and start selling to Japan, England, Australia, and everywhere else that has an appetite for U.S. music immediately – or else that could be a place that MySpace Music will be vulnerable.

DRM free matters, but won’t be the thing that wins it for MySpace. As part of the announcement, MySpace announced that they music that is sold from its music store will be DRM-free. (DRM=Digital Rights Management, it is the protection that Apple places on its files that prevents people from being able to share them.) This is a big deal, but not the biggest, as this will just (finally) compel Apple to follow suit with iTunes.

There is still a perception issue that could cause MySpace some serious problems. MySpace has kind of a seedy image. The site’s design is fairly unattractive, and it’s hard to navigate the social network without running into something that borders on pornography or spam. The company is going to have to do battle against that perception to win back people who have become disillusioned by previous negative experiences with MySpace.

Can Apple prevent iPods from using this service? Technically, I’m not sure if there is a way for Apple to limit the sites from which the iPod can download music, but if users are unable to load music from MySpace Music to their iPods, that would be a serious setback to MySpace. It also would likely cause a revolt among iPod users against Apple, but it would still be a hiccup in the acceptance of the service.

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I just got done reading this interesting article “Media execs are asleep at their own wheel” over on the Go Big Always blog written by Sam Lawrence. Sam’s observations about how the long-time tech media companies are way behind in adopting social media – and in the way that they adopt social media once they make the decision to do so – are right on. To quote the post:

“Yes, I get their business model: serve as many pages as possible so they can have enough media “inventory” to sell lots of ads. And then there is subscription. That’s when you collect names through registration forms so you can market the lists and/or prove your readership demographics to advertisers. This is basically the old print media model online. And it, like other old-fart models, is stuck a decade behind.”

I completely agree with Sam – traditional tech publishing companies don’t get it and haven’t adjusted to the online business models. But although I agree with Sam, I actually have a bit more tolerance for their slow transition because I understand what motivates them and what’s holding them back.

The number fourHere are four reasons why I think that traditional media companies are so far behind in adopting social media:

1) They are still trying to support a print circulation model. Historically, in the tech trade publication world of IDG, what was formerly CMP Media, and Ziff Davis Enterprise, it has been all about getting a qualified audience to support a print magazine. The subscribers to these companies’ various print titles don’t pay to receive copies of the print publications, instead, they trade detailed demographic data to prove that they are worthy of receiving the magazine. The publications, in turn, provide the demographic data to advertisers to demonstrate that they have the “qualified audience” to warrant the vendor spending $50k+ on print advertisements.

The secret is this – it’s incredibly expensive to qualify this audience. Every year, magazines lose thousands of subscribers who don’t re-qualify. So circulation managers are constantly trying to recruit new, qualified readers for their magazines. This is costly – and traditional media companies have started to use every online audience touchpoint that they can to try to continue to qualify audiences, including social media registration forms.

2) It takes a long time to make the necessary infrastructure changes. One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.

3) The leadership doesn’t even know what social media is and/or doesn’t have time to stay on top of the latest developments. There are a lot of really smart people working in big media companies – and there are also a lot of really outdated people working in these companies. Much of the leadership in the tech media industry reached the level at which they are at by mastering print readership models – very few of today’s leaders are visionaries promoted to the top because of their success online. There are of course exceptions; but if you were to discuss social media with the majority of the executives at traditional tech media companies, they would mention blogs and message boards – and that’s about it. And with the precarious state of many of the tech publishers at the moment, few have time to stay on top of the day-to-day changes and developments in social media – most are trying to just stay afloat.

4) They are afraid of social media. Although these tech media companies will talk about the “separation of church and state” – meaning the fact that their writers are in no way influenced by their advertisers – the truth is that the media companies are terrified of what will be said by users about their advertisers once the barriers are opened up. Media companies know that they will not be able to control the conversation with a heavy hand, but they still want to maintain some semblance of control so as to not completely alienate advertisers. Until media execs feel comfortable with this fine-line, they will not be able to whole-heartedly embrace social media.

(Disclosure: I was formerly an employee for IDG’s Network World and Ziff Davis Media; and am currently a consultant to Ziff Davis Enterprise.)

Photo by Cappellmeister

FriendFeed: Feeds, feeds everywhere

Friday, March 14th, 2008

I don’t yet have an opinion about whether FriendFeed is good, bad or indifferent (although I know there are a lot of other people who do). I joined yesterday and very few people who I “know” are using it, so I didn’t take a long time looking it over just yet. But what I did see is this potential issue of many feeds feeding the same thing (via my Facebook mini-feed):

FriendFeed on Facebook

It appears that the way I set things up, my blog is updating my Tumblr is updating my Twitter. And all are updating FriendFeed, which is updating Facebook…this could get ugly. Couldn’t it? And I am not even using all of the social networks. But I imagine that the same thing would happen if I update Flickr – or any other service that I use that feeds to multiple sites.

How do I manage all the feeds that are feeding and cross-feeding everywhere? I don’t think that this is really a FriendFeed problem, per se, it just brought the issue to light for me.