Archive for the ‘widgets’ Category

A Look Back at My Blogging Predictions for 2007

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

In early January 2007, I made 5 blogging predictions for this year. They dealt with a variety of issues and topics from around the blogosphere. Let’s take a look at how I fared. But first, let’s review my predictions:

  1. Perception shift
  2. Bridging the gap
  3. Deeper niches
  4. More full-timers
  5. Increase in blogging tools

(For an in-depth look at each prediction, visit my initial post: Blogging Predictions for 2007.)

So here we go…

Perception shiftHit – Regular people are starting to associate the concept of a “blog” with something other than a personal journal, i.e. news, analysis, gossip, etc… This shift will not only help in the proliferation of blogging, but also in the understanding the current environment.

Bridging the gapMiss - I totally missed on this one. In fact, I believe that the gap between the A-listers and ‘the rest’ is increasing in size. After all, there can only be a select few that reign supreme.

Deeper nichesHit – This one goes without saying. As the number of blogs increases, it is inherent that deeper niches will emerge. Expect this to continue.

More full-timersHit – As the mainstream begins to embrace blogs as another media source, career opportunities become real. An expert voice, a loyal following, a lucrative niche, and some targeted ads are a formula for success.

Increase in blogging toolsHit – We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of blogging tools being created. Companies are providing a whole spectrum of solutions that deal with everything from feeds, to statistics, to search, and much more.

Wow… 4/5 ain’t bad, albeit my predictions were a bit safe. None were overly risky or outrageous. As for 2008, I’m not going to make a list of predictions. However, I can say one thing for sure. More and more companies will be embracing and implementing blogs as a way to reach out to customers and create stronger relationships…

Note: In light, of my last statement, I am going to insert a shameless plug. As of now, I am going to be focusing my consulting efforts specifically on blog consulting under the name Tagzoom. Services range from blog set-up, to blog design, to blog strategy consulting, and more. So, if you’re looking to set-up a blog or are in need of blog strategy consulting, be sure to let me know. Also, please pass this along to anyone else who may need a hand. For more info, visit the Tagzoom site. Thanks for your support.

Web 2.0 Needs To Be About the Benefits

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

I’ve written several articles about the problems that web 2.0 is facing if it is looking to break into the mainstream. A small number of companies, most notably Facebook, are doing a good job of ushering in these technologies without scaring regular folk with complicated terminology.

So what’s the next step?

Let’s talk benefits, not technologies. Once the benefits are apparent, the ‘intimidation factor’ of web 2.0 terms will be eliminated. Subsequently, non-savvy users will be more likely to adopt the technologies and take advantage of their potential.

In other words, tell me how I can:

  • Make cheaper phone calls. Don’t tell me about VOIP.
  • Create my own personalized channel of content. Don’t tell me about RSS.
  • Collaborate on projects or documents with colleagues. Don’t tell me about wikis.
  • Add functionality to my blog or website without any technical knowledge. Don’t tell me about widgets.

Like I say, people will eventually acknowledge the terms, but for now, the benefits are what need to come to the forefront. Once this can be accomplished, useful web 2.0 sites can climb into the spotlight and showcase their value.

An interesting point to note is that a large number of Internet users are already taking advantages of these web 2.0 technologies and they don’t even know it.

My Problem With Web 2.0

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I really like web 2.0 and social media, but I have a problem. The majority of people don’t know what the heck it is. This means that they are unable to use such technologies. Preaching to the web 2.0 ‘echo chamber’ is great, but it limits growth, thus decreasing potential revenues.

In my opinion, many start-ups with products/services focused solely around web 2.0 are hoping for a successful launch, widespread PR and exposure, then a quick sale to an Internet giant or media mogul. Long-term aspirations are questionable. Even more perplexing are web 2.0 services that aggregate other web 2.0 services.

Simplicity… usability… they’re all I ask for. God bless the companies that make web 2.0 usable. Making it easy for regular folk to harness and leverage the power of these technologies cannot be overstated. I’ve hit on this topic before, but I will continue to do so.

