Running With Foxes

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So, my new Dell XPS M1710 complete with red track lights finally arrived. What can I say. It’s a laptop made for people who want a desktop or don’t want to shell out the extra cash for the M2010. It’s big (17″ screen), it’s powerfull (2Ghz processor 2GB ram), and it’s all mine. I chose it over the new M1310 because it actually cost me less to get more considering the options I wanted.

I was also choosing between a Dell and getting an Apple Powerbook, but I didn’t feel like foking over an extra $600 or so just to feel iCool. Vista is starting to make me regret it.

I loaded up the system and it comes preloaded with spamware (AOL, Trend Micro, and anyone else willing to pay a $1 per install). That problems normal, but now I feel like I’m learning a whole new operating system. Vista whines whenever I try to run their own software, dimming the screen and whispering whether I’m “really” sure I want to run said program. It seems like some kind of guilt trip to lay blame on me in case I run one of their security hole ridden programs and get a virus.

Then it has a problem connecting to open networks, well not connecting, but actually transmitting data across them (I’m writing this from a different computer. 1710 still not connected). Not only that but there are all these little changes in the interface that keep me hunting for what I need. There’s no direct link to run program dialog box. Every click opens a new window. Why do I have to have semi transparent frosted application frames?

It all seems entirely garbage and forces me to almost learn a new operating system, which is one of the reasons I didn’t get the Mac.

Update: I discovered one useful thing I can do with Vista, Application Roulette. Just hold down Windows-Tab and release, letting the 3D window selector in all it’s processor intensive glory justify my NVidia card by picking a window at random.

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fblogo.pngIs the whole valley going crazy or has the mercury used to stiffen the top hats of the guys over at 24/7 Wall St. finally leeched into their brains? Facebook is not worth $0. It may also not be worth the Digg-baiting $6 billion Microsoft bid, but the company is far from worthless.

The most commonly used fact is the “0.04%” CTR from Reach Students Blog and the Wag. Click through rate (CTR) is the percentage of impressions that generate a click on an ad. In this case 0.04% means that 4 out of 10,000 views result in an ad getting clicked.

The problem isn’t that Facebook’s cadre of “poor-ass” college students aren’t interested in clicking links, it’s that the ads are frequently repeated and irrelevant to the user. I find the “poor student” argument to be bogus, since many of the ads don’t require the user to spend any money at all (i.e Ask or Career Builder).

Ads Ads Everywhere, But Not a Thing Worth Clicking

The ads on social networking sites are so crappy because these sites simply have TOO MUCH INVENTORY. Facebook is getting around 15 billion pageviews a month. I think MySpace has busted the Big Int entry on it’s traffic tracker or something by now (actually around 45 billion). 26 million visitors / 15 billion monthly page views = a lot of repeat advertising that people aren’t going to click on.

Is this a problem? Yes, in the short run. The online advertising market simply hasn’t caught up with the sheer volume ad inventory on these sites. This is causing the CTRs and CPMs to be low on the sites ($0.05 - $0.35 CPM). The online advertising market is estimated to be $19.5 billion this year with plenty of room to grow. The venerable TV ad market is a $74 billion ad market. The internet has even more potential. The combined MySpace and Facebook drive 60 billion pageviews. If we apply the 0.04% CTR, they push 25 million click throughs every month. People will pay for that traffic.

Facebook’s Ad Problems: Like Being the Shortest NBA Allstar

Facebook’s major problem is that they haven’t quite nailed down tying ads to the lead generating points of their service. Google’s done that with search through AdWords, which follows the simple logic that “hey, searching for something means I want something”. Ads are content in search. The same is true with Facebook. They’ve gotten part of the way there with inserting contextual ads in the newsfeed. They can be smarter, though. Send pizza deals to groups scheduling a meetup. Recommend books to people who frequently list new titles and sell prophylactics to people who frequently change their relationship status.

There’s a lot reasons to believe in Facebook’s value, not to mention the valuation estimates leaked from Yahoo’s Project Fraternity. That being said, like hell I know what they’re worth.

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I’ve been back online for a couple weeks now, and a couple people (45-90 a day) have discovered my return to the site. While I was looking at my site analytics I looked at the distribution of readership and had a bit of an “ah ha” moment. I thought, “I’ve seen this picture before, it’s the web 2.0 map that’s been floating around in my head”. See the deep green of California, with lighter areas throughout Texas, Washington, New York, and Florida.

It’s a pretty good representation of what areas the “web 2.0″ (god I hate that word) community is active. It makes sense because the people most likely to come across this blog are the ones dedicated enough to dig through TechCrunch’s about page or search for the specific terms I use in my articles. Of course the Cali bias can be explained by my friends in the area, but I don’t have that many friends dedicated enough to log on to my blog daily.

Anyway, thanks for reading or stumbling upon this blog or perhaps checking my notes feed while drunkenly Facebooking.

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Not web 2.0, but just LMAO ROFLCOPTER funny.

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I live in a large metropolitan city, San Francisco, which also means I’m continuously bombarded with branding messages to take what little money I have left after paying off all my rent and parking tickets. It also means I’m treated to such advertising gems as Ask’s confusing attempt to make me equate Ask with Algorithm. However, that campaign was only fleeting. Yahoo’s been invading my eyeballs for a lot longer, plastering their logo on buses and ballparks.

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I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I don’t get it… The only product placement I’ve seen their competitors on has been the rubiks cube I got from as Google swag. And therein lies the key difference between Google, Microsoft and the rest. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the soon to be bottom two search engines, Yahoo and Ask have been pimping chotchkies and billboards to customers. They’ve been focusing on propping up brand “awareness” in the real world instead of focusing on what really matters, distribution.

Microsoft powers Facebook search. Google powers MySpace. Both social networks are also coincidentally where all their ad money is evaporating to. Getting people to experience your product and brand at the same time is what companies should be doing and what Google is doing. Just look at Google Co-op and site specific searches. Distribution like that helps spread their product and brand to all corners of the web while generating links back to their service all for the price of free.

Yahoo needs to wake up and smell the coffee and realize the value in easily widgetizing (easier than APIs) and improving their search product or get out of the search business.

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ps2shitless.pngIn a stunning ad campaign that probably rubs half the world population the wrong way, PS2 has released a “cutting edge” ad campaign in India to speak to the soulless masses of males driven to gaming to cope with the pain of their boring ass girlfriends.

I can’t wait for the t-shirts.


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via Newsweek

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amelie.jpgThis weekend I was getting ready to make good on a movie date. All I needed was the movie, which was unfortunately the now obscure French flick Amelie (her choice).

Yes, I could torrent it, but that’d take a couple hours/days/millennia considering PirateBay isn’t a bastion of French classic film. So instead I took the usual rental route, because like hell I’m going to buy it. I called 4 Blockbusters and 3 Hollywood videos. Not a singe one had it.

Then I remembered this little shop I’d seen around where I live called DVD Station. I’d pretty much written it off because most mom and pop videos stores were pretty bad, but faced with showing up empty handed, I gave it a try.

Not only did they have it, but they seemed to have more movies than Blockbuster in the space of a coffee shop. They did it all by using touch screens to find and rent movies, and storing the films in little DVD sleeves instead of the bigger boxes.

It makes me wonder why Blockbuster continues to run such large stores when they could do the same in a smaller space with a solution for searching for and discovering movies you like. Not only could it mean saving time scanning shelves, but also the “what to watch” problem (i.e. people who like x also like y).

The real kicker is that the movies are only a dollar a day for non new releases ($3 min) and Amelie actually turned out to be a good movie, if you can deal with subtitles and a variety of neurotic charaters.

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It surprises me how many startups put such weight on Alexa data, when it’s complete crap for long tail sites. Just about the only thing it’s good for is telling if your site is online. Just look at the Alexa graph below.

Now look at the Compete data:

They can’t both be right, and in fact both are wrong. As someone who’s familiar with the stats, I can tell you these are pretty off base. Not only is Alexa wrong, but it also has one of the crappiest embed methods known to man/ape/dog/overdramatic prairie-dog kind. When trying to put the damn graph in the post I just wound up calling the service through an image tag instead of dealing with the “do it yourself” (more like “go-F-yourself”) embed code they give you. No wonder Statsaholic was so successful.