First of all, we need to take a look at the messaging. Web 2.0 is full of jargon. Let’s take a look at some popular web 2.0 terms that a majority of people have likely never heard of:

  • AJAX
  • Widgets
  • RSS 
  • Wikis
  • Mash-ups
  • Podcasting

… and the list goes on. Personally, these terms are second nature to me. But I understand that my parents and friends have no idea what they mean. This needs to change.

Secondly, there needs to be better education around how these technologies can or are being used. The intimidation factor plays a huge role here. Many shy away from web 2.0 due to the seemingly frightening nature of these terms. This is nothing more than an information inefficiency. Bridging the gap is the ultimate goal.

So what needs to be done? What’s the simple solution?

Easy-to-understand messaging and better education are key to the adoption of web 2.0 technologies.

Once this happens (and all the planets align), we can all delve further into this interweb of unlimited possibilities.

Note: For further analysis and commentary, please read this previous post: How Facebook Is Bringing Web 2.0 MainStream.

What Do You Get When You Combine AJAX, RSS, Widgets, Wikis, Podcasting, VOIP, and Tagging?

Monday, August 6th, 2007

The typical marketing plan of a clueless, old-school Internet company looking to kick it up a notch with some new-school, trendy social marketing strategies. 

Sound familiar? Countless Internet companies have become brain-washed. They are convinced that these new technologies are critical to their future success. In some cases, they may be right. But for the most part, they lack fit. Successful marketing techniques have to be strategized on an individual basis. What works for one start-up may not work for another. In other words, RSS may work for company A, while widgets may be best suited for company B.

My consulting background has really driven this point home. I’ve heard things like: “Our website NEEDS tagging” or “Let’s throw in some AJAX”. My subsequent steps are as follows:

  1. I laugh (well, not aloud).
  2. I describe the technology in detail and outline the benefits.
  3. In most cases, I dismiss the use of the given technology.

My basis is simple: the ‘trendy’ technology MUST further the user experience and/or provide a greater marketing punch. The simple implementation of a technology for the sake of an implementation is pointless. Simply put, the questions that a company needs to ask itself are as follows:

  • Will this technology create a more enjoyable user experience?
  • Can we reach more potential users if we implement this technology?
  • Do we simply find comfort and security in new, buzzword-compliant marketing techniques?

All jokes aside, this is a serious problem. More and more, we are seeing the use of these technologies in places they shouldn’t be. They are a waste of resources and confuse the offering.

Simplicity is key.

If traditional Internet marketing strategies (such as e-mail marketing or SEO) will provide the greatest ROI, then forget about RSS, podcasting, and the rest of their buzzword siblings. With all due respect, I am a huge advocate of all the technologies mentioned. Their place on the Internet cannot be argued, but they must be used in the proper context. 

PS. Another correct answer to the initial question would have been: the typical business plan of a Silicon Valley start-up. Too many start-ups are looking to jump on the web 2.0 buzzword bandwagon – VCs just don’t buy it anymore, literally.

How Facebook Is Bringing Web 2.0 Mainstream

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Web 2.0 is an echo-chamber – let’s face it. Many deny the fact, but it’s true. Ask anyone on the street about RSS, widgets, APIs, or wikis and you’ll get a blank face. Chances are they’ll think you’re speaking another language. Even fairly tech savvy Internet users frown upon such terms and phrases. As much as we’d like to think web 2.0 is mainstream, it isn’t.

Those who live in this echo-chamber glorify the trends and technologies, as their value and potential is recognizable. This bleeding-edge Internet group wants the world to learn about these technologies, but the fact of the matter is that they are very daunting and intimidating to the average user. In other words, web 2.0 needs to be humanized before it can ever be adopted by the mainstream.