These services simply don’t work for the long tail and if they’re wrong once, it casts doubt on all their stats.

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Another sad story involving Comventures popped up today, this time involving Zantaz (no, not the antacid Zantac). Long story short, although the now ill founder, William Bankert, busted his ass to a $375 million payday for the company, he only cashed out for $650,000 because of stock dilution brought on by a late 5th round of financing at a lower valuation in 2002. The company lawyer, Gerry Niesar, has been fighting with the company’s board since 2004 over the matter.

It’s yet another time the VC firm has gotten in hot water. Sequoia sued them for ripping off web design from one of their startups, and they allegedly left Filmloop for dead.

All this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I value trust and think it’s particularly important between VCs and entrepreneurs. The valley is extremely reputation based, which is one of the reason all these social applications have caught on here. Questionable actions on the part of any firm throw the venture model on its head. If they can’t trust each other, they can’t focus on what brings in the money, competing and innovating. It all sounds pretty disgusting. I’m interested to see how the firm responds.

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Google’s made quite a few acquisitions over the short 6 year history of the company. Wikipedia has a whole entry devoted to them. Google seems to be acquiring companies to add to their products, contrasted with Yahoo, who’s leaving them alone. So, it made me a little curious about what they’re cooking up in Mountain View.

Google Phone

Google has already been securing some IP in this area. They released GOOG 411 and also have a kick ass mapping app for the mobile phone (especially the iPhone). Related acquisitions include:
GrandCentral - It’s a VOIP utility that helps bind phones together along with some added features. I’m imagining this is a good way for Google to get users on standard phones as we transition to VOIP.
Android - a relatively hush hush startup bought back in late 2005, android bring mobile software tech that supposed to collect information on a mobile users behavior. The owner, Andy Rubin, previously started mobile-device maker Danger Inc. Eric Schmidt also imagines a future where cell phones are ad supported.
Reqwireless - WebViewer WAP browser, turns desktop web into mobile web.
Dodgeball - a location based service that’s lost ground to Twitter. Most likely acquired for the team and potential advertising sales if it took off.
Skia - Top secret dev team out of NC working on graphics. Skia’s first product, SGL, is a portable graphics engine capable of rendering state-of-the-art 2D graphics on low-end devices such as mobile phones, TVs, and handhelds.

Productivity Applications

This is Google’s most active category. They’re actively looking to take on Microsoft on the web and move to your desktop. They remain committed to AJAX. The addition of Google Gears should help them beef up the programs as well.
Writely - Now Google Docs
2Web Technologies - Now Google Spread Sheets
Tonic Systems - Technology that helps turn PPT into Java objects
Zenter - Tech and team for the front end interface, with a social aspect.
JotSpot - Wiki that will most likely form the basis of collaboration around the office suite.
Marratech - a WebEx competitor, this will probably be the final piece that will help businesses run completely on Google.
Skia will help them render their apps on mobile.

Virtual World

The most interesting venture, Google has been edging toward cataloging and reconstructing a digital version of the real world through their mapping products. Google Earth’s 3D rendered buildings and Street View seem incremental steps in that direction.
Keyhole - Now Google Earth
Where 2 - Used in Google Maps
Sketchup - A tool for easily rendering 3D models
AdScape - Video game advertising. Would solve the advertising needs of a virtual world.
Panoramio - A company with a large library of Geotagged photos. Most likely to cover areas not covered by street view.
I’m waiting for Google to buy a startup that sews the photos together, similar to what Microsoft did with Photosynth, but Neven Vision is the closest they’ve come.

Further thoughts. I remain certain that Google will eventually buy an identity based search engine to fill one of the growing faults in their service. Google will continue making acquisitions around their productivity suite and especially their mapping service. Video advertising is another spot they need to do an acquisition in. They also seem to like market leaders in content distribution: i.e YouTube and Feedburner. These are good buys for Google, because they can essentially monetize the service by adding their contextual ad engine.

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