Who is leading the pack when it comes to humanizing web 2.0? Facebook. Here is proof: Facebook new logoask any Facebook user if they know what RSS is or if they’ve ever used it? Chances are they have no idea what it is and they’ll admit to never using it. Little do they know, the Facebook ‘News Feed’ is essentially a rebranded RSS reader. Instead of pulling blog posts and news articles, the reader aggregates updates from your friends’ profiles.

This brings me to the most important point of all: Facebook is educating the masses about web 2.0 without them even knowing. In other words, Facebook IS bringing web 2.0 mainstream.

How is Facebook accomplishing such an improbable feat? By rebranding the terms and phrases that seem so daunting and sophisticated. This facilitates the education process and reduces the learning curve, making it easier for regular folk to adopt these technologies.

The term “social network” is synonymous with web 2.0. Though the nature of the term may be rather self-explanatory, people understand it. Sites such as MySpace, hi5, and Friendster have helped to provide clarity around its meaning. This education process is exactly what is happening at Facebook as we speak.

Let’s explore some of the web 2.0 technologies that Facebook has rebranded as internal features:

Wikis – By definition, a wiki is a collaborative space that can be edited by anyone with access to the site. This notion of participation and cooperation creates a more productive, usable information portal for all affiliated members.

Facebook has rebranded this concept as ‘Groups’. Within a given group, you are able to start a conversation (with a message), add photos, and provide simple commentary. Furthermore, administrators and officers have added control and functionality.

Blogs – When a user writes a ‘Note’ on Facebook, they are expressing their thoughts or opinions in a given manner. A collection of these notes, in reverse chronological order, can be classified as a ‘weblog’ or blog.

The offline concept of a diary has been around for centuries. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to consider a jump into the online world.

User-Generated Content (UGC) – Once again, the term may seem rather self-explanatory, but it does need some clarification. UGC is content created by the user – it is not production quality. Examples include photos, videos, and audio clips.

Not only does Facebook upload an astonishing amount of photos each day, but they also provide a simple, yet powerful video experience. Simply put, users are constantly interacting with user-generated content. They just don’t know it.  

API – An API is an Application Programming Interface. In other words, it is a way to let others integrate with your service by tapping into your data. This is what Facebook has done with their new F8 Platform’. They’re allowing others the ability to tap into Facebook’s database and create applications which can then be added to the system and adopted by users.

Micro-blogging - This new phenomenon is essentially a mini-form of blogging. Recently made popular by companies such as Twitter and Tumblr, micro-blogging is a way to provide a short message (usually less than 200 characters) about your life, mood, or current state via the web, e-mail, text, or IM. To meet demand in this area, Facebook launched ‘Status Updates’, which is simply another way of labelling micro-blogging.

Widgets – Though the comparison may be a bit rough, it is still worth acknowledging. A widget is an embedded device that provides some level of value to the publisher. This is somewhat akin to what Facebook has done with their ‘F8 Platform’, and more notably ‘Applications’. Once a user adds a given ‘Application’, it appears on their profile page, where other users can see it and interact with it (or even add it themselves).

RSS – The concept of the ‘News Feed’ acting as an RSS reader was outlined above. Having said that, Facebook has started to integrate actual RSS protocol within the site as well. Anyone now has the ability to subscribe (via RSS) to another user’s ‘Notes’, in many cases. I’m sure RSS is being used in other places within the site, but I have just failed to notice them. In any case, I expect the adoption of RSS within the Facebook community to be slow, but steady.

On top of all these obvious examples, Facebook also makes extensive use of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) throughout the site. This creates a more intuitive, enjoyable user experience.

I could probably go on and on and outline further examples, but I think we can all get a grasp of the situation that is unfolding. What can we learn from all this? Facebook is a rebranding machine. The ability to provide such advanced technologies in a simple manner is truly remarkable. The day that excites me the most is the day that people realize that they understand what all these web 2.0 technologies are. That will be the day that web 2.0 goes mainstream – and I have a funny feeling that that day is coming sooner than we imagine.